The Isle of Wight Weekly Post - Friday, November 22, 1985
As told to Terry Wakelin by Jim ThompsonThe game result is here Cambridgeshire
Picture if you can, gentle readers, the scene at Fishbourne at 5.30am and our group of intrepid County Darts enthusiasts gathering for the start
of the great journey to our inter-counties fixture against Cambridgeshire, Jim Thompson and Tony Rust,all efficiency and red jackets, everyone
else still half asleep and wishing they were anywhere else but on this freezing quayside."We've gotta be round the twist." "Wish I'd stuck to petanque."
"Oh no where's me darts?" filtered out of the darkness from our luckless travellers. Onto the boat then and across to Portsmouth without mishap.
Everyone was now fortified with Sealink tea and not a few with Suggled cans of lager as they settled down on the coach for the long trip to the
Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire.
"Tell me" said the driver to our grimly efficient officials "How do I get out of Portsmouth?" Absolutely aghast at such ignorance shown by our
knight of the road (and not being too sure himself) chairman Jim quickly nominated John Blow as official IWCDA navigator and away they
went at a brisk 35mph on the A27 where the driver immediately added to the general confusion by taking the opposite direction to London.
Coaxing the coach into reverse, with the help of not a few ribald comments from our rapidly awakening players, away they went on the correct course.
What with the (albiet well intentioned) advice he was receiving from various motley members of the crew and the glazed look on John Blow's face
as he studied the assortment of charts and maps, Jim Thompson became more and more convinced that this was going to be a "GOOD DAY".
"Could I borrow your microphone for a short announcement" Jim politely asked the driver. "Sorry we haven't got one," came the reply.
A little later "Can we have the radio on?" "Of course, just reach into that plastic bag on the rack behind you and you'll find my little transistor."
This proved abortive, however, when the aerial became completely extracted from the set. "Never mind" said Jim "hand over to Ray Cross and
Clive Woodford" (the resident IWCDA comedy duo) "for a bit of impromptu entertainment". The driver, by now completely engrossed in the ribald
stories coming from the Cross/Woodford duet, has, by this time, completely missed the turning and is blissfully heading for the centre of London.
Totally unabashed, he manages to drive straight through without stopping, ignoring the odd red traffic light and managing, with great expertise,
to miss a band of about 40 Rastafarians, two barrow boys and a gentleman on crutches at a zebra crossing in Tottenham.
On and on they went without any mishap other than Rita Spratt having to change certain items of underwear and everyone now looking forward
to the relief of a "tea stop." "Sorry," said the manager of the Happy Eater"coach parties are not allowed." Back on the coach they crawled, feeling
unwanted and unloved, to press straight on to their destination and, some seven hours after starting out, arrived at Ely for the start of the match.
The events of the weekend's darts being the subject of a report next week. I will press on with the blow by blow account (no pun intended)
of Sunday's return trip.
Now, having learned a great deal from Saturday's journey, Jim decided to really organise the trip home and, once again, appointed Jon Blow navigator.
Offering a silent prayer and crossing his fingers he gave the order: "Wagons roll!" and off they went knowing that there could be no mistakes
if they were to catch the 11pm ferry. Out of the Dartford tunnel and all of a sudden it was "Oh no - not again." The drivver, having fallen for John Blow's
deliberate mistake, was heading in completely the wrong direction once again. Desperate manoeuvring saw the coach pointing the right way and,
in spite of a narrow miss with an overhead lamp standard, it was on to the motorway for the race home. About five miles down the road, however,
the coach began to do a tango before lurching to a halt with a front wheel puncture. It was at this point that county secretary Tony Rust started to cry.
It was generally thought, however, that the real reason for his tears was the thought of Yours Truly, who had travelled by car, safely back on the Island.
Off went the Mohican and Paul Baker to inform the police, while others were detailed to find the spare wheel. "Okay then Mr Driver" said Jim.
"Lets have the hazard warning lights on." "Sorry Jim" Quoth our knight of the road "the coach doesn't have them." "Alright then," said Jim,
turning to the spare wheel party, "how about the spare wheel?" "Guess what" chorused the lads, "there ain't one." Came the return of the Mohican and
Baker to report, "the police will only talk to the driver and tell everyone to stay on the coach or they could be prosecuted." Off they go with the driver,
who, on reaching the emergency telephone remarked "Isn't it lucky finding a telephone like this on a motorway."
At this point the Mohican began to ask him a few questions, the answers to which were "It's nearly 13 years since I drove on the mainland.
I've never driven on the motorway. Well, I am nearly 68." "Never mind" said the Mohican "have a word with the polic." These gentlemen, after getting
details of the coach etc. inform our party that, as the vehicle is so old, a spare wheel of the correct size cannot be found and that they would organize
another vehicle to take them home. Back to the coach go the luckless trio. By this time, it is in total darkness. The occupants, now, were showing some
degree of trepidation, especially when large articulated vehicles came thundering past, lifting the elderly coach into the air and shaking it from side to side.
All this prompted Clive Woodford "Quick, get the wheel off while the coach is up in the air."
At 9.40pm the rescue coach arrived and, with everyone safely transferred, away they went again. The atmosphere aboard by this time was getting
rather strained. Brenda Hale - asthmatic attack. Sue Evans - nervous breakdown. Tony Rust - straight jacket. Jim Thompson - balder than he started out
(yes, it is possible) and the Newport Red Army all bound and gagged to keep them quiet. Andy McNamara has lost 2lb in two hours and starts to eat
Malc Fielders left shoe, mistaking it for a cornish pastie. The new plan is to proceed as far as Guildford in hte hope that they can find food and sustenance.
Time no longer presses - it will have to be the 3am ferry after all. They do manage to stop between a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Happy Eater and
everyone amuses themselves by watching Andy McNamara didging in and out of the traffic in his trips between the two. And so we conclude our narrative
of a typical weekend's county darting. I would ask you to picture our bedraggled bunch of voyagers arriving back at Portsmouth, feeling like the return of the
Falklands Task Force, only to find that they still have another three hours to wait for the ferry home.