THE BARD NEWS JUST KEEPS ON COMING
First published in Rugby League World, Issue 435 (July 2017)
Dear Uncle Nigel,
Life is never dull here at the Blasted Heath Hotel (the proprietoress Mrs Delores Dubois upgraded it from a guest house when she converted the bedrooms from fitted sheets to duvets). The other guests are an ever changing cast of oil workers, salesman, morally conflicted hitmen, maladjusted circus performers, sailors afraid of the sea and crooked accountants on the run from the mob (a surprising number of them actually). However the latest to join is something of a celebrity, being none other than new age philosopher and historian Ongar Street. You’ll be familiar with his controversial thinking about the origins of mankind, civilisation and Rugby League as propagated in such books as Changing Rooms of the Gods, Oldham: Cradle of Humanity, and They Came from Across the Pennines. He even explained the differences between the sexes in the best seller Men are from Hunslet, Women are from Bramley.
What I didn’t know was that he is long term resident on Bard Island, having visited in the early Nineties and never left. He doesn’t like the place, he just lost his passport and can‘t get another. His most recent book is The Rothman’s Code, which claims that close study of the hidden messages in the 1981 Rothman’s Rugby League Year Book can reveal the future. In fact he is being sued by his previous hotel after he declared that there was no point in settling his bill because his analysis of Blackpool Borough’s away results in that volume revealed that the world was about to eaten by a giant space goat.
Mrs Delores Dubois herself is a woman with a fascinating history. Although a native Bard islander she spent a decade or more in the UK pursuing an acting career, her biggest role being Amy Turtle’s tearaway daughter in Crossroads (she left the motel under a cloud after pushing Sandy’s wheelchair into the duck pond). She also claims to know you from your days at the BBC; apparently you were both Vervoids in Doctor Who. (She gave up acting soon after that).
Wearing her journalists hat (although more accurately it’s a leopard skin turban) she’s currently working on a profile of Bard Island Barnacles player coach Colin Hitler for “Oi You”, Bard Island’s slightly more aggressive answer to Hello Magazine (She’s also sold it to their Yorkshire sister magazine “How Do”, although the Australian version “G’Day Mate” isn’t interested because Colin doesn’t come from Murwillumbah).
She’s rushing to finish the profile while Colin is still man of the moment. After steering the Barnacles to the quarter finals of the Rowton-Wattlesborough Cup where they face Dr Destructo’s Legion of Doom RLFC, Colin has declared they can do the double and win both the Cup and Championship. As the Barnacles started the season with a 15 point deduction for fielding an ineligible penguin last season this is universally regarded as a tall order and so Dolores is not alone in asking “Who Do You Think You’re Kidding Mr Hitler?”
Finally thank you once again for the honour of being your representative to the recent secret meeting of the South Atlantic Rugby League Inner Council or SARLIC as it is known (or would be if it wasn’t a secret, although ironically sarlic itself is no mystery to Bard Islanders, being an affliction many sailors suffer from after overdosing on fresh fruit in an attempt to avoid scurvy. Many is the mariner who’s declared “I shouldn’t have had that last kumquat. I feel a bit sarlicy now”). The meeting was held in a secret location so I travelled to it blind folded and locked in the boot of Bard Island RFL chief executive Tedstone Dellamere’s Fiat Punto. I’m not sure why I needed a sock shoving in my mouth but as Mr Tedstone said “better to be safe than sorry”.
The meeting was held in a large cavern surrounded by incense burners which filled the room full of the authentic smell of Rugby League – fried onions and stale urine. In the centre of the room was a large table around which sat the movers and shakers of South Atlantic Rugby League. Not just Bard Island, but all the archipelagos – Blood, Monster, Hell, Devil, Doom, Dread, Despair and New Widnes. Some made no attempt at disguise – I easily recognised Lady Lavinia “Blackbeard” Pulverbatch of the Bard Island Buccaneers, her diamante eyepatch glinting in the torch light – while others shrouded themselves in the official hooded robes of the SARLIC. As is traditional some came in fancy dress. I spotted Bard Barracudas Chairman and manure magnet Kinton Nesscliffe dressed as a Ewok from Star Wars. I’m also sure another attendee was TV funny man Bobby Davro dragged up as Amber Rudd but I may have been mistaken there. I think the incense was making me hallucinate by that point.
I relayed your proposal to them and they discussed it with a vengeance, breaking only to watch repeats of Bargain Hunt while they ate their sandwiches (potted beef since you ask). Finally after fours hour of heated discussion, with only occasional outbreaks of violence, they came to a decision. “We’ll take the Challenge Cup and/or the Magic weekend whichever you have left after your current negotiations.” Yes the SARLIC masterplan is to bring one of Rugby League showpiece occasions to Doom Island next year, as preparation for a bid for the 2029 World Cup. There are only a few hurdles to overcome – a lack of stadium, roads and most importantly licenced premises, but they’ve identified a suitable field and if they can persuade the farmer to move his sheep its all systems go.
Crispin St Claire
(Read the next thrilling instalment in Rugby League World, every month until the editor gets bored, gets sacked or stops getting the jokes).