43 Unsporting Moments

43 Unsporting Moments

We're thinking of redoing this one with a proper publisher. It was self-published in the days when you had to pay for such things - 3000 print run, all sold. Drawings by the legendary Paul Davies.



As a British Airways pilot once said to a friend who was taking up parachute jumping for a hobby: “I can see no necessity for leaving an aeroplane with which there is nothing wrong”. Similarly, non-skiers cannot see the point in risking bones and ligaments, trying to slide down a slippery slope up which there was no need to go in the first place.

Common sense, as every skier knows, does not come into it. For example, in every ski resort there is a poser who wears Gucci ski gear in the hotel bar but has not bothered to buy a lift pass. Then there are the penniless ones who can actually do it like they do on the telly and almost as well, who yearn for the big break which will never come and who spend their entire lives ski-ing.

In between is everybody else, linked across their infinite variety by an unfathomable and unquenchable desire to do slippery-slope sliding PROPERLY.

Such a desire - illogical, expensive, habit-forming - will get folk into trouble, as happened with a certain novice ski-group. The group was composed much as usual. There were some couples, some 20-something singles in twos and threes eyeing each other up, and a family. The family wore identical woolly hats with union jacks and ENGLAND sewn on to them and were notable for their disparate appearance. The two daughters were very small for their eleven or twelve years. Mother was stately as a galleon and 18 stone. Father was lanky and skeletal, looking like he had spent the last five years hiding in the jungle thinking the war was still on.

Ferruccio was the instructor, a former junior downhill champion whose career was cut short by the discovery of female ski novitiates. He was athletic, handsome and a man of few words, viz: Lean forward; Bend ze knees; Mind ze trees; Follow me.

It soon became clear that Mother England, the 18-stone sailing barge, was a blot on ski-ing progress. She fell over all the time and needed help to get up. Ferruccio did not see himself as a ski-ing JCB and after a while the other males also had had enough of it, including Father England. They left her, towards the end of the first week, on her back in very deep snow in the position which some sheep farmers call “kessing” and others call “a riggwelter”. Mother England thus retired from ski-ing,saying that her boots were uncomfortable.

In the second week everyone was keen to make up lost ground and welcomed the idea of a free ski down the mountain to a faraway spot indicated by Ferruccio. Everybody started off fine then Father England, well back in the smoothly progressing crocodile, developed a hideous Glenshee Crouch, a helpless condition also known as The Thomas Crapper or The French Footprint, and shouted “I’ve lost it!” and “It’s gone!” as he went out of control.

“What’s gone?” shouted someone.

“My confidence!” he shouted back as he did an involuntary slalom through the crocodile, splintering it into component parts and clipping the rear ends of a pair of skis just enough to turn a comely and shapely lady skier around so that she was now facing up the mountain but travelling down it. In fact, she wasn’t so much facing the mountain as looking closely at the snow over which she was gliding, backwards and ever faster. She was in the touch-your-toes position and couldn’t straighten up.

As Ferruccio set off to catch her, a male novice from a completely different crocodile whose day had been suddenly interrupted by Mad Father England and the Crazies, was crashed into by the partially inverted and shapely lass. Thinking only to preserve his perpendicularity he grabbed her around the waist and hung on.

The resulting picture would have had dog-owners filling buckets of water and Dr Alex Comfort reaching for his notebook. “Even More Joys of Sex, chapter one. Why don’t you try it on skis going backwards in the stone-and-paper position? The only problem is your ski clothes which were not designed for quick release in the reproductive zone, even if you had the courage, skill and balance to do absolutely anything at all other than stay exactly as you are.”

Ferruccio hesitated. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. Should he leave them to ski backwards into oblivion? Might they not want to end their lives at this perfect moment,in the midst of sexual congress, with all the excitement but none of the mess, in front of a large and attentive audience?

No. Of course not. With a few pushes Ferruccio was beside them, bringing them to a halt and restoring them to their respective beloveds, slightly reluctantly one felt.

“Were you responsible for that, darling?” said the congress-lady’s husband.

“I’m afraid I was” she replied.

Ferruccio smiled and, from then on, every attractive female graduate of his ski class learned the vitally important technique of ski-ing backwards.







Every moment in hunting, shooting and fishing is considered blatantly unsporting by some people, but for those older and wiser ones who appreciate the original Sports with a capital S there are subtle satisfactions to be had.

Consider the young fisherman who was long-trotting a small, brown and white quill float, beneath which hung a tiny piece of bread, many, many yards down a drought-lowered river. It was early afternoon. The sun was high, the sky cloudless, the water clear and a few inches deep.
His new girlfriend was basking on the bank. For a while she would read Racine’s Andromache, a set text for her French subsidiary subject at university. Then she would lie back with a sigh, fussing over the exposure of small and non-intimate areas of her person to summery solar emissions.
She seemed unimpressed with fishing. For long periods of time, very little happened. The main activity was to stare at the quill, a tiny object so far away that it was indistinguishable from any other speck on the water, while paying out yet more of a near-invisible fishing
line so that the said tiny object could be more distant still.
Then, for no reason apparent to her, the fisherman would give a small jerk with the rod — made, he had proudly informed her, from split cane and greenheart, whatever they might be — and then reel the tiny object all the way back. The fisherman would then inspect the bare hook, grunt, and put another bit of bread on.
Just occasionally, and very occasionally it was, a small fish, a very small fish, would arrive, splashing and armoyed, attached to the hook. Freeing it, the fisherman would handle this creature with such tender loving care that it made the girl jealous, and then he would
quietly and gently slip it back into the water.
These fish, she now knew, were called Dace, and would not grow any bigger. That was the way they were, four or five inches long, a silvery flash and not much more. The Chinese fried them and put them in tins but in Great Britain such strange goings-on could
not be countenanced.
Far better to spend half an hour gazing in earnest concentration at a glinting, rippling infinity, regularly replacing your little bit of bread. The rare reward was a little dace, which you then put back where it came from, so that your tackle was free to do the same thing all
over again. What was the point in that? She turned back to her Racine.
At about two o’clock the young fisherman muttered something about the pub. It was a fine old pub, basic, unspoilt, serving beer, lemonade and crisps and not much else, and famous at that time because the landlord had a certain dog, a Golden Labrador. This dog had been featured in the Daily Express, with a large photograph, because it was able to jump in that same river and come out with a two-pound trout in its mouth.
The girlfriend, with commendable restraint, forebore to mention this other way of catching fish — big, delicious fish — as she got up dutifully to go and get a couple of shandies for herself and her gallant hunter/gatherer. When she returned, her mood had changed. She no
longer seemed to be under sufferance.
“That man back there” she said, nodding at a local country type standing on the bridge, cap on head, looking into the water, “says that catching dace in conditions like these is very difficult. He says you have to be very good to do it, with a highly developed and sensitive
touch, infinite patience and great attention to detail. When we’ve finished our shandies, how about a little walk in those woods?”



Germans are impressive, don’t you think? At least, the young ones are - tall, slim, fit, no self-doubts about their physical impact. And do you know why this is? And the girls? Why all German girls have superb figures, lean and louche, like Steffi Graf without the weight training? It’s because they have mixed sauna baths in Germany.

Your correspondent was on a squash tour or, more properly, a trip to a squash team tournament in Hanover, when this discovery was made. His team, from a small English market town, had taken six players, one of whom had never been on tour before. Your correspondent, who had been on several, volunteered to step down from his well established position at Number Five string, nobly permitting his virgin colleague to play and thus sacrificing himself to three days of beer and bratwurst.

The gesture of self abnegation having been made and the first two half litres of Sonntagdonnerschnellmeisterhof having been downed, he had this conversation:-
     Six foot two, muscle-rippling, 100% fit, blond, blue-eyed, 24-year-old German from paratroop training college in Bonn: “Hello, I hear zat you are not playing for Bungleton, and zat you vould like to play for Bonn, jah?”
    Five foot nine, flabby, 11% fit, balding, red-eyed, 38-year-old British from smoking room of The Plasterer’s Arms: “Oh no, that’s all right, really. Ha ha.”
    German: “Unfortunately ve haf to play Klaus at Number Von because he is not happy ozzervise. But you play at Number Two kanst.”
    British: “Number Two? I was only playing Number Five for Bungleton and we’re just a four-court club, not a bloody squash-demonium like Bonn.”
    German: “Come on, ve know zat all English are good players.”
    British: “Well, I’m not.”
    German: “You English! So modest! Ve play you zen at Number Sree. You are on Court Ten at elefen o’clock.”
The Germans are as well mannered as they are fit, which was how your correspondent got a game out of that match. He found himself playing the West Germany (at that time) Under 18 National Champion who, despite his lack of experience, could see that it was not quite the accepted thing to do, to wipe up a fat old visiting English 9-0, 9-0, 9-0, even if he could have done it with a seven pound
weight attached to each testicle.
Your correspondent did not regret drinking until 4am that morning. There was no point. Had he led a totally abstemious life from Moment Zero he would still have lost that squash match. He thought it unnecessary for their host, the Hanover number one and an expatriate British, to greet him in the corridor with “Finished already?” That was regrettable, but nothing else was, except possibly the fact that he had another match at one o’dock and yet another at four. The sauna, he felt, would rejuvenate him. It would render him, if not fit, talented and determined, then at least serviceable.
About to enter, he could hear two lovers within, kissing with great enthusiasm and eating half-melted ice lollies at the same time. Then, there emerged two god-shaped and naked young German males whose private equipment would have tied for first prize in the produce tent at the Bungleton Show. Your correspondent hoped that the sauna would now be empty of Germans because his own private equipment was much abashed, more a shrunken violet than a symbol of British might such as Nelson’s Column or Churchill’s cigar.
The sauna was empty, and big enough to seat maybe 30 or more on wooden benches like a steeply-rising amphitheatre around the hot coals. Phew! That was better. He could feel the beer beginning to seep from his pores. Who cared if he was fat and had been humiliated by a German boy at squash? So what? He had other qualities.
While he was trying to identify such features of redemption, in came a young Ursula Andress, or it might have been a young Bo Derek. She shrugged off her towel and sat, naked, about two yards away. Taking care to ensure that the meagreness of some parts and the plenty of others was concealed as far as possible, he tried a sally.
“I’m playing in the squash toumament” he said, with unsurpassed brilliance of wit, unparalleled aptness, and timing which even George Burns could not have equalled.
    “Jah, so my husband is” said Ursula-Bo, massaging some skin lotion into her self-levelling bosoms.
This was too much for your correspondent who, wrapping a towel around himself while trying to appear as if he wasn’t, went out and climbed up a ladder set against a gigantic wooden barrel full of water. At the top, he jumped in. When he came to the surface again, he wondered how Vorsprung durch technik managed to keep water in a liquid state when it clearly was so many, many degrees below freezing point. He climbed out and looked for his towel.
If swimming in the sea at Saltburn can reduce the male appendage to the size of an infant whelk, then surely the plunge barrel at the squash club in Hanover can render it invisible to the naked eye, especially when the eye, brackets, naked, is Ursula-Bo’s, who can climb plunge-barrel ladders astonishingly well.
Your correspondent decided that he would have a sauna after and before each squash match. In this way he could be doubly humiliated by naked German Apollos and Aphrodites alike, then he could be decimated on the squash court, then at about half past four he could say ‘Sod the lot of you’ and get pissed as a rat.
Thus he could show them that whatever they did, they could not grind him down. He thought of other squash tours where similar things had happened. There was the one in Holland, for example, when out of three fixtures of five matches each, his team won just one game and therefore lost the tour 45-1. It was culture shock, he said to himself. I mean, finding that the Dutch have chips, not with fish, but with peanut sauce and mayonnaise; that one-year-old Gouda is the best cheese in the world and not at all like the stuff exported to Britain; and that the beer, which has the same name as in Britain, is nevertheless quite good.
He remembered driving through customs. A zealous-looking oflicer had been about to open the rear door of the estate car and thus discover any number of bottles of Geneva gin (there were quotas then) plus vast quantities of contraband Gouda,
when it was mentioned that all that sports kit was from a three-day squash tour. The official immediately lost his appetite for exploration and waved them through.
Of course, if we took strong drink for long periods before and after squash matches, we must expect to lose. And we didn’t care, which was what made us superior. We didn’t care if we lost. Let our opponents care if they wished. Let them go training and abjure all temptations. Let them do press-ups and trunk curls, while we warm up with pickled herrings and aquavit.
And then it hit him. That’s why all young Germans are physically perfect. Well. Let them lead monkish lives of abstinence and self discipline just so they look great in the sauna. Huh!
It was half past three. He wrapped a towel around him, went to the bar, bought a beer, and walked with it into the sauna. There were four naked Ursula-Bos in there, and three male equivalents. He dropped his towel, made sure they all got a look, and sat to drink his beer. Their faces conveyed a strange mixture of horror, contempt and fear.
OK, so you’ve got Hardy Kruger, he thought. Well, we’ve got Hardy Amies. Damn! He’d left his cigarettes in the changing room. That would have shown them, wouldn’t it?




Our pub had a good cricket team. It was a mixture of village players who had packed it in, hockey and football men who were reasonably good at any ball game, plus the landlord — a gentle golfer who took guard as if addressing a Dunlop 65 — and a few whose enthusiasm for playing was exceeded only by their regularity and meaningfulness as pub customers.

Things were going well. We’d won the local pub-and-company team competition a few times, we had Sunday fixtures against some of the more traditional local village sides, and we were striking the balance nicely between having a lot of fun and yet still playing the game properly. Then somebody — it could have been the landlady, it could have been someone even more mischievous — suggested a match versus The Ladies.

Our skipper groaned inwardly, and outwardly. It’s one of those things that sounds like a jolly good idea until you come to it. Nothing to do with sexual inequality. Nothing to do with being too serious about your cricket. Everything to do with trying to make a game of it between one team of experienced cricket players and one team of absolute beginners.

This situation is made much worse by the beginners being female and therefore sensitive to gentlemanly condescension. If you give them anything, they assume it’s because you are an arrogant, conceited male pig, not because you have played a lot more cricket than they have. Almost every one of them, due to our totally inadequate education system, is ignorant entirely of the laws, conventions, skills and practice of the game of cricket.

Our skipper decided that we, the men, would bat first, thus being able to keep some control of the match, and he arranged the toss accordingly. We would make sure we didn’t get too many runs, and then we would make sure they very nearly got the same number.

Our openers were instructed to run only ones and twos. No boundaries were to be hit. Anyone scoring 15 was to get himself out immediately.

The first miscalculation was with one of the openers. The skipper forgot the man was an ace prat and only an occasional player for the pub. He saw the Ladies’ very forgiving bowling as a chance for personal glory and so hit them all around the ground. He got 15 in no time and showed no sign of attempting suicide. Our skipper sent a man out with chewing gum for the other opener, who was given a message. So was the umpire. Our friend the prat was back in the pavilion next ball, given run out and complaining about the incorrigibility of sporting life.

The second and more influential miscalculation was to underestimate the cunning and lack of principle in a team made up of females aged between 25 and 45 who have been everywhere, seen it all and done it all — except they’d never won a cricket match before, and would like to do that very much.

The third error of judgement was to imagine that management of the game was in the hands of our skipper alone. He should have realised that the umpires, both married to members of the Ladies’ team, might also view themselves as central components of the control system, and they might not necessarily see everything the same way as the Men.

And so it was that this Lady, a mother of three and a part-time teacher at the art college, ran up to bowl. She let go of a non-existent, invisible cricket ball which the batsman — by this time our golfing landlord was at the crease — foolishly played a nine-iron at. The Lady at midwicket (although she didn’t know it was called that), a very nice-looking 28-year-old who had no children, not for the want of trying with her husband and everybody else, leaped in the air and, one handed, caught the invisible ball. The appeal was unanimous. All the members of the Ladies’ Team ran up to the catcher, squeaking with congratulatory delight.

The umpire raised his finger. Our landlord was out. This same umpire, standing a few overs later at square leg, took a fine catch himself, holding it just long enough for the Lady fielder who should have been there, but who had strayed off for a chat with the wicket keeper, to run up to him and take the ball as her own.

Despite these and other instances of blatant cheating, the Men reached 94 off their 20 overs, which was considered too many by our skipper.

One of the Ladies was heard to say that, provided she could have six swift glasses of white wine, she would put us off our game by batting topless. Another said that would not be necessary, because (whisper whisper).

And so it was with some trepidation that we took the field. Our skipper placed seven slips, a very deep cover point and an equally far away mid-off, assuming correctly that a clear leg-side field would be exploited by the Ladies batting. Bowlers were told to bowl wide long-hops or slow full tosses and some of them found this difficult, a surprising fact since that was what they normally bowled when playing in a proper match.

Of course accidents will happen and, despite the generosity of the umpires, the fielders and the bowlers, the Ladies were reduced to 87 for 9 off 18 overs. On strike at the start of the new, 19th over was their skipper, a capable and handsome personage who had come in at number 3 and was still there. At the non-striker’s end was one of those nice women who would never hurt a fly and always inquired about the health of your children, who kept a lot of cats and ate a lot of lentils, and certainly would never hit a cricket ball if she were allowed 100 attempts.

What should the on-strike Lady skipper do? Seven wanted. A single off the last ball of the over and hope for a six in the final over? Run a two now, try and get a four, then a single? At least, this is what we Men imagined she was thinking.

The fielders, in more orthodox positions now that the game was reaching its climactic moment, watched enthralled as the Lady skipper tapped the first ball of the over along the ground to the lad at mid-on, and then beckoned him towards her.

Mid-on was one of the younger members of the team, a hockey-playing farmer's son whose knowledge of the unclothed female form had largely been acquired through magazines. With the ball in his hand he walked, hypnotised, towards the batter.

This batter was amply proportioned. Her chest was the subject of respectful conversation at the annual conference of the British Brassière Manufacturers’ Association. She had been a chorus girl when young and the producers of every seaside show had always put her in the front row of everything. Now, in maturity, she was able to transfix the young fielder by opening three more buttons on the man’s white shirt she was wearing.

The young lad, as silently predicted by the knowing Lady skipper, thought he would do something funny to impress his colleagues. He dropped the cricket ball into her cleavage.

Those shirt buttons were done up in an instant and the little mouse at the far end was called for a run. It took her a while to catch on, but eventually she was galloping up and down just like her skipper, and a halt was called only when a hundred had been reached.

Gentlemen of an East Anglian Public House: 94 for 7                          Ladies of Ditto: 100 for 9




It is the accepted lot of small rugby clubs to win cups and shields but seldom. A small club, brave though it is, will often struggle to put a full-strength First XV and an A team out on the same day.

Go into the clubhouse and you’ll see the consequences of smallness. The coat hooks in the changing rooms are broken. A toilet window is still not mended from three years ago when some idiot burgled the spot, escaping with 120 menthol cigarettes and a long-playing record by the Jock Strapp Ensemble.

The bar is scruffy and poorly stocked with smoothflow and one sort of lager. You don’t get the dolly birds coming there in hunting dress. This club can never hope to attract and keep the kind of rugby players who develop special muscles for trophy lifting.

Its teams are generally a mixture of promising boys, men of unfulfilled promise, and elder statesmen. While the elders’ cunning and experience make up for their lack of youthful vigour, and the boys’ vigour makes up for their lack of cunning and experience, put all together they do not make cup winners. Such people play purely because they like it, not because they have ambitions of glory.

The hard core of the team, the long-time regulars, know that if one of their promising boys does indeed turn into a really good prospect, he will join a bigger club. In return, the bigger clubs will let their out-of-date used-to-be’s gravitate slowly down the standards until they bump gently on the mud at the bottom of the pond, represented by a club like ours.

We had three such mud-bumpers — Eric, Fred and Jacko. Actually, Jacko wasn’t really that at all. He was ex-professional rugby league and still a very fine player indeed at number 8.

Although too old and worn to take money for his talents, he was too good to be playing for us, but a higher profile in a more limelit club would surely have brought down the wrath of the Union and a lifetime ban.

In those days, you will remember, consorting with rugby league players was officially considered to be more dangerous to the soul than a month’s holiday in Amsterdam.

Eric, a highly intelligent and successful businessman, widely known and appreciated in the area as a raconteur even though he had an awful stutter, played on the wing. He did this despite being an extremely slow running, non-tackling kind of a chap, but he could kick and above all he could think.

Fred was also slow, perhaps even slower than Eric, but he could sell a good dummy, he could take a pass cleanly from anywhere no matter how badly it came, and he could collect any high ball with absolute security. Fred was also fearless, and at 17 and a half stone he had good reason to be.

A tiny, obscure and insignificant sevens competition came to our notice somehow and we decided to enter. When the day came it was a filthy one, freezing cold, with the wind blowing a near gale down the steep end-to-end slope of a very, very muddy pitch in the middle of nowhere.

The conditions clearly didn’t suit some of the entrants because they withdrew, leaving our well-weathered team with a first-round by and a second-round walk-over straight into the semi-final.

Our opposition there was very like ourselves except they didn’t have a Jacko, and it was he who made the difference with one fantastic diagonal run and a Vernier-gauge 20-yard pass at high speed to Fred who, Jacko was astounded to see, had come lumbering up on the inside just at the right moment.

Fred scored, a rare and beautiful thing, and as he dived over the line and slithered to a spectacular stop he was heard to say the immortal words: “Press photographer!”

In the final we expected to meet an imposing and awe-inspiring team, seven from the First XV of a teacher-training college famous all over Britain for its sporting prowess. If you had a really good PE teacher in your local school, and he didn’t come from Carnegie or Loughborough, then surely he would come from this college.

Quite what they were doing in the same sevens competition as us we couldn’t work out, because they were everything we were not. They were young, fit, sound in wind and limb, trained to a peak of perfection and showing a high average level of rugby playing skills. Of course, being used only to proper rugby, they were inexperienced at playing teams like us, but that probably wouldn’t worry them too much.

We saw all this in the first two minutes of the other semi-final and retired into the alleged clubhouse, even worse than our own, for a smoke, a pint and a tactical talk.

Eric addressed us in low and measured tones. He had a plan, and it sounded to us like our best, or only, chance of making even half a game of it.

The first essential of the plan was that the captaincy should be transferred for this one game to Eric himself, the world-famous storyteller and speech impediment.

He it was who went out to toss for ends. The referee flicked the coin upwards for Eric, acknowledged underdog and senior person, to call. “T-T-T-T-T” he said, as the fatal disc spun heavenwards, then earthwards. “T-T-T-Heads” he continued, once he’d seen how it fell. This went unremarked by the referee, who knew Eric, and by the opposition captain, who had never heard of Eric but didn’t see it mattered.

For Eric’s plan to work, everything had to happen in the first half (which in rugby sevens is only ten minutes) when, having won the toss, we would be kicking downhill with the wind. Our only chance of scoring would be with penalties, and Eric’s kicking was always better with a 50mph wind behind it.

Another feature of Eric’s historic scheme was that in modern times, nowadays, it would be no use. Nowadays, you are allowed substitutes for injured players.

As the game approached half time, a casual observer would have wondered at the transformation wrought in the college boys. They looked limp. They looked wan. Especially floppy was their dashing centre who had been reduced to a halting passenger, a poor shambling shadow of his former perky self that staggered and stumbled aimlessly about the field like an actor in a cowboy film, shot with a forty-five and taking too long to die.

Here was a youth who had found out at first hand what it is like to be tackled with full honours by an ex-professional rugby league forward. Jacko had been told by Eric that this boy had to be hit as hard as possible at the earliest opportunity, so as to slow him down sufficiently for the rest of us to catch him and give him the works.

After five minutes he was a damp rag. After eight, so seriously tackled and trodden on was he, that all he could think about was the pain, which reminded him of the night his ex-girlfriend’s sister had tricked him into bed and then used the mousetrap.

The other major casualty had been propping against Fred’s 17 and a half stone and 19 inch neck, and his own neck was in such a very bad way he had to go to hospital.

Two minutes to half time. College boys reduced to five and a quarter deflated players. Time for us to run at them.

Of course they resorted to foul play in their attempts to stop us, but crime doesn’t pay, at least, detected crime doesn’t, and Eric slotted two penalties.

It was 6-0 at half time, and 6-0 at full time. And that was how we won the cup.