After such a long hot period, the weather really turned for our visit to Chatham. There had been some heavy showers around, in the morning, it remained very overcast and we were all wrapped up warmly on the green, particularly for a short period of light drizzle. Nothing else anyone could do, of course, but it did not dampen our spirits against a very strong and experienced group of Chatham bowlers.

So often, we have last minute withdrawals, but this time, after bringing in Mark and Alison, to boost our numbers, Maurice, too, turned up, having left a telephone message for Brian on Sunday morning, that he was now fit and raring to go. Though it looks like that message may be on someone else’s answering machine! Fortunately, (!) the cold weather helped Brian persuade Bella, albeit reluctantly, to play just a half, so that Maurice could play a few ends.

Mark was playing his first match for RBBG and he, in weeks, and Barbara, in months, probably had the same sort of numbers as the years of experience of their opponents, on rink four, and with Peter they were unfortunate to come up against the two Tonys and Charlie in great form. Unfortunate, simply in terms of the result; (if you are going to lose eleven shots, over ends four to six, almost half of Chatham’s total of 25 to our 7, you couldn’t lose to three nicer blokes!)

On rink two, Bella was not playing up to the superb standard she maintained, last week, which is not surprising in the damp weather, so Brian attempted to persuade her to change with Maurice after six ends. That was like red rag to a bull, of course, and she responded by putting the very next wood right on the jack, in the seventh, staying there to take shot. It’s that stubborn (did someone say ‘ornery’?) streak that has got her playing, again, at the tender age of 90, after some pretty severe setbacks. So, she could make an honourable withdrawal to allow Maurice to join Geoff and Penny, in a keen battle with Brian (Chatham’s Brian, that is, probably a similar vintage, as the name is not much bestowed these days, outside of Ireland), Dave and Rose. Chatham were always just ahead, but only just, till RBBG fought back to level at 8-8, with three ends to play. The next end was a classic, beginning with Maurice putting a wood either side of the jack, two touching woods, great bowling, but it also made a target. And inch perfect woods from Dave, Geoff, Rose and Penny successively took out the shot woods, but we were always holding one, even two shots, both Penny’s, till Rose took out one shot wood with her second, and then, with the final wood of the end, drew into shot at about three inches on the narrowest of measures. Chatham also took the last two ends, for an overall victory, by 12-8, but twenty shots in total, over sixteen ends, shows how tight a match it was.

Another titanic battle was taking place, on rink five, where Bruce, Marian and Tom took the lead for the first time in the twelfth end, at 12-11. Malcolm, Joe and Steve came back with two to lead 13-12, before RBBG levelled, at 12-12, with two ends to play, but four shots in those two ends saw Chatham win 17-13. A wonderful match and, perhaps, we should note that the Chatham skip Steve was both very good and very experienced, like all the Chatham bowlers, but he was also very young! Alison, RBBG’s youngest player by a distance, has a son only a couple of years younger than Steve, and, indeed, Steve’s mum, Rose, was skip on rink two. Steve has been playing longer than most of the blind bowlers, by virtue of starting in his teens.

Alison had only played half a match for us, previously, and could only fit in another half before she went off to play cricket (!), with Chris then coming into join David and Hans. Another tight match, this time, RBBG holding the upper hand for a while. John, Wally and Keith then inched ahead, but with three ends to play, we had yet another tied match, at 8-8. Again, it was Chatham who took the shots, leading 11-8, as the final end was played. It was too close to separate the best RBBG and Chatham woods on the first measure, and not worth a re-measure in the increasingly chill conditions, so hands were shaken, without a score in the final end, a fitting end to a tight match, and Alison, Chris, David and Hans take RBBG rink honours, as a result.

On a damp and chill day we had needed our half time break for tea, Pat, Chris and John rallying around admirably when they found there were 18 of us rather than the expected 12! We always travel in numbers! It was always damp, there were odd spits of rain and a brief spell of light drizzle, so there were some cold hands by the end, but the weather could not spoil a most enjoyable day, with a lot of old friends, and one or two new ones, too.