Icy rain is slanting across the grounds of Bleasdale Towers, as head gardener Rocca Vages and I inspect the damage caused by the recent storms. As we pick our way through a bedraggled Billy Boston Memorial Rose Garden, Rocca waves one of the battered bushes in the direction of a nearby meadow.
Beneath a hedge in a corner of the meadow huddles a flock of our hardy Pennine sheep, except that is for their leader Goliath, our award winning ram. The rain drips off his magnificent horns as towers menacingly above what appears to be pink and white ball of fluff resting on the soggy ground.
However, upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that squatting in the soggy grass before Goliath is Foo-Foo, the beribboned miniature poodle belonging to my housekeeper Philomena Mandrake. Rocca and I chuckle at the incongruous meeting before setting off back to the hall with a wheelbarrow full of battered rose bushes. And as we disappear down the driveway, the poodle turns to face the ram.
“Did you see what they had in the wheelbarrow?”
“No”, replies Goliath.
“Mint bushes, for making mint sauce”, says the poodle.
“So?” says Goliath.
“Nice with a bit of mutton is mint sauce”, says the poodle.
“What’s mutton?” says the ram.
“You are when they cook you”, says the poodle.
“Cook me?” says the ram.
“Probably tomorrow for Sunday dinner”, says the poodle.
“Are you sure?” says the ram.
“Oh yes”, says the poodle.
“Oh dear”, says the ram.
Sighing deeply, Goliath trudges back across the meadow to tell his girlfriends sheltering beneath the hedge of the terrible fate that awaits him on the morrow. Meanwhile, Foo-Foo skips happily homeward along the gravel driveway, having proved conclusively that a toy poodle is quite capable of worrying a sheep.
Of course, your average Fleetwood darts player has many more things to worry about than poor old Goliath. Over the years, bad markers, bad oches, bad flights, bad beer, bad backs, bad wrists and bad pullovers have all conspired against them in their search for tungsten tossing perfection. Added to which they now have Foo-Foo Hughes and the femme fatales of the port to worry about.
On Friday, it is the turn of the Cricket Club to approach the oche with furrowed brows, this despite having recently dumped 2012 champions Highbury ‘A’ off the top of the table. And it doesn’t take long for the furrows to deepen still further as Sheila Clarke and dame of the game Belinda Yusuf give the Bowling Belles an early 2-0 advantage. And although man of the match Jimmy Pilling halves the deficit in game three, before long the two leg lead has been re-established for the girls, courtesy of win number fifteen of the season for Tracey Cunningham.
But even as Ian Stewart hauls a leg back for the cricketers at the start of the second period, this proves to be but a temporary reprieve as Joanna Coultas secures at least a share of the spoils for the girls in making it 4-2. A nervy victory in the penultimate leg for Steve Butler keeps hope flickering in every cricketing breast, a hope emphatically extinguished by skipper Trish Hughes as she safely guides the ladies across the winning line for win number three of the campaign.
Having finally managed to clamber off the bottom of the table just seven days previously, the Peripatetic Pensioners find themselves once more holding everyone else up as they subside gently to a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Dale Newton inspired Fleetwood Cons. Mind you, they did have a win for Mick Buckingham and a couple of shared experiences to take back with them to the Land that Cabs Forgot.
Furrowed brows are also the default face setting amongst the ranks of the Collapsible Comrades on Friday evening as they take on the mighty Olympians in Annie’s Attic. Time and again the home players can only stand and watch in admiration as the visitors take out high finishes with breathless precision. Stan Billington is best for the well beaten home side, with Peter Jackson leading the way for a highly impressive Mount outfit.
At least the Royal Oak players have nothing to worry about this week as the Bowling Club arrives upon Lord Street with just six players. It is reported that a number of their absentees have been shanghaied into attending romantic candlelit dinners, it being Valentine’s Day. But as it turns out, they are hardly missed at all as the Les Ivison inspired visitors sweep aside the feeble defences of their hosts in emphatic fashion for a flawless 6-2 victory.
Similarly rampant on Friday are the Beach Road Boys, a solitary victory for Workingmens skipper Reb Hogg, all that stands between his beleaguered forces and a dreaded whitewash. Jack Wilson is best on the night for the victorious Queens outfit as they despatch the Orientals, as did the local education board banish schoolmaster Cyclops for only having one pupil.
Elsewhere, Highbury ‘A’ maintain their pursuit of the top two with a routine victory away to the Dockers ‘B’. Ray Connolly is best this week for the rampant footballers, with Mitchell Blyth again top of the pile for the subdued Spirits.
Andy Gratrix is once again a ferocious Fuzzy as he snatches a point from the grasp of the Taverners in the dying embers of a thrilling encounter upon the blasted heath. Tony Ashburn is best on the night for the home side in this mid table melodrama.
Joint table toppers Dockers ‘A’ crank up the pressure on their pursuers this week with a ruthless 7-1 demolition of hosts Highbury ‘B’, this despite Cliff Ashby flying a solitary flag of resistance for the humbled homesters. Lee Shewan is emphatically the best of our 128 players this week, as he thunders home in just nine darts of pyrotechnical precision to kick start his birthday weekend in emphatic style.
Thanks for reading.