23. Buttering Our Parsnips

Evergreen Cup Quarter Final

Dorking Derelicts 12   Purley Joan Fisher Vets 32

Have a go. You’ve at least got to have a go. Like trying your luck against the bullying older boy at school. The complete d*ck with the misshapen head who deliberately made it his mission in life to make your first few years uncomfortable. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the moment arrived… third form, hormones, acne, attitude, scuffed platform shoes, nascent biceps, ill-fitting high-waister flares and a bit of belief in yourself.

And so you shouted: “Oy you, Forty Watt!”

Fifth former: “Say that again bum boy??

You: “Your head’s shaped like a 40-watt lightbulb… yuk yuk yuk.”

Sniggers from bystanders, including one or two of Forty-Watt’s mates.

Fifth former: “Come here you snotty little…”

“Not only shaped like a 40-Watt bulb, but just as dim!”

More nervous giggles…

And then the boy, face pimpled like a fly agaric mushroom beneath his greasy mullet, narrowed his mean little eyes and unleashed a maelstrom of kicks and punches, all of which seemed to land a lot harder than you imagined they would when you decided the time was ripe for making your stand.

Undeterred, adrenaline pumping, you had a go, landing a couple of blows which left an angry scratch on the end of his red pustulent snout… and only served to send Forty-Watt to new heights of berserkdom and spittle. You managed, perhaps, to get in one sharp dig to the ribs, made a frenzied grab for his giant heed before there was a single ‘pop’ sound, like the telly used to make when the black and white screen went unexpectedly dark save for a thin white line. And then silence and a view of the sky as he thumped your head on the playground.

Well, if you hadn’t had a go, you’d never have known.

And at least next time old Forty-Watt thought about flobbing in your custard, administering the wedgie or rapping his knuckles on your skull he knew there was now a chance you’d get chopsy in front of his mates. And front up…

This sort of mind-set helped some of us get the hang of rugby as young chaps, but we never really imagined that we’d still be fronting up and lathering on the horse liniment at a stage in life when our own fathers had long forgone contact sport. What did dads back then do? Cultivate tweed, drink Dubonnet, buy Datsuns and wear safari suits, probably. Some were in prison, a few might garner themselves a get-out-of-home free card, while others just forlornly concentrated on the garden and dreamed of those swinging parties pulsating with acres of young flesh … that they’d never be invited to. Not sure so many played vets rugby.

Not for them the special delights of facing a team of thick-set, muscular, spritely newly vets, about a decade a head younger and expecting to run in 50 unanswered points.

Which Pearly J Fischer were and would have done given the chance. But once you’ve taken on the boy with the 40-watt-bulb-shaped head, you know you’re always in with a shout.

What followed was physical, determined, ultimately futile, but not without merit. There is a case for blaming half a dozen key injuries and missing players including The Challice for his risible excuse of a torn hamstring suffered playing 5-a-side football and Gerbil for just being an injury-prone knob.

Instead, let’s praise the immense back line who kept us in the game. The half-backs worked wonders, Secret Agent Percy nearly scored and Cliffy did so after Lord Greed saw the ball squirt unexpectedly out of his own sweaty little grasp into his centre partner’s mitts. Praise also our foul-tempered Kiwi, Vic The Vet at fullback, for another superb display including a wonderful solo try. “Nice try Vic, enjoy the game?… Nah, sheet.”

Praise the pack for great doggedness against some large units and the back row for never giving up and striving hard against faster boys. Once again, the scrum was strong, but for the first time in a couple of seasons we met our match. Newks, Bouncy and Punchy Mr Oddjob never wavered, although Bouncy proved the old adage “be careful what you wish for” when his line-out throwing proved every bit as woeful as the directionless lobs Scud has mustered this season. Kinger took a notable cuffing for having a go, Hairnet took the game to the oppo and it’s hard to see what more we could have given.

Good luck to PJF. One or two may have squealed like stuck pigs when the going got ugly, but they’ve enough of the berserk older boy about them to go the distance.

They are not finished yet. And, as long as the man with the forty-watt-bulb-shaped heed deserves a slap, neither are we.

Long may our parsnips remain buttered.

Squad: Newks, Moz, Bouncy, Scud, Oddjob, Farmer Dave, Ginge, Kinger, Buzz, Hairnet, Broomy, Reigate Mike, Rodders,  Gazza, Lord Greed, Bambi, Cliff, Lord Percy, Vic the Vet, Wingnut.

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