The Annual Bowling Match.
I’ve taken to wandering lately, and I’m often uncertain where. Occaisionally, abruptly, my mind clears. Suddenly I am seeing and feeling a strong childhood memory. I’m right back in there. It happened one day in Farnley Tyas of all places.
Every year, as children, we were subjected to an annual bowling tournament in Farnley village. Dad certainly played and there would have been a ladies match as well. It was something to do with “The Fellowship”, a loose term, presumably describing what took place on the nights dad went to to meet his ex-army pals. Dad was distribution secretary for the association’s magazine – “The Uniform”. Once a month, on the kitchen table, we’d to roll up hundreds of magazines in gummed brown paper. “The Mess”, a more fitting label for this drinking club, also threw a Christmas party for all the children – potted meat sandwiches, jelly and “The Dandy” annual from Father Christmas, who was obviously one of dad’s mates.h
Anyway, the annual bowling match was, needless to say, a bit on the slow side for children, though there could be rich pickings in crisps and soft drinks if the adults were worked in rotation with the right mixture of innocence, boredom and irritation. One year it rained half way through, so everyone retired to the bar – match abandoned. Some dimwit, who was probably incapable of conversation, piped up, “Let’s have a kiddies’ talent contest”. I used to fancy myself as Tommy Steele, wielding an imaginary guitar whilst belting out “Singing the Blues”, so up I gets. The first verse went well but half way through the second I froze, words forgotten. That was the humiliating end to my one and only talent contest.
Later, when the winners were receiving their prizes, the dimwit, who was now compere, had nothing for third place. I don’t know what came êover me. I must have had a sudden rush of blood to the halo because a packet of my hard-earned crisps found its way from my hands into his. There I was, prizeless and crispless.
This did not go unnoticed by my Auntie Ethel, dad’s sister. She was 20 stone and lived with Uncle Edward. I think I was nearly twenty-one before mum told me they weren’t married. Gosh, was that a skeleton in the family cupboard. Well, big fat benevolent Auntie Ethel popped a half-crown, which she couldn’t afford, into my palm. Wow, I was rich.
I learned something about impulsive action that day. A split-second later and there would have been no third prize and no half-crown. Big fat benevolent Auntie Ethel wouldn’t always there for me in later years, when I gave something precious away. But she was there on the day of the talent contest and that half-crown lasted me ages.