This post was updated on .
Boris Johnson once affectionately called it Whiff Whaff, I liked that, for it was said with respect for a great game. Others called it Ping Pong, which I didn't like, for they said it to often in a derisory way which ridiculed the great game of Table Tennis. "You mock table tennis and you mock me, pal," I once said to someone who was annoying me with his sneers about the only sport I was ever any good at. This tale is about my one time love for the game and the scrapes it got me into, I'll begin by travelling back to 1961.
It began when my brothers, Bob and Gordon, started a table tennis club in Shamley Green. It was held in the church hall and the other members were Mick Glue, Freddie Punter and Pip Hill. I'd regularly go to watch their home games and after the match I'd have a game or two and, to my amazement, I played quite well. Fast forward a couple of years and I discovered that Peter Gerring, who worked with me in Jeffery's sports shop, was an exceptionally good player in the local, Premier League. I pestered him for advice and he persuaded me to send off for a training course on the sport and I followed the instructions that arrived religiously. In rather amateurish drawings, it showed me where to place my feet, how to defend, how to attack and how to always follow through with certain strokes. It was yet to turn me into the new, Chester Barnes, but it turned me into the best player in the local youth clubs and I was happy with that.
Sadly that was not the case when I began playing for Shamley Green's B team, for I lost as many as I won. My dad used to say he could tell which it was from the way I opened the door on my return home. If I'd won, it would be a dramatic entry and I would come in full of beans about the game. If I'd lost, the door would be opened slowly and I'd pop my head in and say a quiet goodnight. At such times I began to think that, after all, I wasn't destined to become the next Chester Barnes. Around that time, a young chap called Doug Pringle came to study at the Guildford School Of Law and he was to make me re-assess my potential for Whiff Whaff fame. I recall that the year was 1964 and he and I were the only ones who predicted the correct result in that years big boxing match. It was between the then Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston. We said Clay would win and he did so, easily. A few weeks later Doug visited, at my invitation, the youth club where I was lording it on the table tennis table. I challenged him to a game and offered him a ten start which he declined, stating he wouldn't need it. He was right, for I lost by a humiliating 21/2, and the result confirmed that 'Chester, bloody, Barnes' had absolutely nothing to fear!
Someone who did have something to fear from me I met at the Guildford Youth Centre. This was a brand new building in, Haydon Place, and the Juke box was constantly playing two records, 'Lightning Strikes, by Lou Christie,' and '1-2-3, by Len Barry.' This tells me that the argument took place in early 1966 and it involved someone trying to spoil my game of table tennis. I was with my friend Tony Lucas and, sitting at his end of the table were five yobs who kept making making derisory remarks about, Ping Pong Poofters. Add to that, the fact that every time I smashed a ball past Tony, they'd take their time returning it to him. This was my lunch hour and I had limited time and patience, so I confronted the trouble makers by telling Tony we'd change ends. I then made the, "You mock table tennis and you mock me, pal," comment, and I went on to warn them that if they kept the ball away from me, there'd be trouble. I'd read enough Louis L'Amour books to know how to handle yobs so I said to their ringleader, "I'll start by breaking your arm." The game went on and not a word was heard from the would be hard nuts and when the ball went near them, they speedily handed it back to me in a polite fashion. I recall that as the game went on, Lou Christie's, Lightning Strikes, was playing once again, because I'd faced them down, I didn't need to!
Pip Hill was a really nice guy and a great friend of my older brothers, he was also a member of the table tennis team that my friend, Chris Bushell, and I played for. Pip was a pleasant looking chap but, when he played table tennis, he made the most unusual, gurning type, expressions you'd ever seen. He had his serving face that was distinctly odd and whenever he made a backhand stroke, he'd contort his mouth in the ugliest way imaginable. His forehand stroke produced facial twitches that were indescribable and the snarl that erupted from his lips whenever he smashed the ball, was scary and alarming. Whenever he was under attack and forced to defend, his panic stricken look made one think of a lamb about to be slaughtered, such was the agonised look of pain that contorted his every move. In short, to watch Pip play table tennis was one of the funniest experiences known to mankind, and it always made me want to laugh.
I repressed the emotion of course, for it was not fair to laugh during an actual match, but there came a day when Chris Bushell and I were together, and all hell broke loose. We'd noticed that some of the opposing team had picked up on Pips unintentional gurning and they began to chuckle. Pip became aware of this and, as his anger created even greater facial contortions, I too started to chuckle at the sight. It was then Pip lost total control and, forgetting the table tennis match, he attacked me. Blow after blow rained down on me as he weaponised his bat Backhands, forehands and overhead smashes all connected with my unprotected head as he took out all his frustration on me. His face was maniacal and, as I tried to arise from my chair, the blows increased, he may have been losing at table tennis but he was determined to win this fight. Pips bat was one of the old fashioned type with little padding and I can tell you it bloody well hurt as it continued to make contact with my face. It was my fault, so I had no desire to hurt him but by the time we were able to restrain him, I was aware the next day would see my face bruised and battered!
I'll finish this reminisce of my Whiff Whaff days, with another example of my brother Bobs fair play. A player called, Roy Linnicker, had joined the club and, together with, Micky Glue, he was saying some better players should be encouraged to join. He argued that, with a few changes, we could top the league and gain promotion, "We'll never do it with the likes of Freddie Punter or Pip Hill playing," he added. "Don't care", said my big brother, "We started this club so that some mates could have fun together, and that's how its going to stay!" It did, for in those days no one out argued Bob or his sense of fairness. That meant that Freddie and Pip and even little ol me, continued to have a place in the Shamley Green team!
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|