I gaze across the remains of my fifty-seventh pint in blank wonder.
The deciding black ball judders in the jaws and comes to rest immediately over the pocket; the white sits eight inches away at maximum. The player’s head drops momentarily down, resting in despair on his forearm, then he stands briskly and walks sadly from the table, shaking his head.
John Twonil picks up his cue, a cue that he’d not expected to need again this evening, steps up to the baize and it is history in the making.
My fifty-eighth pint arrives courtesy of Big A, who sits beside me muttering in astonishment. None of us know how it has come to this. The Village Snooker Club has always been officially the worst in Norfolk – that is not just idle description, but has been confirmed by countless league officials, historical records, and elderly blokes who are able to recall ‘you always used to be crap as well’.
It has become a source of some pride.
And yet, here we are, in the final, at Finals Night. On the last black, which the opposition have well and truly left. I consider sidling across to their player and inviting him to join.
It is, in many ways, incredible.
Granted, many of us are a bit better than we were last year. John Twonil himself, and the Doctor. The Chipper Barman, Short Tony and Big A have always shown excellent potential, and Mick has always been a stellar act when he is not being a Stella act. Admittedly Eddie and myself have yet to convert much of our enthusiasm into many actual frames or, come to think of it, many actual points, and have found ourselves beneath the second ‘continued on a separate sheet of paper’ point on the league rankings. But we have the foundations of being good players, ie a cue and some chalk.
The beer is very good. I will stop drinking it soon.
The beer might be part of the problem. It is a very sociable league, one which involves drinking several pints of beer so as not to appear rude. I can’t remember who it was said that making love after drinking several pints of beer is like ‘playing snooker with a rope’; unfortunately I find that playing snooker after drinking several pints of beer is also like playing snooker with a rope. Before I have the second pint I am just like O’Sullivan or Hendry, but there you go. It is just circumstances.
I do not make love after playing snooker, as I am always too pissed to open the wardrobe and get the rope.
But I am part of it – a key part. And although I was inexplicably not picked for the actual team for this Finals Night, this incredible, inexplicable, inconceivable, incomprehensible success is also my success.
“So,” I slur at John Twonil when the embarrassed silence has all but concluded. “Would it make you feel better if we repeatedly said stuff like ‘don’t worry about it, it was more difficult than it looked’ or would you prefer it if we never mentioned it again, ever?”
“I don’t really care – I’ll still feel crap,” he mutters.
Order is restored. The snooker season closes. Bowls starts on Friday.