From left to right:
(back row, standing) Jim “limpet” Crabb; Lord Linseed; Bob “blowfish” Catchit; Eric “the pole” Tallbuoys; and Max “the whippet” Sennapod. (middle row, seated) Roger “the cad” Monze; Monty Banke; Ishmael “Moby” Dick; Johnny “the Ghost” Whelkin; J.R.R “sir” Harrington-Smythe; and George “leg-folder” Ottoman. (In front, lying) Igor “flipper” Czyzyzinski.
The ‘Aquatics’ as they were called for their proud record of never having a home fixture called off despite their pitch being constantly under water. Here they can be seen just resting after a training session at the local baths. The talismanic kit-washer, Elsie is just out of shot as she was shyly giving Monze’s shirt a good thrashing on the sacred rock. Her surefire method of both drying and stretching the pin-hooped shirts the Aquatics wore at home was legend.
The famous hoops were a sartorial elegance chosen by their manager for mesmerising properties, especially when seen at speed. Many an opponent had fainted clean away after a short foaming at the mouth upon being subjected to Sennapod’s speedy wizardry.
Their manager, Fu Manchurian, leans, a shadowy figure in the background, overseeing the team’s posture as they practice various folded limb techniques that serve them well in subduing their opponents. Fu often disappears during training sessions and can be seen by snorkeling reporters to be trawling the turf at one eighth of a fathom below the surface, studying tactics and turning techniques of his players and making sure that when they dive they don’t make a splash. An injury can always be spotted by the floating flat cap on the water’s surface.
Their home matches have tide times to inform their fans when to be in the shallow end and when to start swimming with joy as they gurgle their approval of the team’s tactical superiority over their all-at-sea victims of a Saturday.
Their star striker is down in front submarining as he does so well to the tune of forty-eight goals at home but has yet to break his duck on dry land. Their passionate powerhouse and Olympic level swimmer, third from the left sitting, is Ishmael Dick – affectionately known as Moby, whose freestyle has caused many a visiting centre-forward to run aground on his rock-like biceps. His partner in brine was Eric Tallbuoys, whose height often meant he could see a wave coming so his anticipation was second to one (the medium that played for their fiercest rivals, Gleadthorpe Sandmen).
At the other end, Bob Catchit was renowned for his ability to inflate his cheeks just at the right time so as to rise majestically to pluck many a goal-bound effort short of its mark.
One of the reasons this outfit never achieved great things was their appalling away form. They endured a goal drought on dry land that lasted two-and-a-half years; being finally broken by an own-goal scored by Kevin Contrite of St Osricks of Lemmingthorpe. In that season they managed three away goals but conceded a mammoth sixtytwo, gathering only one point away from their revered home, Deepfields.
One match in 1906 was seriously threatened when three opponents required treatment for ‘the bends’ when resurfacing too quickly for the halftime break, but the substitutes swam like fish and almost contributed to a shock defeat for the Aquatics.
The car park of the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green, Surrey, became the focus of the world’s attention this week as it hosted the 4th World Snowman Building Contest.
As in previous years, the event was well-attended, with teams this year flying in from as far afield as Australia, Nigeria, Egypt and the Bahamas, all pitting their ballrolling skills against the established names from Sweden, Austria and the like.
The small, but enthusiastic band of spectators created a festive atmosphere, urging their favourites on with jangling cowbells and whispers of encouragement (shouting was banned lest it upset the Club members). Not even a delay in proceedings of a day and a half while the snow was being delivered could dampen their spirits – an impromptu concert by Sir Cliff Richard finally doing that.
Once under way, competition was fierce. Not surprisingly, the first round saw most of the warmer nations eliminated. Egypt and Nigeria put up brave fights, but had to retire with severe frostbite. The Bahamas faired better, reaching the quarter finals before having to withdraw after running out of carrots, while a fantastic display of ball moulding saw the Australians through to the semis, where they eventually lost out to the Norwegians, here defending the crown they took last year in controversial circumstances.No repeat this year, thankfully, of the heated glove allegations that dogged them in 2005.
Surprise packages of 2006 were undoubtedly the Japanese, who easily beat the USA, Canada and the Swedes, only to fall at the semi-final stage to the conquerors of the Great Britain team, Finland. The Japanese husband and wife pairing, Isoru and Nikita Sakapupu, took defeat in their typically good-natured way, despite being eliminated for having balls a mere two centimetres smaller than the regulation circumference of three metres. “I’m always telling my husband that size isn’t important,” laughed Nikita. “Obviously, I was wrong.”
And so to the final, held under floodlights for the first time in the tournament’s four year history due to a delay of three hours, during which the entire band of spectators had to be removed and frisked. An anonymous phone call claimed that a hair drier had been smuggled into the arena, but, after an exhaustive search of the car park, it was deemed to be a hoax. The organisers permitted the final to go ahead reasoning that anyone who did have a portable heating device would have nowhere to plug it in.
The testing conditions caused no undue problems for either team. The Norwegians taking an early lead with their rolling and patting technique proving superior to the Finns piling and shaping. The theme of the final was national figures and as the contest progressed it could be seen that the Norwegians had chosen to fashion an icy Amundsen while the Finns had opted, somewhat bewilderingly, for a frozen Father Christmas. When it was politely pointed out later that he was a mythical character and, anyway, he lived at the North Pole, team member, Kikki Kikkimson replied, “He also has a holiday home in Lapland, which places him, at least partly, in my Homeland. As for him being mythical, why would tourists pay upwards of £1000.00 to go and see him if that were the case?”
Reluctantly, the organisers agreed and when it came to the judging, the Finnish entry was deemed the runaway winner. Explaining the decision, event Chairman, Dr Allun Phibes said, “In the end, the Finns creation was a faithful representation of a well-known character and easily recognisable. As no-one on the judging panel knows what Amundsen looks like, the Norwegian entry could’ve been anybody!”
The final word should go to Kikki’s sister and snowman building partner, Nikki, who enthused, “We’re both thrilled to have triumphed over such stern opposition and we’re already looking forward to battling it out next year at the Council multi-storey in Slough to defend our title.”
Dicky Darke the paperweight champion of West Sussex, will defend his title at noon tomorrow. The unique timing of his bouts being a tactic he has always used, and for which he has constantly had to refute claims of cowardice, as this is when his shadow is at its smallest.
An indoor bout last night featuring A.A.Pounder and his shadows was stopped on a technical knockout. A.A., after a series of body punches, missed an almighty uppercut, that had it connected would have taken the roof off, and smashed the only source of light in the place. The bout and the arena were plunged into darkness.
After much groping for A.A’s arm, the referee raised it and announced the unpopular verdict. The booing that greeted it was either a sign of disagreement or the by now desperate crowd were trying to scare themselves as they frantically searched for the only smoker for a light to help them find an exit.