Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Diary of a glass-half-empty person 20

Consuela (my Tejana maid) and I have lately been disporting ourselves at the ancient game of Knurr and Sling. Well, you might have guessed that a hitherto-unopened tea-chest in the teepee contained a couple of billets (or pummels, as they are properly known), a wooden frame (somewhat resembling a miniature gallows) from which a linen sling is suspended, and a bag of knurrs (some made of hard-baked clay and others of a dense wood). One of the pummels was sound enough, if in need of a little attention – Consuela took charge of it, treating the shaft with a preparation of one part white spirits to two parts boiled linseed oil, and the head with billiard-chalk. The other pummel, I’m sorry to say, was beyond repair, so I set about making myself another out of a branch cut from an ash tree, onto which I whipped a head made from my old sanding block, using cobbler’s thread to secure it. The flexibility of my newly-lathed pummel lends extra force to my every tip at the knurr.

I should make it plain that the game we play is not precisely Knurr and Spell in the strictest mid-Yorkshire tradition, for the simple reason that we do not use the spring-loaded “spell” (as in the antique pictures here) to lift the knurr into the air; rather, for our games, it is suspended in the linen sling. Our playing it at all is rather frowned upon by the All Britain Ball-and-Trap Federation, who contend that the Northern game (which ours is) is not open to female players.

We have had our moments of tension over this game, not least of all disputes as to whose knurr is whose once we have tipped them down the field. It is not enough that I prefer to tip a hardwood knurr whilst Consuela favours the traditional (and increasingly scarce) “potty” made, as the name suggests, from fiercely-baked clay – no – both knurrs being white led to identification being difficult without close inspection, and then there would be controversy as to where the knurr had actually lain. We got over that by painting mine red, but even then, after ten rises each, disagreement could sometimes not be avoided as to whose knurr lay furthest from the sling. Consuela even accused me – once – of standing on one of hers and burying it in the mud with my heel! I ask you!

Nevertheless, the last week has seen us returning, panting but smiling, from the field of play at the end of an autumn afternoon, ready for our meal and a relaxing evening in front of the TV.

Yesterday my tips were given extra strength by the knowledge that our lurker-upon-the-hilltop had finally been caught. A Fintry man of some forty-three summers had appeared at his local branch of Superdrug covered in nettle-rash and begging to take the shop’s entire stock of antihistamine spray. His collar being felt by a local rozzer and his subsequent lack of a suitable alibi for the times of his surreptitous visits to the teepee led to his appearance this very morning at the Sheriff Court.

I have heard that his advocate, one Mr Frizer of Frizer Skere and Poley (Writers to the Signet), immediately entered a writ of Eccleprudence, thereby claiming a sennight’s sloth upon the hearing of oaths to the matter. Sheriff MacMarley, however, declared the whole matter to be semper in faecibus sumus solam profundum variat. The upshot of this is that the missives-in-chief are to be placed before the Scrabster rather than being subsumed by feu-fettle. Ha – that put the malfeasor’s nose out of joint, I can tell you.

More of this anon. Really. You can’t escape it, so don’t think you can!

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