3. The Young Herberts

Dorking Derelicts 13 Horsham 2nd XV 24

The young chaps from Horsham 2s had finished their Chocolate Weetos and were mapping out the weekend ahead to the backdrop of Soccer AM and vaguely erotic thoughts of whether Helen Chamberlain was indeed wearing underwear.

For many it would mean a Saturday morning trip to the barbers where Jojo (pronounced Yoyo) – moustachioed, Mediterranean and surely the most sexually mysterious man in Sussex – would fashion their hair into the three-in-one look where tufts were ironed, teased, combed and gelled into geometric patterns at right angles to one another for that ‘slightly startled’ look they were all after.

The effect, coupled with the arse of the designer jeans worn strictly below the curve of the buttock to display the Calvins, was at once racy and yet strangely uncomfortable in the way that fashion dictates clothes must be for the fashion victim.

After a full lunch, glass of far too sweet liquid energy drink and a
 Wagonwheel they swiftly departed in spots and high spirits for a match 
against the Dorking Derelicts, whatever that was, hahahahahaha, confident and coiffured.

Some miles north in a plush Surrey parish, Tap, a substantial gentleman, was
 himself going through much the same sort of weekend planning. Following a plate of lightly-coddled duck eggs and a round of Aga-toasted Nimble with the merest hint of finely shredded Harrods marmalade, he patted his mouth with his napkin, swept the crumbs from his maroon check satin robe, slapped Cook playfully across the rump with a look of gratitude and repleteness and proceeded to his parlour for a morning of ferocious grooming.

He’d become quite taken with the thoughtful new assistant at the Geo Trumper perfumery and permitted himself to forego the Extract of West Indian Limes this time and instead purchased, at no little expense, the Spanish Leather aftershave.

 After scraping away the last of the shaving lather from his chin, he winced slightly as the ointment smarted on his neck, and then smiled as the distinct whiff of olives, cloves, citrus and cheroots pervaded the room. It smelled like dear old Uncle Archie, the originator of the Costa timeshare scam. Tap smiled. Such a shame he’d had to flee in the middle of the night to Madrid suddenly under never fully explained circumstances. Happy memories of seriously dodgy property deals flooded back.

From the visage, Tap turned his buffalo-sized head sideways to view the barnet in the 
mirror in its full glory.

“What on earth am I to do with you this morning
 you old rascal,” he thought. “Oh, come on then.” And he reached for the
 trusty, well-worn manicure set.

Some hours later … substantially trousered, collar adjusted ‘so’, he slipped
 on the loafers and marched smartly out to the courtyard to select his
 fastest carriage to Big Field where pain was to be inflicted on the Horsham
 2nd XV.

As the geometric haircuts started to fill the bar, Tap found himself
 distracted by the ease with which they wore their ‘product’ and became ever so
 slightly restless as kick-off time neared. It all seemed so unfair, these
 young bucks with their easily manageable locks. Not for them the donning of the snood mesh each night to keep the structure of the locks in place.

“Just let them mess with The Barnet and I shan’t be responsible for my actions,” he thought, menacingly.

“Most of these men are older than my dad,” one of the young Herberts was heard to snotter. “And that one could be my f*cking grandad!” sniggered his friend, harshly, waving vaguely in the direction of half-mad Wolfie Snr.

Bloody Hell Dick, have you seen the size of the Derelicts pack?

In the Famous Five dressing room fresh-faced Dick got the Herberts stripped
 and changed within minutes and with a minimum of fuss they bounced and
 cartwheeled across Big Field to embark upon a 57-minute warm-up programme of
 sprints and tactical moves culminating in a co-ordinated team sommersault,
 led by Julian and Anne, which got both George and Timmy the dog particularly excited on the 
touchline. All this to a chirpy soundtrack and the promise of lashings of 
ginger beer and cake to follow.

Meanwhile, in the Derelicts changing room much wind was being broken. Lubricants,
scorching ointments, pain-killing sprays, pills, and Vick were being 
digested or applied liberally – irresponsibly even – to all sorts of parts 
of bodies that were in all sorts of states of degradation and dysfunction. 
Bandages and electrical tape were flourished and a chorus of hawking coughs
 and maniacal laughter reached a sort of crescendo that suggested the warm-up
 was over and the long trot to pitch three with its distinctive camber should 

The enforcer of law gave a shrill blast on his whistle and the two teams surged into battle with gusto. The happy young Herberts 
bounded into the fray with enthusiasm only to be met with malice and cunning
 by the likes of four-square punchy Mr Oddjob, looking like something out of a Guy Ritchie movie and making his first outing of the season,
 The Challice, Brave Sir Lesmond and Ginge, a medical curiosity who was half man and seemingly half Guinness. Suddenly, thought the Herberts, there
 seemed something quite, quite sinister about the smelly older gentlemen and no

They found themselves fuddled by the sheer strength of the
 Derelicts pack and Dick was going to have to come up with a pretty cunning 
plan if they were all to make it home by tea. And in one piece.

While degrees of pain were indeed being inflicted in the shadows of the ruck
s and mauls, the Herbert backs were limbering up in a most alarming fashion.
 And when they caught the ball out wide it was merely a matter of time before
 they made the most of their 20-year per head advantage and raced in a couple
 of scores. By now, the Derelicts were puffing a bit.

Scud the ancient hooker won good ball at a ruck by the simple expedient of walking 
round offside and blatantly picking up the ball from the wrong side. Then, fortunately, Mr Oddjob, back once more and 
punching well above his height, was the last man up from a pile of bodies 
over the line and claimed a try with a malevolent grin not lost on the 
Famous Five and their quivering chums.

And then we turned round to play up the hill. A few fresh faces in the pack
 added impetus and the Herberts front row spent the first couple of scrums
 after the interval several feet in the air, and the rest of the scrums for 
the half retreating in a sort of reverse quickstep. Before
 long Rodders sank a penalty and from a scrum shortly after Mattattattafield, 
playing a blinder in the centre with less mad Wolfie Jnr, picked up for a simple
 score and suddenly the older chaps were just a couple of points adrift with
 everything to play for. Huzzah!

Shortly after, the view of victory was gone. It would be unfair at this
 juncture to single out half-mad Wolfie Snr for a fly hack for which the phrase 
”ill-advised” might have been specifically invented, but sometimes life 
isn’t fair. It was sheer bad luck, however, that it fell to the fastest man
 on the pitch who simply skipped gaily through our fortifications like a
 knife through butter. Not long after, the Herberts managed another effort
 after a great deal of interpassing which, from a distance, looked like showing off. Frankly.


By now the Herberts had got something of a measure of the Derelicts
 collossal pack and were getting their long, sodding, spindly arms wrapped
 around our hard-won ball each time as our energy bank drained away with the

And then the ref – one of the very best we’ve had – blew for time and well
 though we played, the honours, rightly, went to the plucky young chaps with
 strange haircuts.

Long may they remain ignorant of the words hypertension, denture and

Squad: Prior Arrangement, Scud, Oddjob, Tap, Ginge, Sir Lesmond, The Count, The Challice,
 Mozza, Bouncy, Ruehd Boy, Rodders, The Juggler, Mavis The Matador, Lord Greed, Wolfie Snr, 
Wolfie Jnr, Mattattfield, Andrew Youngman, Handy, Skip

NEXT: 4. Golden Harp Of The Prophetic Wise Men   Previous: 2. The Juggler’s Secret