By Andrew ‘George Ezra’ Berryman
WH WT VC
Corruption was in the air as team Walton gathered in the Deal carpark on that fateful, blustery March morning. Was it the fact that, being on the coast, we had direct line of sight to those unelected bureaucrats in Brussels? Was it the comprehensive selection of Hawaiian shirts for sale in the Deal pro shop, surely this must have been the influence of some local expat Columbian drugs cartel? Was it the surprisingly competitive handicaps of the Deal team? I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club felt different, changed.
My Spider Sense was tingling.
In making our way inside, it was comforting to see the usual bunch of likely lads getting stuck into the usual pre-match ales. With the usual top-drawer badinage flowing, our golfing muscles were being gently warmed and relaxed by the session ales. Captain Hedges then made the slightly unusual announcement that the usual Wedge Trophy vat of bloody mary was not to be served at breakfast, but was instead to be poured over our dinner later that day.
There it was again, that tingling feeling.
Eventually, much to everyone’s reluctance, this golfing fixture had to move onto the golf course. Largely dictated by the wind, the morning round was thoroughly enjoyable all the same. The consummate, if potentially corrupt, pairing of ‘Hedges squared’ managed to sneak a win over the lunch-eager Webster & Gates. Match two saw Waud & Smitherman get off to an absurdly good start to comfortably beat an ever-angry Mason & Cork. Walton snuck a half in match three despite some glorious golf from Daws and Donoghue (who interestingly now has the new Guinness world record for ‘hang-time’). Story & Carroll played so well in match five that it was ‘almost rude’, never giving Biggs & Chidley a prayer. Peacock & Vickers gave a good fight, but ultimately succumbed to the naughty nightwatchmen, Potter & Russell. 3.5 – 1.5 to Walton at lunch.
In for lunch and a brief reprieve from that howling wind, we were greeted by a golf-club lunch combination as old as time. Bolognese sandwiches, the creamiest leek & potato soup this side of Aberystwyth, and sweet potato fries! Sweet potato fries at a golf club? Times are a-changing.
The even windier afternoon saw a level of desire and passion on both sides the likes of which the Wedge trophy had never seen before. Unfortunately, the desire and passion wasn’t directed towards the golf, but rather getting off the golf course as quickly as possible to get prime seats for the finale of the Six Nations. Only one match went the distance in the afternoon, and the session finished in a 2.5 – 2.5 dead heat. Walton had won the Wedge back, breaking the bizarre to-and-fro of results which had preceded this historic day.
Corruption also seemed rife on the Rugby pitches of England and Wales. Perhaps the senior officials at the RFU heard about Biggsy’s potential £8 gain and directed the team to throw away a 31-point lead ‘for banter’. The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is almost certainly what happened. As much as I love England, who can blame them for throwing the match? We’d lost the crown anyway and it did make for truly great banter.
Onto dinner. The bloody Mary beef was excellent, but disappointingly less alcoholic than the name implied. Without wishing to ‘pick a favourite’, it was Biggs again who stole the evening with his enchanting rendition of his Burns Night poem ‘Something about a Fox’. I’m not sure what you do for work Biggs, but whatever it is, quit. You’ll certainly have one devotee when you’re touring the country doing open mic poetry nights. Commendation also to Ollie Daws for some cracking jokes to get us all warmed up.
Ales. Ales. Guinness in support of the Irish. Ales. Bloating. Tactical switch to G&T. Ales. Kings Head. Banter. Disappointing lack of a stripper. Jagerbomb. Strawpedo. Toffee Vodka. Jagerbomb x 3. Selfie with comatosed Nick Russell. Unbutton shirt. Receive abuse from locals. Re-button shirt. Dance. Jager. Stagger around outside. £3.29 chicken strips & chips combo meal deal. Darkness.
Cut forward to 2:30am, the last two men standing (sitting) are Mason & Bezra, across from each other at the dining table, steely-eyed, in one of the most intense (and only) poker matches that I had ever been involved in. We were surrounded by great men who had already succumbed to the pair of the VCs with their lightning sleight of hand and rudimentary knowledge of the rules. After a plucky start, that feeling came across me once again. I was on to a fool’s errand, trapped in the dragon’s lair against a foe who had me right where he wanted me. Why was everyone else asleep on the floor? What was the white tablet he’d put in my wine? Was this even his house, or some private dungeon in which to ensnare victims? After being worn down for what felt like an eternal 6-7 minutes, I decided to go all in. My hand of four aces was no match for Mason’s Super Bonus Royal Flush of a 2, 3, 5, 8 and a joker (a hand I had never come across before, due to its incredible rarity) and I had been defeated. Mason’s eyed turned wide, he let out a guttural roar which turned into an evil cackle. ‘You owe me a tenner’ he said maniacally.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.