Without doubt my favourite game in the early days at Alleyn’s was fives. Specifically at Alleyn’s we played Rugby Fives.
It was the only sport at which I was good enough to represent the school and no doubt that selection only came through my comparative ability with the left-hand as well as the right. Let’s not call this ambidextrous, in my case more like ambiclumsy. In any case, my doubles partner was Alan Cooke and he was good. I probably got my team berth more on the back of Alan’s skills than my own.
Still, I wasn’t bad and there are lots of references to my successes and failures throughout my diaries, especially 1974 & the first half of 1975.
But looking back today, early February 2016, I thought I should write a short piece about this simple entry I found for 9 June 1975.
Uneventful day. Beat Eltham 11-5, 11-5 in Q-Finals.
Now in my book, John Eltham was good at sport. Really good at sport. I’m not sure John played fives much, but he was generally good at sport.
I was not good at sport. Really, really, really not good at sport. There was the occasional success, of course, not least one goalkeeping tale of derring-do that I have promised not to blog about…
…for the time being…
…until I can find the reference and/or unless the promised hush money proves not to be forthcoming…
…but my point is, looking back, I don’t see how the two sentences in the above quote could possibly be talking about the same day. Beating John Eltham at any sport made it an eventful day. Heck, just having got to the Q-Finals of any sport made it an eventful day for me.
But perhaps my young mind, turned by some fleeting success, was by then looking beyond a semi-final appearance to greater glory than that achieved. The diary is silent on fives for the rest of the term, so I can only assume that the semi final which I (presumably) lost was on the same day and that I was so disappointed that I (unusually) couldn’t even bear to write down that particular losing result.
Anyone care/dare to own up to ruining this poor kid’s day by destroying his one chance at glory in the internal fives competition? I fancy a rematch.
John Eltham, on seeing this posting, e-mailed me the next day to say:
You modestly left out the fact that we had at least two national Rugby Fives champions in our year ! Hodson & Stendall.
Indeed we did, John. And indeed Jumbo Jennings latterly. I’d forgotten about Neil Hodson in that context.
I have a strange feeling that it might well have been Hodson who beat me in the semis – I have always had a sense of unfinished business with him and I probably would have been too gutted to report the loss. Whereas Chris Stendall was, like Alan Cooke, an old mate from primary school; I took my (more often than not) losses against them on the chin and regularly recorded those in the diary.
After writing the above line “I fancy a rematch” and posting this piece, I then knelt down to put the 1975 diary back in the box under the bed and then…felt my left hammy twinge when I got up again. Perhaps a fives rematch at the age of 53 is not such a good idea after all.