The other night my loyal and ancient retainer Fotheringay, after ingesting more of the cooking sherry than he should, sets out to prove that he can walk across the parquet floor of the great hall at Bleasdale Towers on his hands, whilst at the same time balancing a vase upon his head.
As a consequence, at about eleven bells the following morning, he is in traction at the Oakenclough Cottage Hospital and I am in McGilligan’s Costermongers in Nether Wyresdale, purchasing a tube of Acme Ceramic Adhesive.
Later that morning, as I reassembled the shards of china upon his bedside table, I cannot help but think that maybe it is time for Fotheringay to call it a day. Eighty eight years old, scarred and crippled in the line of duty, few who come into to contact with the old buffer ever forgets him.
Obviously, the scar running diagonally across his forehead is the first thing you notice. Inflicted by a rebounding 35 gram Jim Pike brassie, into the path of which Fotheringay throws himself as it flies in the direction of my aristocratic visage. The resultant wound is erratically stitched up by a drunken sail maker in the darts room at the Cockroach and Tricycle, an insalubrious hostelry of ill repute in downtown Aspatria.
His spindly left arm is decorated with a tattoo of Miss Vivien Leigh, in the role of Blanche DuBois in the cinematic production of A Streetcar Named Desire. It is said that he once had a matching tattoo of Mister Marlon Brando on his right arm; that is until the old boy lost it in the blades of a combined harvester heading in my direction, whilst I snoozed unconcerned in the long grass after a heavy lunchtime session on the Beaujolais.
How often have we sat together before a roaring fire at Bleasdale Towers and had a good laugh about those happy times, for Fotheringay is a tough old bird. Of late though, our fireside chats have become more ruminative, his rheumy eyes often welling up as he recalls the times we have had in our fifty years as master and servant.
I pat his prosthetic kneecap beneath the sheet, remembering how he had pushed me to safety before falling beneath the hooves of the charging bulls as they thundered down that cobbled street in Pamplona. What a good holiday that was.
But now he is past it; unable to participate in a bit of Greco-Roman wrestling upon the carpet in the study, or arm wrestle upon the dining room table. It is time for me to telephone matron at the Bespoke Butlers Rest Home in Calder Vale, where the broken gentlemen’s gentlemen of the landed gentry spend their twilight years. I don’t know how I’ll manage without him.
But first I must ring Earl Mountford, the eccentric millionaire proprietor of the Barnoldswick Black Pudding and Bacon Bap Empire. I need to get the telephone number of the agency that supplied him with Ingrid and Freja, his Swedish au pairs. Life must go on, what?
It is a shame that there isn’t a rest home for heartbroken darts captains in Fleetwood these days, as four amongst them crash out of our cup competitions at the semi final stage on Friday. Rather, the ignominy of a first round defeat than to be ejected cruelly within sight of the Elysian Fields.
Jeff Taylor, skipper of the Olympians is justifiably the saddest of all this week. For after moving to within touching distance of the Team Knockout final on Friday at 4-2 to the good, this after wins for Steve Riley, Andy Parry Jones, Pete Jackson and Dave Coulborn, the Mount captain can only watch in horror as opponents the Blasted Heathens take the last two games, courtesy of Chris Garton and Erik Dahl, thus taking the match into extra time.
The pain continues for the pre-match favourites as first Al Morley edges the Taverners ahead at 5-4 after beating Steve Riley, against whom he had lost earlier in the evening. The tie and a place in the final comes soon after for the Rossall outfit as Gaz Whitehead sees off Andy Parry Jones in some style, leaving skipper Peter Hornby as happy as a fakir settling down with Sleepy Time Pillow upon his brand new bed of nails.
Another close run Team Knockout semi final is taking place along the esplanade, as the Collapsible Comrades go toe to toe with the Lowther Lotharios. A wafer thin victory for Steve Cowell against Jonathan Bridge gets the favourites off to the best of starts, an advantage that soon becomes 3-0, this after further wins for Jeff Walkington and Dave Smith.
Although Stan Billington finally gets the Comrades reply underway with victory in game four, pretty soon it is 4-1 for the Cons as Dean Barker edges past the challenge of a resilient Alan Taylor. Still, though the underdogs are unwilling to give up the fight as Johnny Johnstone and Mark Brook reduce the deficit to a solitary point with one game remaining. Sadly, Lenny Billington is unable to locate his starting double for the Collapsibles, thus allowing Dale Newton to get up a good head of steam to take the Cons through to the final.
Meanwhile in the Plate, a keenly fought encounter between the Femme Fatales and the Fuzzy Ducks is taking place at the Cons. Last season’s winners the Strawberry strike first through Andy Ingham, an advantage soon relinquished as Natasha Eaves and Belinda Yusuf make it 2-1 to the darting dames. Back come the boys via Mark Wilson and John Rowe, this before Sheila Clarke levels the tie at 3-3 with two games remaining. Unfortunately for the ladies, Michael Shaw and last man Andy Gratrix manage to hold their nerve to keep alive the Strawberry’s dream of becoming the first team ever to win the trophy in successive seasons.
Our final tie takes place between the Ashley and the Cricket Club, where after a shared experience in the opening leg, the aged ones take an early lead courtesy of Martin Coleclough. Sadly that proves to be the only triumphant trot to the oche for the retirement home as Matty Kilburn, Darren Rathbone, Mike Lovell and Phil Schofield all record wins to take the square legs through to the final with something to spare.
I’m off now to practice my Swedish.
”God morgon Ulrika, kom gärna in.”
Thanks for reading.