Risking Life and Limb to Win – Village life in Northern England
The girls needed an excuse to stay in the pub longer and more often, one that was plausible to parents and partners. As we often played darts with the boys on the men’s 501 competition team, the formation of the Red Lion 501 ladies darts team seemed like a natural progression.
Pubs in Macclesfield and the surrounding area can be classified into categories; dangerous, rough, friendly/ safe and posh. The pubs most likely to have a ladies 501 darts team fell into the first three categories. As the only remotely unpleasant thing one was likely to encounter in the Red Lion was a tongue down the throat from my opportunistic puppy, Megan, when she was picked up and confronted with an “ahhhhhing” mouth, the pub fell into the welcoming hostelry category.
The Macclesfield league had four divisions. The boys warned us that the some teams in the top two were a lot more serious about the game and that they had a reputation for being bad ass losers. In fact one woman had taken defeat so badly that she’d leapt on her opponent and bitten her ear off (category dangerous). As we were in it for beer, free food and social girlie outings, this didn’t worry us – which were just as well because most of our team members were crap throwers.
That year we started in the bottom division (four). As predicted the team lost quite a lot, drank quite a lot, had a great time quite a lot. Discovering that our aims improved greatly with a couple of drinks, practise sessions at the local were held on a regular basis. By the end of the second season we’d improved so much that the team was promoted to the third division. Another season of good cheer and excess passed by and the team moved up again. Now we were matched against the serious teams and as the season progressed discovered that they didn’t take too kindly to our more casual approach to the game – especially as it was a winning formula. Another promotion and we found ourselves in the top division. This is where it all started to go wrong. Our rivals’ response to our artless game plan i.e. ham it up and lull them into a false sense of security, crack very bad jokes, miss the board a few times, generally not give a damn and drink way too much, was hostile. We had a team meeting and agreed to sober up and act more seriously – if not for the pub’s reputation then for the protection of our outer extremities, which we wished to remain attached to our bodies. It was a disastrous decision. We played even better without copious amounts of alcohol and becoming top of the league was a distinct possibility. The team, no longer able to have fun, channelled their energies into winning. That is until we were matched against the legendary ear biter and her team members. Worried looks and horrified whispers of “oh no we’re winning” passed between us. The opposition bared their teeth and started to growl in anger as we pulled ahead. Using telepathy to come to a mutual decision, we threw the match and walked away unscathed.
Darts was never really the same after that. I moved onto pool.