Relations have been somewhat strained at the ancient pile ever since I told Fotheringay to cancel our New Year jaunt to Monte Carlo.
Indeed, he has been sulking around the place like an ancient fakir in search of a prickly bed, since I informed him that I would be spending the holidays practising my darts in anticipation of a glorious return to the oches of the port.
“But Sir, you can’t play darts”, he points out to me whilst scrabbling around beneath the settee in search of a misdirected tungsten.
“Nonsense”, I reply with a grimace as my latest effort ricochets alarmingly off the picture rail above the board. “Just needs a little concentration, that’s all.”
Days pass and still the wretched projectiles refuse to fly in the direction intended.
One morning I am practising my doubles when the telephone bell rings. Fotheringay hands me the instrument as I survey the remains of the decanter knocked off the drinks cabinet by my latest errant throw.
“Mrs. Fyffe Bleasdale for you Sir”, he says.
You know, every now and then I can’t help thinking that Fotheringay is losing his grip. In his prime it would have been the work of an instant to have told my fearsome Aunt that I was not at home. I gave him a reproachful glance and took the machine.
“Hullo?” I said. “Yes? Hullo? Hullo? Roger here. Hullo? Hullo?”
“Don’t keep on saying Hullo”, yipped the old relative in her customary curt manner. “You’re not a parrot.”
Quite the wrong tone to adopt towards a fellow practising his darts, I’m sure you will agree, but what can one do?
“I need to borrow my portrait, the one hanging in your study. I’m giving a talk to the Waifs and Strays Association at the weekend and they want it displayed prominently in the hotel foyer to encourage ticket sales. I’ll be round in the morning to collect it.”
I handed back the receiver to Fotheringay. Shaken. That’s what I was. Shaken to the core.
For there, resting against the wall beneath the dartboard was the painting in question. Placed there earlier in the week by Fotheringay, the face of my aged relative is now ravaged and pockmarked by numerous misdirected arrows.
“I think the best plan, sir, would be for you to leave England for a little while, especially as there are two tickets for this afternoon’s flight to Monte Carlo on the hall table.
“But you cancelled the booking?”
“I thought you had.”
“But I told you to.”
“Yes, sir. It was remiss of me, but the matter slipped my mind.”
“All right, Fotheringay. Monte Carlo ho then.”
“Very good, sir.”
So it is that I can be found at the baccarat tables in the South of France last Friday, as the great and good of port society return to ocheological pursuits on week sixteen of the current campaign.
And no one gets 2015 off to a better start than does Anthony Hadgraft upon Preston Street. A spectacular 180 from the Pobster helps the defending champions to a 5-3 victory over resilient opponents the Workingmens by 5-3, this despite some staunch resistance from the ebullient Simon Callighan.
Elsewhere, table toppers the Mount ease past the challenge of near neighbours the Bowling Club with plenty to spare. A solitary win for Arthur Armstrong is the only success for the biased boys on Upper Lune Street this week, with Dave Coulborn splendidly suave and sophisticated in securing a sweet 97 outshot for the omnipotent Olympians as they easily secure the points to maintain their slender advantage at the top of the pile.
Also ramping up the pressure at the head of things are the Lowther Lotharios, a shared experience between Alan Ashton and Matty Kilburn the only blot on the Cons escutcheon as they demolish an under strength Cricket Club. This setback for the Cons player sees him slip to third in the league averages, his place at the top of the pile now occupied by 1999 champion Steve Riley from the Mount. For the home side, it is Dale Newton who continues to plunder a rich vein of form in securing his twelfth victory of the season.
A solitary shared experience between Mick Buckingham and Steve Bond also saves the Peripatetic Pensioners from being whitewashed at the hands of visitors Highbury ‘A’. Carl Simey maintains his position in the top ten with another emphatic victory for the rumbustious 2012 champions.
The Collapsible Comrades secure their tenth win of the campaign with an emphatic 7-1 away win over Highbury ‘B’, albeit that the home side look to have missed a number of winning opportunities given that all seven losers were on a finishing double before being remorselessly picked off by the victorious visitors. John Shaw is best on the night for the home side, with Stan Billington once again the pick of the comrade crop.
Elsewhere, there is a little bit of history to report as the Femme Fatales chalk up consecutive victories for the first time since being welcomed into the Friday night family. An opening brace of wins for dame of the game Carol Evans and Kirsty Bancroft gets the girls off to the best of possible starts away at the Strawberry on Friday.
And although their hosts bite back with a trio of wins for man of the match Michael Shaw, John Rowe and Ian Ball, the lasses are not to be denied as Trish Hughes, Tracey Cunningham and Joanna Coultas secure the wins to take the belles past the winning post at 5-3 to the good.
Meanwhile on Lord Street, the Blyth Spirits are sprinting into a 4-0 halftime lead against resident evils, the Atkin Juggernaut. A brief show of resistance at the start of the second period reduces the deficit to 4-2, this before skipper Chris Blyth delivers the coup de grace in the penultimate leg of the match. Mitch Blyth is best on the night for the victorious Dockers ‘B’, with Dave Spencer a rare visitor to centre stage for the frustrated hosts.
Finally this week, a long awaited win to report for the Beach Road Boys, as they comfortably see off the challenge of visitors the Rossall Tavern by 6-2. The infanticpating Mike Tallentire is best for the Queens this week, with Erik Dahl once again the pick of the troubled Taverners.
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