I find myself in a dilemma.

The rain whips horizontally across from the south west, blattering us in its raininess, threatening to sneak its wet fingers inside my anorak like a drunk girl at a bus stop. I grit my teeth and search the horizon for some blue.

My opponent’s wood skids across the green, water spraying up behind it as it goes. She is a very pleasant elderly lady, with whom I have already enjoyed a laugh and a joke. Her wood comes to a halt several yards short of the jack. Again.

Bowls is a very tactical game, and one of the key skills is knowing where to put the jack. Sometimes, you will find your opponent is very good when the jack is a long way away – in which case you will try to roll it short. Conversely, some prefer the shorter game – in which case you will try to bring it to rest right at the end of the green.

“It’s no use,” she turns to me. “I just can’t get it that far. I’m not strong enough.”

I return her a weak, guilty, smile.

It is one of those accepted things that is not exactly gamesmanship or unsporting or cheating, but is just a bit awkward, especially when you are playing a nice old lady who is just a bit weak in the arms. I avoid her for the rest of the end.

“Put in another long one,” hisses Nigel as we cross over for the next go.

I make mumbling noises. I do not want to be unkind. I am not Robert Mugabe. But nor am I Nelson Mandela. I am somebody in the middle, like Kenneth Kaunda.

I throw the jack quite long; long enough to be a bit difficult for somebody with a bad arm, but not as long as I could so that she might think that it was an accident. She gives me a reproachful look. Nigel gives me a reproachful look. I have tried to please everybody and now they all hate me. It is typical.

The rain eases off after a while, and the green speeds up. My dilemma vanishes with the drying grass. This is the thing about bowls. It is a microcosm of life, but with unfashionable shoes.

39 Comments

  1. So, the nice little old lady beat you then?

  2. Having beaten you in a nice little piece of gamesmanship first. Not strong enough – how likely is that?

    I hope that drunk girl got home safely. Not that you’d have taken advantage, but she didn’t seem quite in her right mind.

  3. threatening to sneak its wet fingers inside my anorak like a drunk girl at a bus stop

    Best line of prose I’ve read all week!

  4. Think I’m going to have to report you to the Metaphor Police this time, Jonny. We’ve let you get away with a lot in the past, but the drunk girl trying to get into your anorak is a bridge too far, I’m afraid. Not that any girl on Earth could be sufficiently drunk to want to open your anorak, unless they needed to throw up and their handbag was already full.

    And as for your African-Despot-Scale-Of-Niceness, well, you’ve aroused the wrath of the Kenneth Kaunda Fan Club now. They’re going to mess you right up. With machetes. You’re not the only one with a Bizarre Facebook Appreciation Society, you know…

  5. Well if Kenneth Kaunda won’t reply to my friend request then he only has himself to blame.

    Plus he wouldn’t join in on the zombie thing. He is a typical African leader. All dignity and no fun. At least Thabo plays the odd game of Scrabulous.

  6. Mercy’s for the weak. You see what happens why you try and please all the people, all the time???

  7. I’m putting my money on the nice old lady. Vengeance shall be hers – if there is any justice.
    Yay for nice old ladies and watch your back Sunshine.

  8. What would be your African dictators fantasy football team?

    Definately big Idi Amin between the posts with Gaddafi as the midfield general and little Joseph Mobuto mooching up front in the six yard box.

  9. I’m with Pat. There’s a reason old people have survived this long and its nothing to do with healthy living. I know a lot of them and they’re vicious bastards, every one.

  10. You should just beat everybody fair and square and then buy them a drink afterwards. I bet that old lady isn’t as old and incapable as she claims to be, and buying her a drink will give her something to talk about, so you’ll still make her day.

  11. Gosh, I think you’re lovely.

  12. Drunk Girl at the Bus stop

    I was only trying to pinch your wallet fat boy

  13. I think I’ve been to that bus stop.

    Hugo – Midfield colonel, surely? And Botha far out on the right wing?

  14. Unfashionable shoes and rather dodgy hats. Please tell me you don’t wear the hat too?

  15. No, I do not wear the hat. I was hoping to get one for my birthday, but nobody sent me one. Boooooooo.

  16. I have my grandad’s bowls hat. He was a Norfolk bowls champion. My uncle still is. In fact, you probably play my uncle at bowls. Oh fuck, perhaps you ARE my uncle? Jonny? Are you my uncle?

  17. The old have this wonderful way of beating you with their mind at sport.

    “My eyes/hands/feet/lungs aren’t what they used to be you know”

    Yeah right….

  18. Thanks Megan for blowing my cover.

  19. That’s the thing about taking on the elderly in athletic pursuits (I think bowls just about counts under that heading), you can’t win, even when you win. Not that of course victory can be taken as a given. I’ve still got the mental scars from my first and only foray into the world of amateur cross-country, when I was soundly outrun across Newcastle Town Moor by a crack squad of spindly-kneed over-60s. I think one of them lent me his bus pass to get home.

    (having written this it occurs that I have told you this exact story with slightly similar words right here in this comment box on another occasion…. hmmm, repeating well-worn anecdotes, another sign of ageing, maybe I should just grasp the nettle and get down to my local bowls club forthwith…)

  20. I’m still trying to get past the word blatter in the first line…

  21. I don’t know a thing about bowls unless it is something like bowling which we do in the States-indoors, covered from any rain, air conditioning, food and drinks all there-but I have been humiliated by old ladies on the tennis court. You start thinking it will be an easy game and then you spend all your time running like crazy after balls hit into corners while they stand on the other side of the net not even breaking a sweat. Wiley, full of strategy, years of experience and a desire to save wear and tear on the aging hips-it pays off.

  22. Clearly yet another case of old age & cunning overcoming youth & skill.

  23. Where exactly is this bus stop?

  24. No wonder no-one bought you the hat. They don’t make ’em that big!

  25. HFactor – I can be your pretend uncle. That is what you must say if the police or your parents ask.

  26. “threatening to sneak its wet fingers inside my anorak like a drunk girl at a bus stop”…? Er… No girl gets drunk enough to grope a bloke in an anorak Jonny.

  27. I’ll have you know that I have a very fashionable anorak.

  28. It is indeed a fashionable one. I’d go with the word “kagoule” as opposed to anorak though.

  29. “Anorak” (n) – a type of heavy jacket with a hood, originally made from caribou or seal skin; invented by the Caribou Inuit, Inuit (Eskimo) of the Arctic region.

    “Kagoule” (n) – from the French cagoule, meaning cowl: lightweight (usually without lining), weatherproof raincoat or anorak with a hood.

    Seems kagoule is a subset of anorak, and therefore wearing the former means that one is simultaneously also wearing the latter. Which would make Jonny some sort of über-dork achieving degrees of fashion-free unattractiveness only previously recorded for tiny fractions of a second by physicists in advanced super-collider experiments. No wonder the poor girl was reeling. Probably radiation poisoning…

  30. Why did a drunk girl at the bus stop have wet fingers?

    Upon reflection, I think I’d rather not know, unless of course she had them down her throat whilst unzipping an anorak?

  31. Wasn’t there a song ‘Sticky fingers,?

  32. What a microcosm of life! A white man in a shocking PINK anorak [we know it’s your favourite colour], pretending to be an African.

  33. So. Blattering?

  34. Pat, the Strolling Bones, sorry, the Rolling Stones, had an album called sticky fingers with a rather suggestive album cover of a pair of jeans with an undone zip. A real zip. PRobably best not to say anymore!

  35. Scribble: ooh er missus!
    Johnny: last night I came to the last story in ‘You’re not the only one’, and because of what preceded it was horrified by the hammer in the face.
    Imagine my relief to find it was just one of Jonny’s funnies.

  36. Ha! I finally figured out what “bowls” is.

    Tough being a Canadian. You miss out on so much.

  37. I so want to make an “old person accidentally brushing against Jonny’s wood” joke but feel it would be derogatory to old people in white with crap shoes.

  38. “Blattering?” they say? What, calling into question the utter genius of Douglas Adams, who invented the word and the concept! (see, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, if you don’t understand) JonnyB, are you by any chance a rain god?

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