10. Not Just Whistling Dicksee

It said that if you put an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters in a room for an infinite length of time, eventually they’d write Hamlet.  We reckon it wouldn’t take half as long for them to come up with


First published in Rugby League World, Issue 440 (Dec 2017)

Dear Uncle Nigel,

Well now I know how the Kardashians feel (Keith or Kevin obviously, not one of the important ones). The events of the Rowton-Wattlesborough Cup last month made me slightly famous on Bard Island, with the press asking for interviews, school boys asking for autographs and the Women’s Institute asking me to cast an eye over their soggy bottoms. Things weren’t helped by the rumour that I was Benedict Cumberbatch’s brother which lead me to me being shadowed for a fortnight by a pair of Chinese exchange students known only as Ying and Yang (as you’ll know Sherlock is huge in China – third only in the TV ratings to the Great Cantonese Bake Off and Guizhou Province’s Got Talent). To be honest they were no great problem as all they did is stand silently at the end of my desk and watch me open the post.  Ironically enough I actually know Benedict’s brother Otis, as he was in the same class as me at St Ermintrude’s School for Sensitive Boys. He’s an actor too and can soon be seen this Christmas as the Cat in Dick Whittington at the Sunderland Empire.

Thankfully just when it was all starting to become too much, Bard Island RFL chief executive Tedstone Dellamere came to my rescue. He advised me to shelter from the pressures of fame by hiding in the departmental stationary cupboard. It certainly wasn’t his fault that the door jammed and I wasn’t able to get out for three days. However by then the fuss had died down and I was able to resume my duties. Even Ying and Yang had disappeared having secured front row tickets for the whole run of Dick Whittington, after hearing the rumour that Benedict would be joining his brother to play the role of Sarah the Cook.

My next job was to be was to be liaison for the Scottish RL World Cup squad who had been invited to the island for warm weather training by turd tycoon and Bard Island Barracudas chairman Sir Kinton Nesscliffe. Like his close friends Sir Rod Stewart and Sir Ronald McDonald, Sir Kinton is very proud of his Celtic heritage and like them is frequently photographed wearing a ginger wig and eating a Tunnock’s Teacake. As a result he decided to throw his support behind the Tartan Shortbreads, but sadly the plan quickly went astray. Only a month earlier Bard Island had basked in a heatwave that had boosted sales of ice cream and open toed sandals. Indeed it was so hot that a patch of the Fish Bowl’s artificial pitch (made from the wonder material Woold) melted and two stand-offs and a scrum half had to be extracted by the fire brigade mid match. Now though there was a sudden cold snap and it quickly became part of my daily duties to break the icicles off Danny Addy after each training session. I’ve been too busy to play close attention to the World Cup results but I do hope that hypothermia, frost bite and losing a couple of players in a blizzard hasn’t affected their performance too much (although funnily enough I notice Sir Kinton has been talking more about the Irish side of his family recently). Whatever the results though I was very honoured to work with the team of George Fairbairn, Alan Tait, Sir Kenneth McKellar and the pocket general himself Wee Jimmy Krankie.

The Tartan Shortbreads weren’t our only World Cup related visitors though. Bard Island was also graced (if that is the word) by the presence of maverick international genealogist Pixie-Anne Dicksee.

Pixie-Anne announced her arrival on the island with full page advertisements in the Talbot Rothwell Examiner claiming “YOU TOO COULD BE TONGAN (AND NOT EVEN KNOW IT)”. As she elucidated in an interview with Dolores Dubois in Oi You magazine (the South Atlantic’s slightly more aggressive answer to Hello magazine) she had come all the way from Chugabug, Arkansas to Bard Island at the request of a number of unnamed countries playing in the Rugby League World Cup to unearth new heritage players and provide them with the appropriate passports. Indeed she had a suitcase of blank ones ready just in case. She could also, for a small fee “just to cover expenses”, prove that you were eligible for whatever country you fancied playing for. Asked if she could really do this, she said that she had previously proved that Beyonce Knowles and Nick Knowles were brother and sister, that Oliver Cromwell was a woman and that Jacob Rees-Mogg was a horny handed son of toil descended from several generations of Welsh miners so this would be as “easy as shooting a moose with a bazooka” (which she also apparently had done,  while out hunting with President Putin, a reward for proving he was related to several prominent figures in Russian history including Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and Laika the Space Dog).

Mr Dellamere said she’d get a bigger response if she could promise immunity from international arrest warrants as well but there was still much excitement among the island’s players. Some kept to the shadows – RL wonder boy Yatton Dinsmore was rumoured to have passed over a large amount of money to prove he had the heritage to qualify for all 14 World Cup nations with Jamaica and the Cook Islands as spares “just in case”. Others such as former Tongan international La’ti Makiarto were more open. He held a press conference to announce that ever since listening to his father’s Shirley Bassey records as a boy he had felt Welsh and now his could finally prove it – and it had nothing to do with “all those bloody Kiwis” crowding him out of the team. Elsewhere Preston Brockhurst declared himself Cuban, as although they had no Rugby League team, it would probably improve his Latin American dancing.

Then, just as South Atlantic Airlines began to schedule extra flights to the Antipodes, the police raided Pixie-Anne’s hotel room. It was empty. There was no Pixie-Anne. There was no money; there was just a pile of Welsh passports and her trade mark lime green trouser suit hanging in the wardrobe. The Rugby League nations, even the desperate ones, have denied any knowledge of her or her mission but was she the phoney many suggest? Who can say? All I can say is that La’ti Makiarto has since joined a male voice choir and Preston Brockhurst’s  rhumba has improved no end.

Yours faithfully

Crispin St Claire