Pre-Season Friendly - The return match

Inter-League Pre-Season Friendly - Ipswich Ravens v British Sugar

The Britannia Club, Ipswich - 2nd September 2015 - Bob Harman

Entering the Tardis to discover a world of cage-fighting, circuit training, Crunchies, Munchies and some eye-catching body art at its most prolific on the Moon – where the lunar sausage is king…

It was all in a night’s work for Bury’s Sugar Boys as they headed east to the bright lights of Ipswich in search of more glory against their country cousins, the Ipswich Ravens. All that was missing was an audience with that mercurial moon-man that is Ipswich Town’s boss Mick McCarthy, who was apparently otherwise engaged, more than likely out on the tiles in the big smoke with his best mate Arsene Wenger celebrating their combined austerity on Deadline Day.

I suppose it was only fitting that when you take on the Ravens in their own darkened lair, the journey from the car park to the rear entrance of the Tardis would be a potentially dangerous one, the first test of our mettle on a night of fighting talk and an unexpectedly painful mishap which would marr the night, but more of that later.

Luckily for us, King Raven and self-confessed body-builder Sean Gridley was lurking at the back door, busy doing his pre-match push ups, with his fluorescent chartreuse-coloured trainers acting as a pair of moving beacons, offering just enough light for us to manoeuvre around the open manhole cover and extensive barbed wire fencing. From the Stadium of Light to the Dungeons of Darkness in exactly a fortnight…

So the stage was set, the so-called Tardis - as most Tardii tend to be - was a tad bigger inside than any would expect, with each court area resembling the set of a cage-fighting film, with netting replacing the standard mesh.

Parting the netting to enter the fray, the cage-fighting commenced on adjacent tables, with the first two matches going the way of the Sugar Boys, with Bob Harman making light work of King Raven in straight sets, while Dom Melero, using a new bat for the first time in anger, saw off a strong challenge from Colin Bennett, turning around a 2-1 deficit to gain a welcome win on his return to competitive action following his blow-out in Benidorm.

Sonja Talbot and Will Hall squared up again and in a well-contested game that saw a couple of deuce sets shared, Will gained the day with an impressive 3-1 win to make it 3-0 on the night for the visitors, who proceeded to clip the wings of the Ravens in a match that was played in good spirit. A lengthy practice the previous week had definitely sharpened up Will and Bob, who both remained undefeated on the night, while Dom, despite losing both his subsequent matches in close fashion, was rightly satisfied with his night’s work.

Final score: Ravens 2 Sugar Boys 7

Following the lead of King Raven, we all winged it to the local hostelry, the quaintly-named ‘Man On The Moon’ for a spot of supper and post-match deliberation and general gossiping. I suggest one would have to go a long way to witness finer examples of classical body art on display in the MOTM bar - one teenager was showing off her latest wrist tattoo to her father slumped on the stool next to her, who clearly wasn’t too impressed and was giving her a right ear-bashing - what an old fuddy-duddy we all thought. Time for a relaxing cigarette I thought…

Unfortunately, the night was to take an unexpected turn for the worse for me, as I stubbed my ciggie out on an urn full of very healthly-looking red roses in a moonlit corner of the smokers’ garden. I got quite a shock when the urn seemed to spring to life in front of my very eyes, when all of a sudden a little shadowy figure confronted me, like a little genie rising from a lamp, and smacked me in the gob!

When I came to a few moments later, I thought I was dreaming - a beautiful brunette was standing over me, pointing to a burn mark on her shapely rear, but the dream quickly turned to reality as she started to rant and swear a lot in French or maybe it was Geordie, or both…I wasn’t sure, but she was ‘reet’ angry with me, threatening to get some mate of hers called Cowell onto me.

I tried to explain to her that it was an accident, an easy mistake to make as I didn’t have my glasses on and after applying some ice-cubes from her pint of Pimms to the affected area for some considerable time, she seemed to calm down a wee bit, enough to have a ciggy or two herself.

By now, I realised that she had clearly had a few too many and her equally drunk girlfriends arrived on the scene, dragging Cheryl or Beryl, I couldn’t quite make out her name but think that’s what they were calling her, over to have her turn at the karaoke that was in full swing. Now as much as I had - despite my bulging bottom lip - grown to really like her in our short time thrust together, her singing voice was enough to clear the entire packed MOTM garden in a jiffy, which left her in floods of tears and me to pick up the pieces.

Sometimes a few little whites lies are a very necessary tool in the male armoury, and after consoling her once again & telling her to take no notice, that she really did have a potentially lovely voice and could yet make it on the telly, I made my exit stage right like so many others had some minutes before and headed back to the dining area, clutching a tissue to my lip that was now as swollen and red as the fleshiest rose that my assailant had tattooed on her equally fleshy derriere.

‘Don’t ask, please!’ I implored the assembled Sugar Boys/Ravens as the look on their faces told a story – they clearly assumed I’d ordered an extra lunar sausage platter for myself to consume in the smokers’ garden, with lashings of tomato sauce running down my chin as evidence of the greedy deed. If only…

So, despite the lunar sausages looking the real deal and chips & onion rings to die for, I wasn’t really in the mood for eating much, never mind discussing chewing over the finer points of circuit-training, push-ups, munchies, crunchies, scrunchies and whatever it was that Sean’s best mate Alex Reid was currently into.

It was a night to remember back for the Sugar Boys in the Tardis, but sadly it went downhill from there for me - I must give those ciggies up…and I do hope that feisty young girl takes the plunge and gets the singing lessons she so desperately needs, it would be fab to see her sing maybe ‘A kiss from a rose’ on The Voice or even X-Factor one day...

Author: via Bury St Edmunds Table Tennis League
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