July 11 2017: snookered

The New Club, opened in 1909 and thus rather an old club, is fewer than 100 yards from the Darlington offices where for all those years I followed the inky trade.

It’s a private members’ club, what folk call a Key Club. It’s not because of Groucho Marx’s famed observation that he would never join any club which would accept him as a member that I’ve rarely been over the doorstep but because it’s centred on snooker.

Sometimes they ask me to look in, however. Tonight they’re hosting Joe Johnson, world snooker chamnpion in 1986 and still among the baize-will-be-boys despite seven heart attacks, a quadruple bypass and unsuccessful laser surgery 18 months ago which left him almost blind in his left eye.

He remains a very canny player, though these days it’s the potter patter which seems equally to be enjoyed.

A lot of his gags concern his old grandfather, back in Bradford. “He would never go into an air raid shelter, me granddad.

“He always said that if your name were on it it, that were it. That were all right for him but Mr and Mrs Doodlebug were getting a bit fed up.”

Bradford’s a place I hardly know, though I distinctly recall a visit at Christmas 1990 to watch the great Ian Botham in Babes in the Wood at the Alhambra. Gosh, he was awful.

The Daily Express contented itself with the observation that the beanstalk had more life than Beefy. The Northern Echo – that is to say, I – said that since it had been the shortest day, it was also the longest night.

“The Great Man has become the little boy lost, his delivery as flat as a Jack Simmons arm ball.”

The pantomime also starred Max Boyce, Liz Hobbs and Jane Freeman – she who ran the cafe in Last of the Summer Wine – as a rather corpulent good fairy on a job creation scheme. They probably weren’t as good at cricket, though.

Mills and boon, tomorrow’s blog is likely again to return to Bradford.

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