The rain pelts down from the gloom-ridden Norfolk skies. I gaze through the window, enthusiastically.

During the winter months, I was chosen by popular vote to be in charge of the bowls this year. I am a sort of Fabio Capello figure, but with bowls. It is half past five – not long to go until we have to leave.

The telephone rings. It is Trevor, wondering, as it is raining so hard, whether the match might be called off to allow us to go to the Village Pub instead.

“Nonsense,” I lie. “It might be raining hard where you live, but I am about 300 yards south and it has almost stopped.”

So far we have played two games. We lost the first one 8-0 and lost the second one 6-2. Boooooo – perhaps I am not the Fabio Capello of bowls after all. I am the Steve McClaren.

The telephone rings again. It is Huey. Huey is having to drop out at the last minute, as he is being sick. He is apologetic, through his sick, but this leaves me in a bit of a hole. I know Eddie is around, as he has been spotted – I will try to get him to fill in at the last minute. Even Steve McClaren had these sorts of problems, with metatarsals etc.

I ring the opposing manager first, to check whether the match might be called off, allowing us to go to the Village Pub instead.

“Actually it is not raining here,” he lies. “In fact there is a bit of blue sky.”

I ring Eddie and ask him to play, shouting to make myself heard over the rain.

“But isn’t the weather…”

“I have just spoken to the opposing manager. It is bright sunshine there, with light temperate breezes,” I lie. Boooooo – not even three games in and I have immediately turned into some ducking and diving Terry Venables bowls figure.

We drive to the game, stopping at Eddie’s cottage on the way, in order to forcibly bundle him into the car. I switch the windscreen wipers on to their maximum setting as we inch forwards through impromptu lakes in the road, the headlights struggling to cut the gloom.

“I think it’s brightening up,” I say. “Look – there are some people in bermuda shorts, and some other people having a barbecue, and an ice-cream van.”

We arrive at the venue and start playing bowls. Our particular block plays so badly that at one point I substitute Nigel (a good, experienced skipper) with me (have never done it before, am rubbish). Booooo – I am turning into the Rafael Benitez of bowls.

We lose 8-0.

“Thank you for playing, everybody,” I tell them afterwards. “I hope you enjoyed the game.”

We drive to the Village Pub.

26 thoughts on “I start my reign as the Fabio Capello of bowls.

  1. ajb1605 says:

    8 – 0?
    So, you ended up as the Roberto Martinez of Bowls.

    I’m glad, I couldn’t see you as Fabio Capello, sat on the sidelines, legs crossed, in your long mack……although……….

  2. I would say that with your gift for unprecedented magniloquence when discussing the finer points of the game coupled with a trophy cabinet sponsored by the Royal Society for Crickets & Tumbleweeds means that you are Arsene Wenger and I claim my ten Norfolk pounds.

  3. You would only be Rafa Benitez if you had previously guaranteed a particular final league position.

    The opposing manager was clearly playing some Ferguson-esque mind game. Did you have a mini-breakdown, shouting “I’d love it if we could beat them. LOVE IT!”

    And then resign unexpectedly?

    If so, you are Kevin Keegan AICMFP.

  4. MB says:

    If its raining you’re more Peter Moores or Andy Flower.

    Do you have duckworth / lewis bowls? Or is it straight into a super-over or bowl-out?

  5. JonnyB says:

    Hm. There isn’t a duckworth/lewis thing – normally people just stand around until somebody says ‘fuck this!’

    Although we did get a call from Nick Clegg the other night – apparently if we get together with him and the guys from the dominos league then we have a chance of forming a minority government.

  6. Yes, but if you did that then the bloody Britain In Bloom separatists would start moaning about changing the borders and they would get into bed (all be it well made one) with the one representative from Keep Britain Tidy who in turn would sign a Faustian pact with some mad extremist group like the National Trust (who we all know secretly take their orders from the Mothers Union) and that means next thing you know we wake up to find ourselves living under the bell-bedecked heel of the English Folk Dance and Song Society

  7. “…gloom-ridden Norfolk skies…”

    One of those adjectives is as redundant as Sunny Gordon.

  8. Megan says:

    BOOO! Am not a Norfolkian and so these clever references to what are clearly Norfolk Bowls Super-Manager go completely over my head. Hate being on the outside of the joke – it is most lonely. I consider substituting American manager/coach/owner types in an effort to turn the tables but am thwarted by never having paid the least attention to American sports. I have a brief urge to spend some fumbling, heavy-breathing-type moments with Google but decide I am not going to be any search engine’s tart just so I can go “fwarrr, You’d have to climb on a step ladder just to do up Rafael Benitez’s grass-stained boots you would.”

    I think I shall go volunteer as a marketing specialist for the English Folk Dance and Song Society as the odds are rather greater that I will at least get some of the references under their firm but jangly despotic rule.

  9. Greenmantle says:

    I fear you may have made a rod for your own back by setting yourself up as the Fabio of bowls Johnny. For instance, think of all the press statements you’ll be forced to make should one of your “squad” embark on a torrid affair with another bowler’s missus. Would you be tough enough to drop your star man from a key away match at Sheringham?

    Much better to be the Harry Redknapp of bowls. Live in a posh gaff and dabble on the transfer market. A few inspired signings could turn your season around… Can chikens play bowls?

  10. JonnyB says:

    Oh Megan I am sorry. I took the decision years ago not to worry about international people getting a bit bemused about the English-specific stuff. Which is why I love my overseas readers so much, as they persevere so. (Particularly fit women ones)

  11. Blazing says:

    Sounds to me that you have fallen prey to the brown envelopes of the mysterious far eastern bowls betting syndicates. Extract yourself, Jonny, while you still can.

  12. ajb1605 says:

    Meanwhile, the world – by which I mean us, poor lost souls that we are – awaits breathlessly Jonny’s announcement this afternoon of his interim squad of 30 for this all-important summer.

    So many questions will be answered – such as, will Jonny take a chance on the injury-prone Huey?

  13. NickyB says:

    I like that you are now doing your own in-blog sound effects. It’s all very atmospheric. Perhaps someone could write you a soundtrack or at least a score. Michael Giacchino should be finished doing LOST this week, he’s probably at a bit of a loose end.

  14. Brennig says:

    So you could have just cut out the middle man and gone straight to the pub…?

  15. Z says:

    Could you send some of that rain down here to the other end of the county, please? It’s so cold that the bees have got the squits (honestly, they’re on antibiotics for it, which is a total bugger to inject) but dry as a bone and I’ve got peas to plant.

  16. Paul says:

    Are you soon to launch the Marsh Index for assessing bowling performance and/or the state of the Norfolk Broads?

  17. Judging by his sucking up to Megan, Paul, it’s non-Norfolk broads he’s interested in. I dare say the LTLP will draw his mind back to his native fens soon enough, possibly by treading him into the swamp under a wicker hurdle in time-honoured Anglian fashion…

  18. Megan says:

    Oh dear! I was JUST going to assure Jonny (harmlessly) that I am indeed fit never dreaming that I would cause a return to the good old days of family values and human sacrifice. (nb – on serious thought it would appear that a bit of diy-bog-bodies might indeed be conducive to those lovely theoretical concepts like obedient children and faithful spouses. It is a great pity I live in a desert)

  19. kermit says:

    Well, I suppose you could revert to your old style of naming people like you used to, with Len the Fish, the Chipper Barman, etc.

    That might help a bit with appealing to your two overseas fit women readers(Megan and me, since the lurkers don’t count). And as for Ivan, well, I think the Soviets must have scarred him irreversibly, so it’s really hopeless.

  20. Pat says:

    It makes one proud to be British!

  21. guyana gyal says:

    Why does this remind me of a Charlie Brown episode?

  22. John says:

    JohnnyB I have just found out that my dad has been playing bowls against a team on tour in Cornwall from Norfolk. Your team aren’t on tour are they?

  23. JonnyB says:

    John this is really exciting… but no. I don’t know who they could be!!!

    It’s a very long way for a game of bowls. Do they have the same rules and stuff down there?

  24. Lisa says:

    All these charming English references to bowls, folk dancing and then wicker hurdles reminds me of visiting Hastings years ago on the May holiday. It was rather disturbing when they killed the jack-in-the-green with big clubs and the children fought each other for the branches after. Of course in Canada men smash each other with sticks in the face for 9 months of the year so I shouldn’t have been startled I suppose.

  25. kermit says:

    Lisa, I think you’re forgetting the part about the rioting. No matter what the results of the NHL finals, it’s pretty much that after a deciding game, there will be looting and violence on Ste. Catherine in Montreal.

  26. kermit says:


    It’s pretty much a given that after a deciding game…

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