2. More Bard News

Nigel Wood has denied he knows anyone called Crispin St Claire. Crispin St Claire has claimed that Nigel Wood is a fictional character made up for comic effect. The mysterious hacker known only as Spotty Derek is hiding in a broom cupboard in the Ecuadorian embassy and President Trump has banned us from his press conferences (thus saving us a fortune in bus fares). Nevertheless we persist in bringing you:


First published in Rugby League World, Issue 432 (April 2017)

Dear Uncle Nigel,

I am writing to you from the Blasted Heath Guest House’s Titus Andronicus Reading Room (named after the Shakespeare character, not the former Hunslet scrumhalf by the way). This is basically a walk-in wardrobe with a set of Rugby League Yearbooks and a well-thumbed Jackie Collins. My landlady, Delores Dubois retreats here each night to work on her Rugby League themed erotic novel Fifty Shades of Cherry and White. Dolores recently let me read a chapter and she can certainly paint a picture with words. Unfortunately those pictures keep coming back to me at night and now I can only sleep with the light on.

As at home there is much excitement here on Bard Island with the beginning of the Rugby League season. I’m too not sure if it’s a summer or winter season, mainly because I’m not sure if it’s summer or winter. Apparently the only way to tell is from the change in the temperature of the rain and the direction the wind blows in (so much like Odsal Stadium).

The big kick off to the season is the Woold Club Challenge, the now traditional game between the Bard champions (this year turd tycoon Kinton Nesscliffe’s Bard Island Barracudas) and the top team from across the Woold Straits on the Isle of Dag. (Incidentally, Woold is a type of seaweed which was a lifesaver to early settlers as it can both be eaten – if boiled for twelve hours it apparently tastes like kale flavoured cardboard – and woven into really itchy, badly fitting, clothing – its frequently used for school uniforms).

Last season the Dag champions were the Hartlee Hares, as owned by rock star Darren ‘Rat’ Trashmann. An avid fan of BBC 4’s Top of the Pops repeats like yourself will remember Trashmann as a member of the pub rock band the Leaky Sneakers (no 17 in 1978 with Instant Mash), before he became the man who made navy blue bellbottoms fashionable with a series of nautical themed solo hits including ‘All Hands On Deck’, ‘Man the Lifeboats’, ‘Keel-hauled’ and the controversial ‘Hello Sailor’.

After making millions from music, he made even more with such unlikely ventures as a kosher pork butchers, an international chain of medically themed gastro pubs (the Phlegm and Tongue Depressor in Pontefract is one of his) and Piers Morgan.

He’s also a follower of controversial new age thinker Ongar Street, who in his book ‘Alex Murphy is an Astronaut’ argued that rather than being founded in Huddersfield in 1895, Rugby League was a gift from alien visitors from the planet Pingu. They visited at the dawn of civilisation and founded the first ever Rugby League team, the legendary Mighty Penguins, a true team of all talents which included among others Achilles, Hercules and Gilgamesh with Samson and Goliath in the backrow. Trashmann himself explored these theories in his concept albums ‘Scrumhalf from Venus’ and ‘Extra-terrestrial Early Bath’ (number one for 47 weeks in New Zealand).

The game itself was a see-saw thriller. The Hares took an early lead and the Bard Island Superdome (aka the Fish Pond) rang to cries of ‘Daggie! Daggie! Daggie! Oi! Oi! Oi!’

Then the Barracudas crawled their way back into it with tries by local heroes Preston Brockhurst and Dick Cressida, before a length of the field try by wonderboy Yatton Dinsmore sealed the game.

Some have claimed that the Barracudas were given an unnatural advantage by their artificial pitch (made appropriately enough from the wonder material of Woold), especially after Dinsmore tore a hole in it and play had to suspended for 10 minutes while an emergency team from the local Women’s Institute sewed it up. I think that’s just sour grapes though.

Of course Dag Island isn’t part of my patch as Maurice Lindsey famously lost it to Australia in a game of cards back in the early 1990s (still, at least he won Swinton back). Since then numerous Dag Islanders have gone onto to play in the State of Origin as it has now been given a Wagga Wagga postcode. In fact such is their reputation is that I’m assured that to be called a Dag is a mark of respect in Australia. I’d recommend you work it into your next international board meeting.

You asked for more information about the islands of Mobyclaw and Clawphin. I had forgotten how enthusiastic you were about Mobyclaw lobster. I, of course, used to believe Clawphin was the superior brand as it was the one I was brought up on. Then I discovered the all night lobster shops and crustacean dens of Hull while studying History of Art there and converted to the rival brand overnight. Whisper it quietly though, I still like the occasionally bit of Clawphin – and prefer either to the baffling popular Carbonell Crab.

The two islands themselves were discovered by Viking brothers Clawphin and Mobyclaw Heilsugæslustöð. They were actually named the Heilsugæslustöð islands until the brothers fell out and to the relief of cartographers everywhere renamed the islands after themselves.

The two islands are linked by a single bridge. It was originally a rope bridge but after an argument over what sort of knots to use, it was burnt down. It was then re-built as a small wooden bridge – and after a dispute over whether it should charge a toll (Clawphin was in favour of a small fee, Mobyclaw wanted a free gangway) it was burnt down again.

So was set the pattern for the next thousand years – a millennia of feuding about something or other – lobsters, which side of the road to drive on, whether Donald Trump’s hair is a wig or a comb-over – which usually leads to torch wielding mobs and the bridge being burnt down.

The only thing the two islands agree on is how much they hate Bard Island. Especially after it recently paid for the bridge to rebuilt in inflammable material.

Until next time.

Yours faithfully

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).