The Bowling Club
Reflections of a New Member
Some years ago, in the 90s, the precise date eludes me, but I do recall it was a black-hearted night, and I was in the company and under the influence of a braggart, unfrocked priest, his own soul long lost, as he had peddled it to the devil himself, for the minimum price of some now distantly forgotten, sordid moment of instant gratification.
Myself, being void of any sense and sensibility, with paucity of wit, scarcity of coin, laxity of purpose and impotence of loin, visibly wounded in all aspects of well – being and feeling disconsolate from the symptoms of a hole that had appeared two hours previously in the left sole of my only pair of cheap, second-hand winter shoes, with neither topcoat, trilby nor bandana to give scant protection against the ravages of that bitter, damp, chill eve, leading a celibate life through absence of female offertory, unshaven, unkempt, unauthorised, unknowing, unheard of, physically, mentally and morally unfit for any level of office or station, derelict of duty, descendent in self-worth, ascendant on whiskey chasers, utterly banjaxed, on the dodge from my creditors, completely out of options, needing the lavatory, lurching from pillar to post, housed in utter dereliction and in desperate pursuit of cheap drink – I joined the Bowling Club.
Gaining membership was a simple issue. My application was proposed seconded and posted for objections. After a period of 14 days, I was interviewed by the management committee who are collectively and respectfully known as ‘The Board.’ This interview was a strange experience. Early one evening I was ushered up an unlit staircase with my previously mentioned bedevilled companion. The top of these stairs opened out into a dimly lit room which contained a table and some chairs. In the darkness beyond, the seated figures of five men who appeared in silhouette, could barely be made out. One of these men motioned us to sit down on two chairs that were in front of the table. Then a bright spotlight was shone into our eyes, robbing us of any vision that we had and blinding us both instantly and completely. A man’s voice came out of the darkness, he said,
‘Whisht der yez like besht buker or snowls.’
My instant reaction was to feel admiration for the courageous way this man was striving to overcome the worst case of a speech impediment I had ever heard. However this veneration was dashed in a trice, when in the next instant he made a gurgling noise and keeled over in his chair, knocking the spotlight out in the process. As he hit the floor with a resounding thud, both I and he realised, that he was a drunk as a Dublin Stevedore on St Patrick’s Day Night. My companion by now had somehow deciphered the Stevedore’s question and for reasons best known to himself was attempting to answer it. What my companion actually said was instantly and completely forgotten, as this was and is to this day the effect that he has on most people. Nevertheless his gormless yet valiant explanation was met with a strange and mixed reaction from the board. Then for no apparent reason, all the lights came on and the ‘board’ could be viewed in all its eccentric furtiveness. One of them fixed his eyes upon an imaginary point on the wall and stared at it unflinchingly like some mystic who had slipped into meditation. Another began looking nervously around and then he produced a tobacco pouch and some cigarette papers from an invisible location secreted about his person and with a deft one handed movement conjured a cigarette from nowhere and placed it between his lips. It was the sort of action that people became accomplished at in prison and I assumed that he’d spent some time there. Another began to laugh uproariously like a schoolboy on a jape. Anway by this time the board were no longer interested in neither my companion nor I and were completely preoccupied with their own behaviour.
The ‘Stevedore,’ who by now in an attempt presumably to stop himself falling any further into his drunken abyss was holding feebly onto the floor, as he looked up at us glassy eyed, he pronounced our membership as officially ratified and with his last breath before he lapsed into stupor, said.
With a foppish wave of the hand from the mystic, we were summarily dismissed. That was the end of my first encounter with the board. I shall leave them for now but they are crucial to the club and may merit a return visit at a later date.
During the ensuing weeks and months I was unable to resist the very human trait of formulating my own opinions and observations about the place and its inhabitants. I have recorded them here in written drivel for anyone who finds the will or inclination to even give them the most cursory of glances. The building itself is simple and can be described concisely as a large green-painted wooden hut for drinking in. The inhabitants though are as complex as the hut is simple, they are vital to the collective lifeblood of the club and are known collectively and in disparaging tone by their own selves as, ‘The Membership.’
The Bowling Club presents itself discreetly as a Gentleman’s Club. The membership who make up this club are difficult to describe, but here is an attempt to do so and in the process refer to the multiplicity of variety that you would find there, they consist of:
Actors, belligerents, bombasts, coxcombs, Dubliners, gamblers, larrikins, poets, scousers, wafflers, wags, jocks, skinflints, two Welshmen, an ex-detective who claims he investigated the Lord Lucan case, a female impersonator, a man who hurls himself at garden fences and a retired barber known as ‘one-eyed-Pete.’
Despite such a gallimaufry the membership is open in disposition, engaging and forthcoming in opinion. They are extremely knowledgeable and well read on every subject under the sun. There is not one solitary matter that can be introduced within the club without there being an upper echelon claiming to be a world authority on its issues and implications.
Despite it being a bowling club the green itself is only used twice a week, and that being between April and September. The Team Captain regularly struggles to fill his team sheet with bowlers who are willing and able to stay relatively sober for their own thirty minute stint of the two hour duration of a match. Most of the members’ time is spent inside the club house in verbal exchange with other fellow members. This lingual discourse can flit back and forth from warm friendly banter to downright blatant insult. Oddly enough when this blatant insult occurs the recipient of it greets it with absolute delight and accepts the described mantle with perverse and joyful ownership. It is said within the club that if you have not had the most extreme and abusive vilification heaped in abundance upon your personage, your immediate family, your friends, the comedy of your garb, your sexual impotence, your physical features, the parentage of your children, the past association of your mother/grandmother with American Soldiers et al, within three days of joining, then it is as nothing and you are a nobody.
There is a very unusual term of friendly 1990s reference used within the club which its members employ with nonchalant abandon. It is an unusual term because in many other places this word would be considered taboo, a swear word or an insult. Not so within the Bowling Club, for whosoever is being spoken to or spoken about, then they are referred to by the endearing open-minded colloquialism of a ‘c**t.’ Whether it is first person, third person, singular or plural, whatever the linguistic bias, this form of address never differs. Some variations are …
’You, yer c**t.’ (meaning, ‘yes you sir.’)
‘That c**t.’ (meaning, ‘him’)
‘That pair of c**ts,’ (denoting 2 people).
‘That bunch of c**ts,’ (denoting more than 2).
‘That shower of c**ts (collective noun)
Breaking away momentarily from the 1990s and coming back to the present time it is quite surprising how contentious this collective noun still is, furthermore it is interesting to see the accuracy of it being debated in the hallowed atmosphere of the High Court during the Leveson Enquiry.
This term of endearment is also assimilated into natural conversation as in the exclamation, ‘What a c**t!’
In the question, ‘Who’s that c**t?’
In the perennial piece of statesmanlike advice and guidance, ‘Don’t be a c**t.’
In a point of realisation, ‘Oh, that c**t.’
With very small exception, the membership does not have what can be deemed as traditional occupation. If you enquire quite simply and politely what somebody does for a living, then you will know no more at the end of their answer than you did at the beginning of your question. Apart from having it as a casual reference almost always to do with somebody else, as in …’ the wife is on the late shift at the hospital tonight.’ The membership does not appear to be involved directly in the subject which places itself importantly in today’s society, the subject of work. It offers the following as reasonable explanation for not engaging wholly or in part in what it seemingly considers to be an immoral activity and in an almost indignant attempt to justify why none of its members will quite simply never do a whole week’s work in one simple solid go, individual members describe their current situations as being thus;
‘Early retirement,’ ‘writing a novel,’ learning Spanish,’ ‘studying for the priesthood,’ ‘heartbroken,’ ‘decorating the attic,’ ‘training a new dog,’ ‘in dispute with the CSA,’ ‘at loggerheads with the wife,’ ‘waiting for a new hearing aid,’ ‘building a house in Ireland,’ ‘ in love,’ ‘in arrears with my rent,’ the list is truly endless.
Another common trait that seems to prevail throughout the membership is the universal ability of all to consume the most gargantuan amounts of beer, lager, wine, whiskey etc. in the shortest possible time. Conversely this ability is surpassed by a marked inability to make even the feeblest token gesture that resembles any attempt to actually pay for any of it.
So, the Bowling Club is there and it continues to be so. It has little regard for modern society. It exists in a vacuum, presenting itself as an oasis amongst the arid desert of today’s conventions.
Having passed through its gates the visitor is uplifted and placed down gently in a bygone era. It looks down from the pinnacle of its own prosperity and confidently assumes a role in the last but one century, thriving in retrospective contemplation. However, prosperity can turn to complacency and complacency to drift and drift to shipwreck. By far the worst enemy of the sturdiest and most traditional of ships is not always the tempest but the unseen danger that lurks below the sea of becalm.
Probably to be continued……
Copyright © 2015 K. C. Dowling