Report on the 51st Annual Championships of the Bury St Edmunds & District Table Tennis League
18/03/2018 - From Bury’s Astrodome at KEGS, reporter Bob Harman
Now listen up, I’m only reporting below on what I saw with my one good little beady blue eye while I wasn’t actually on court, that’s right ‘on court’, not ‘in court’ as some of the more erudite among you may be thinking! Sincere apologies offered if I have missed anyone out in the overall roll of honour (please check at your leisure the final list of final results for the results of all the finals) who might consider they deserved a mention or three below, but you probably have a winners’ trophy or two for your troubles, so take a chill pill, it’s not all about the winning after all…in fact precious little written below is about actual winners and losers anyway…it’s the taking part that counts after all, and the turnout was excellent as was the general standard.
All players were turned out impeccably, no bandanas or purple rinses this time round, but one person in particular stood out in terms of attire - step forward E. Z. Sundry, known as ‘Sunders’ to his many pals, but more about the man himself later in the piece.
Act 1: What’s New, Pussycat?
Ok, so what was different about this year’s championships? Well, for the first time, there were some Bury Saxons and some Sugar Puffs among the fancies for the various titles up for grabs, with some of the older guard here too, including Stowie’s fearsome big cats and Thurston’s WWII plane pilots and their crews, all expected to be somewhere in the mix to be decorated.
Ch Ch Ch Changes…
Sadly, Bowie is no more and no former Chairman Phil Sinclair in the playing ranks for our latest panto – Phil who did so much for the League over his many years at the helm, is most certainly alive and kicking, well indoor bowling rather than actually kicking people probably, that’s not Phil’s style after all, indeed he was a true gent. Now he has hung his bat upside down in his loft for good, he is no doubt enjoying himself somewhere up t’north near his native Carlisle with a whippet, a flat cap and a pint of Old Spotted Thrush never far from his steely grasp. Get one in for me pal, I might need it by the end of this report!
Robin & Batman Take Control
So taking on Phil’s role as batman for the day to our very able Robin in the form of our tournament head honcho Mark James, was current chairman Martin O’Leary, who to my knowledge isn’t actually Irish - but if he is, he’s certainly making a very good fist of hiding his Dublin accent to be sure, to be sure… I can only think Martin has kissed the Blarney Stone as he has more one-liners than Ricky Gervais, with a sexy forehand slap smash to match his rock solid on-court temperament.
Mystic Mark – take your pick!
Before I forget, a shiny gold star goes to Mark for outstanding attention to detail this renewal, as every single result slip that winged its way to the numerous match tables for eager umpires to fill the result in had printed names on right through to the finals of each main event.
Now either Mark is the absolute bee’s knees when it comes to predicting the outcome of a few hundred matches over a day’s play round by round, or he had every eventuality covered since the draw was made last month and used up most of Borneo’s rainforests in the process! He has never particularly struck me as a conservationist or a mystic, so I’ll go for the ‘exceedingly good’ option as Mr Kipling used to say.
King David of Unwinshire & His Quest For Gold?
Forced to miss last year’s tournament through injury and one bad loss away a few months back from giving up the game altogether, top-seeded Dave Unwin was now fit and ready to take on all-comers in all three main events. He would face some stern challenges along the way if he was to land his first Golden Treble - men’s singles, veteran’s singles plus the doubles with new partner Mark (James) - last person to achieve this elusive feat of endurance was the legend in these parts that was Mae West’s son, Tony.
Act 2: Setting the Sundry Sunday scene - damn that Beast! Bermuda is the place for Chering things!
Well, firstly, the dreaded Beast From The East decided to check into town overnight once again, meaning the first hour spent in the Astrodome was very much a thawing out procedure for all and the afore-mentioned Sundry, especially for the Bury businessman who had just returned on his private jet from the Cher concert in steamy Bermuda the previous evening, in order to make our gig too. The former Elvis impersonator-turned-lingerie entrepreneur looked a sight for sore eyes, baggy island shorts on and as ever a huge smile upon his boat race to boot, and loudly humming ‘I got you Babe’ over and over and over again. I hoped for Cher’s sake that this wasn’t the case… but knowing Sunders since he was knee high to a grasshopper, I could only fear the worst.
Edwin Zacharia Sundry is not a chap one could ever describe as a shrinking violet, and the bronzed adonis gleefully recalled his hasty exit from the tropical paradise just the night before. A gaggle of us, huddled together and shivering in the far corner of the dome, listened intently as he told us that he had finally managed to tick off one of his remaining lifelong ambitions – to steal a kiss from the ageless songstress.
Kiss Me Quick – I Have A Plane To Catch!
Never one to shy away from a challenge, the former marine told us how he stalked his prey, biding his time as he patiently waited for the right moment to pounce. At the end of her third encore, Cher leapt offstage at the end of his favourite Elvis cover ‘Walking in Memphis’, crowd-surfing across the open-air stadium, heading straight towards him. It was now or never, and in a move that the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein would have been proud of, he grabbed Cher by the shoulders and spun her round to face him, dislodging her humungous black curly wig which landed smack on top of his shiny dome. Sundry planted a huge smacker full on her quivering lips before exiting stage right quicker than Usain Bolt, leaving the feisty artiste in a state of shock and awe as he flipped her back over and off she went, continuing on her not so merry way along the top of the crowd, screaming ‘#MeToo and stop him, he’s got my freaking wig!!!’
An angry posse of security men and any number of Cher devotees were hot on his trail as he ran full steam out of the stadium and across the nearby fields before scaling the fence of the nearby airport, where his plane was ready to leave at a moment’s notice. As he clambered safely on board and was quickly airborne, he couldn’t resist asking the pilot to circle back round, so he could wave one last goodbye to Cher from the cockpit. He was pretty sure she had waved back at him, albeit with a clenched fist with one hand and a raised middle finger on the other, before he settled back into his seat to enjoy a glass of champagne and a rather large cigar, as happy as any fan of Cher’s on the run could be in the circumstances.
On a Wig & a Prayer?
So in he waltzed, with a mass of black shiny curls hanging over the belt of his colourful Bermuda shorts, looking distinctly like the famed McGregor kilt with matching black velvet sporran. ‘I won’t be taking this lot off any time soon’, he giggled pointing down at his rather fetching ensemble, and chimed in ‘And just in case you are wondering why I’m wearing lipstick today, it’s Cher’s favourite, strawberry flavoured – and very nice it is too!’
I asked him what he thought his chances of winning were today, he sniggered ‘Well, I haven’t had a wink of sleep all night, so I don’t really give a fig what happens today mate - win or lose, I’m still up there on cloud nine, walking in Heaven, never mind Memphis!’
He added ‘Look, I’ve had a quiet word with Mark and he’s going to turn a blind eye to me wearing my new lucky charm when I play my matches today. Let’s face it, I could really do with something big, black and hairy to put my old mucker, the inscrutable CB (Colin Baxter) totally off his stride – good old Cher’s syrup should do the trick rather nicely don’t you think?!’
Kinky Boots Indeed!
The old chancer’s positive vibes seemed to extend right across the whole of the hall, with zero arguments and not so much as a cross word bandied over the net divide in any match throughout the day. There were just too many close encounters of the ping kind to recall them all as the day progressed.
A healthy crowd had gathered to watch their nearest and dearest perform, apart from my wife that is, who typically chose to jump on a train to London to see the rip-roaring ‘Kinky Boots’ in London’s West End instead. I rang her to say she was wasting time and money as she could have stayed here in Bury and seen our very own RuPaul performing in Cher’s wig, but as usual she cut me short, telling me to stop making up daft stories and to concentrate on beating that pesky Dave Unwin for a change….ever the pragmatist ‘er indoors, I thought as I prepared to do the latter - unsuccessfully as it turned out...
Act 3: The Nitty Gritty
Missing Persons of the Day?
A rare no show from Sonja ‘Leftie’ Talbot, also Holly and Izzy McGerty were on junior tournament duty elsewhere, leaving the ladies and indeed the junior singles titles wide open and up for grabs. Also a couple of regulars missing included two Vikings, Clive Grimwood and Alan Brafield, both sadly on the sidelines through recent injury. I was told that Ian Freeman was covering for Jeremy Corbyn at a Putin rally in Moscow, and last but definitely not least, a no show from the inimitable David Aldous – ‘Huxley’ to his friends.
Who could forget David flying through the air last year, careering into the next match court after being tripped (or pushed perhaps?) by his then doubles partner Will Hall. It’s entirely possible that David was more than a bit concerned that Will might just try to do the same again this year, so kept a safe distance this time round, thus freeing Will up to rekindle his partnership with his chum Dom Melero.
Player of the Day?
As simple as Simon this, just has to be the seemingly unstoppable Dave Unwin.
In the best shape he’s been for a couple of years, his semi-final match against defending champion Will Hall was a titanic tussle which went right down to a final fifth set, causing play to stop on all tables to watch the outcome of this supreme battle of wills, well one Will one Dave to be precise. Saving a match point with a cultured block of sheer beauty and immense pace, the evergreen Saxon saw off a mighty challenge from the largest and some might say sweetest Sugar Puff, as he has done all season in the League.
Dave duly landed the Golden Treble for the first time in his long career, with Dom’s father and former Bury League player Nick telling me in glowing terms just how incredible it is to watch Dave still able to maintain such a very high level for well over 30 years now. The other men’s semi-final saw an equally dramatic final set conclusion, with Bob Harman just seeing off a determined Andy Cullen, with Bob also saving a match point before just clipping the wings of the RAF man.
Visitors of the Day?
Very easy call this one - there can’t be many onlookers who dropped in to watch for five minutes and stayed more than five hours and without a hot flask of soup! I reckon whoever managed this feat on a very cold day deserves almost as much applause as Mr Unwin himself for all his heroics – so step forward Dom’s parents to take a well deserved bow.
I reckon their actions speak volumes for the way not only Dom performed but the rest of the Bury cast in our annual pantomime too, which indeed Nick was very much a major part of a few blue moons ago, as seen in the Bury Free Press last week – which contained a nostalgic photo/report on the local Bury championships of 1988, held in those halcyon days of goodwill to all men, women and children alike in the British Sugar Factory Hall itself.
Some things haven’t changed though...a certain punk rocker, hopefully without wearing his Dr Martens boots and bin liner tee-shirt for once, going by the nickname of ‘Deadly’ D Unwin won the men’s singles, with none other than Nick himself finishing runner-up in the veteran’s singles, a feat repeated by son Dom this renewal, which brings me neatly to the conclusion of this year’s report.
So in a Nutshell?
No not the little pub in town. With the ping season nearly over, it’s high time to get on with that spring cleaning you have been putting off for weeks, followed by a few lazy hot summer evenings doing whatever takes your fancy - mine’s a Peroni by the way. Just a small token piece of advice here, do try and remember September comes around all too quickly, so be as ready as you possibly can be for the new season in order to hit the ground running if you can.
Our ‘Chess at 90mph’ sport can be a very demanding one as we all know, so embrace it and come back even more determined than before to right any wrongs - but above all, have fun guys! That's All Folks!!!
Semi-Final 1: D Unwin bt W Hall 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 12-10, 12-10
Semi-Final 2: B Harman bt A Cullen 14-12, 5-11, 6-11, 11-9, 12-10
Final: D Unwin bt B Harman 6-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-2
Final: S Kenyon bt R Kumar 11-3, 9-11, 12-10, 11-7
Semi-Final 1: D Unwin bt B Harman 11-7, 11-4, 11-8
Semi-Final 2: D Melero bt M James 10-12, 11-6, 11-6, 11-2
Final: D Unwin bt D Melero 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-4
Group Winner: L Saiu-Bell
Group R/Up: A Stibbs
Final: L Saiu-Bell bt A Gosling 11-7, 11-7, 11-8
Division 2 Singles
Semi-Final 1: C Smith bt M O'Leary 11-5, 11-9, 11-8
Semi-Final 2: K Choi Chan bt R Wallis 11-7, 11-7, 11-7
Final: C Smith bt K Choi Chan 11-3, 11-3, 9-11, 11-9
Division 3 Singles
Group Winner: A Stibbs
Group R/Up: L Saiu-Bell
Semi-Final 1: J Samson bt G Kizis 6-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-8
Semi-Final 2: K Choi Chan bt S Kenyon 11-3, 7-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6
Final: J Samson bt K Choi Chan 14-12, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8
Final: A Stibbs bt W Hall 21-11
Semi-Final 1: W Hall / D Melero bt A Cullen / C Baxter 11-7, 11-8, 11-7
Semi-Final 2: D Unwin / M James bt B Harman / S Gridley 11-6, 11-8, 11-8
Final: D Unwin / M James bt W Hall / D Melero 11-5, 11-1, 11-5
Final: R Kumar / J Yaxley bt S Kenyon / M Chamberlain 11-9, 14-12, 8-11, 11-5