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The Annexe

The Annexe

The Annexe
The complete (all fourteen chapters) story in the 'Lower Methil Annexe' series!
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The Innerleven Boolin Club – 2

BACKGROUND TITLE 450 WIDE

To understand The Coh-mittee, and how it functioned within the Innerleven Bowling Club, just think about big frogs in small ponds. If the pond gets too big, then the frogs start to look rather insignificant. It’s hard to make a big splash if the pond is full to bursting with cardigan-wearing, blue-rinsed frog queens.
So, this is what happens. Outside matches are discouraged. A few local matches, with the Wemyss or Balgonie, are fine. Playing the West of Fife is a bit dubious, but having anything to do with the West of Scotland, is to encourage barbarism on the borders of civilized society! Folly, at this level, can never be countenanced!
The trouble is, the Coal Board Competition covers the whole of Scotland, and if your man had worked down the pit, then you were entitled to enter.
And wee Babby Grieg had entered.

This had the making of a bad day!

Wee Babby had beaten the local opposition. Methilhill, the Wemyss, the CISWO from Glenrothes, and was in line to take on the best from the West of Fife – Cissie Murray from Cowdenbeath Miner’s Welfare. And it was to be fought at Innerleven Bowling Club. The winner would be off to Hamilton to settle accounts for the entire country.

Panic! Marks and Sparks were hounded, from Dundee to Edinburgh, for new cardigans and skirts. Size eight feet were stuffed into size four bowling shoes. Appearances were everything! And the quick-setting Araldite lipstick was in big demand, because frozen smiles were going to be tested. Bigtime!

First, Big Mary Hennan would issue her orders. Innerleven had to win the supporting matches at all cost. There would be no whitewash in the outhouse. Special tactics were called for. No mercy!
Then Jeannie Cook was to be kept away from the tea making! Everybody still talked about the time she stewed the tea at the Co-op Insurance Pairs final, and the head of Scoonie Bowls was able to leave the cup undrunk. Not on Big Mary’s watch, she wouldn’t! The tea would be drunk and the boiled ham sandwiches would be eaten.
With a smile. Or else …

Big Mary and Ina Wilson would do the pairs, because folk watched that. The fours didn’t matter all that much because eight people on the green looked like the front window of Barron’s shop, down Leven, and nobody could ever figure out whose bowl was nearest.

By two o’clock, the clowns and other supporting acts, they were done. On went Big Mary and Ina against the pair from Cowdenbeath.
Imagine looking in a mirror! Mary (Innerleven) looked like she’d been separated at birth from Mary (Cowdenbeath). Ina played her first shot by accidentally dropping her bowl on the foot of the other woman from Cowdenbeath.
The match resembled the Charge of the Light Brigade. The minute it looked like Cowdenbeath was going to get more than one of their bowls anywhere near the jack, Big Mary would send up one of her Balaclava cannon balls. You could hear the jack scream as it rocketed out of play, and into the ditch. Ina played a more devious game. She moved the mat as if it was Ali Baba’s magic carpet. Up and down, changeing the lengths, till even the club chairman was starting to cough with embarrassment. Ina merely coughed when the other player took her shot.
Big Mary’s driving, and Ina’s ‘go for the player, not the ball!’ tactics paid off. They took the last end with five shots, and the Cowdenbeath pair took themselves off to the bar for something stronger than tea and sandwiches.

Then came The Match. Cissie Murray was a big woman, and you could see that muscle was on her side. And she hadn’t made it to the West of Fife final without knowing how to draw a bowl up to the jack. But Babby knew how to play bowls, and this was singles. It was up to the player herself, and no excuses.

Up the green they went, and something in the air made folk stop talking, and start watching. Handshakes were exchanged. The umpire moved out of the arena. And the Match was on.

Cissie started off, and she played the long jack. It was going to be an endurance match. Babby matched her bowl for bowl, and after the first end, it took a measure to put Cissie one up. The first few ends were like that. One for Babby. One for Cissie. Turn about, and nobody moving ahead. Till the fourteenth end. That’s when it happened.
Babby’s bowl was smartly tapped out by Cissie’s, and she was looking at losing out by two. Babby put up a good bowl, but it just didn’t draw in enough, and Cissie had a bowl left. Never turn down a chance. It was a beauty. The luck that had slipped by Babby, took Cissie’s bowl up to the jack, and left Cissie three up.

The next end went to Cowdenbeath, and put another two in Cissie’s pocket. Five down, and the match well advanced. The quiet looks of sympathy were going out to Babby, and the smart money was going to Cowdenbeath.
Then Babby lost another end by one. Maybe Hamilton next year.

They were forgetting about Babby. She was the only one that never lost the place. Back she fought. 8-13. 9-13. 10-13. 11.13. Inch by inch. Determination and bowlsmanship. The score crept back. 12-13. 13-13. Cissie watched the lead melt away. Time to turn up the gas! 13-14. 14-14. Ding dong. The atmosphere was getting so thick, the greenkeeper could have used it to re-turf the green. Takings at the bar dropped to nothing, as dedicated drinkers forgot the passion of a lifetime, and watched the match. Even the barman came out to look, and he hadn’t seen daylight since back in 1956, when he took his youngest to the hospital, suffering from croup.

Nobody got more than one ahead, and soon the score was level at 20-20. The next end was going to be the last. Or so they all thought. By the third bowl, Babby was one down. She walked up the green, looked at the bowls, then walked back. No hurry. Just a quiet stroll on a summer’s day. She played the perfect bowl. It rolled up the right hand side, and drew the jack up to one of her back bowls. Babby was two up, but one was enough. What could Cissie do?
She went for it. A drive right up the middle, and the jack was smacked off into the ditch. Burnt end! All to play for. The audience remembered to snatch a quick breath before they passed out with asphyxia.

The next end was like an action replay. Babby’s last bowl trailed the jack out of the pack, and the umpire put the chalk mark on her bowl to show that it was a toucher. Cissie came up for a look, then went back to play her last bowl. Done it once, do it again!
Up came her bowl. It went for Babby’s bowl like a falcon after a cushie doopigeon. Crack! Off went both of the bowls into the ditch. The jack trickled up to the ditch … but it didn’t go in! Babby’s bowl was a toucher, and it counted! One to Babby!

What a match! It took ages before everybody’s heart rate sank back to normal, but the bar soon made up its takings. Cissie had respect, and told Babby to play that way in Hamilton and make them all be proud.

Big Mary tried to clamber back to centre stage, and muttered about how she didn’t know if the club could cover all the expense of going to Hamilton. The club chairman came across and settled the matter.

“Guid game, Babby. Ah think we’ll hire a charabanc!”“Well played, Barbara! I think that we will hire a motor coach!”

Coming next … Nettie’s First (An American Abroad)

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