Tour Diary 2021

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

The Sussex Yeomen girded their loins, packed their bags and polished their clubs before heading south to do battle with the dubiously handicapped men of Somerset and Wiltshire.  Somerset pulled a fast one by unexpectedly moving the game at Weston Super Mare forward by an hour. For the stout-hearted Sussex men, this would mean setting off before dawn. Given that most of the Captains don’t get to their first cup of Oolong before 11 am, this was a dastardly trick.

Plans were hastily revised. The Hon Sec and Vice decided to travel down a day early, thus allowing them to arrive at the match in a refreshed and relaxed state.

On consulting McCafferty’s Guide to Playing the Perfect Game, they were delighted to discover that Professor McCafferty believes that on the eve of the match, players should drink several pints of real ale, preferably in a welcoming pub, before eating a ‘bloody’ good curry. He claims this regime puts the player in tiptop form. The Hon Sec and VC decided to follow his sound advice.

Sadly, not all of the stout yeomen were fans of Professor McCafferty. They muttered something about the evils of drink and the unsettling effects of curry on the digestive system. They suggested that an Italian, a cup of tea and some light exercise, would prove better preparation.

There was division in the camp.

The Whats App message board went into overdrive. Patelerrelli’s was mentioned as a potential compromise. After, some banter, an argument and a quick arm-wrestle; we went to the pub, drunk several pints and ate curry.

Except for the Honourable Captain, who enjoyed his steak and chips.

At this point, we should mention the hotel. The Royal Hotel is a Victorian hotel, one that once boasted fine architecture, in a grand style…once. It was refurbished in the early eighties, with ‘Royal’, very much the theme. It’s fair to say the local Laura Ashley shop did very well. Unfortunately, the Prince Andrew play centre was out of use.

So, having slept well, breakfasted and been given some inspiring words, off we went to Weston Super Mare Golf Club.

Alas, all our efforts were in vain. The strangely handicapped men of Somerset were victorious. The Captain’s words and Professor McCafferty’s infallible system had failed to produce the right result.

On the plus side, the wine was good and, although the Steak and Ale pie was misnamed, it was delicious. Please note, a stew with a piece of puff pastry on top is not a pie. It was, however, filled with a delicious gravy, and soft and tasty meat, all topped off with a nice wine. There were some speeches and stuff… A piece of crusty bread to mop up the G would have been perfect.

I fear we had let our Captain down, he was so ashamed of losing that he changed his name to Gerry. I hope his wife likes it.

There was one sour note at the golf course. A member of SGC upset a lady golfer by carelessly parking his buggy miles away from where she was playing. Apparently, his careless action distracted her on the 10 shots it took her to reach the green on the short par 4. The bastard.

As many of you will have seen on Facebook, we retired to The Criterion Pub for debriefing. This fine hostelry had not seen an invasion of this magnitude since William The C pitched up in Hastings looking for a campsite.

Turns out that the beer was excellent, the toilet art was reminiscent of the 1970s, and apart from those experiencing the unusual fragrance emanating from the lavatory, a great evening was had by all.

These pub based evenings introduce a wide and varied combination of conversational topics. The subject of Mark’s music career came up, and we soon shared some old photo’s from his playing days. One set related to his time in a reggae band, where, to our surprise, at least one SGC member was unable to identify him…Such is the power of beer!

Sorting out what went wrong with the golf will, sadly, have to remain a mystery.

The following day, revitalised, refreshed and rearmed, we set off to battle Wiltshire.

Once again, our heroic Captain sent his troops into battle with a rousing speech…with much the same result as on the previous day. (Keith’s bestselling book “How to motivate your troops, and defeat your enemy in 7 easy steps”, is available for £7.99 from Mark’s shop.)

Apart from the usual pleasantries; good company, nice course, great weather, etc, etc, etc, it is worth noting that this time, the Steak and Ale pie used shortcrust, rather than puff, pastry. Opinion on which one was better, was divided. Myself, I think the Somerset pie won because it had the better gravy. There were some speeches and stuff.

On discovering that they would be giving their 88-year-old opponent 34 shots, Grandfather Wardy was heard to utter “34 – that’s not a handicap, it’s a waist measurement!”. He went on to lose, to the oldest man in Wiltshire.

In, what can only be described as a stroke of genius, we were booked into a pub. Not only a pub, a Wadworth pub, 100 yards from the brewery. A pub! result. As such, there was no traipsing about the town looking for somewhere to drink, we simply went downstairs.

We were soon tucking into the local beer, and putting the world to rights. It was a very nice evening. Sadly, we were still unable to identify where the golf went wrong.

The next day saw the battered and defeated army head for Donnington Valley. Gone were the high spirits, and merry japes, and the beer, the golf and the lack of sleep was taking its’ toll on most of the soldiers.

Interestingly, a couple of the Captains had enough energy to hang about in roadside laybys. It’s the 21st Century and not for us to judge. You boys live your best life, in whatever way you want. Whilst I won’t reveal names, I am happy to confirm that this time, it was not Peter.

Early arrival at Donnington Valley ensured that Derek was able to secure a disabled parking spot adjacent to the clubhouse. We sat in the bar, while the barman, Mr Happy, glowered at us.

Gerry Talbot (Captain) arranged us into teams, ensuring that we were playing with new faces. Having relayed the instructions, and with the inevitable prediction that Nigel would win (he did) off we went.

On seeing Harry Potter tee up a pink ball, Del Boy asked “Does your husband play golf?”. I doubt that Harry will even remember the remark, when it comes to picking the tour team in two years time, definitely not.

Insert the usual platitudes here, nice course, great condition, etc, etc, etc. It is worth noting that VC suffered greatly, barely able to hit a cow’s A with a B.

As for the hotel itself, it is a modernised and upgraded version of ESN. The hotel beds were the comfiest of the tour. The only points of contention concerned no cask ale, the bar prices and the adding of discretionary service charge without telling you. How I was supposed to get my wine from the cellar, I don’t know.

The food, however, was nice. We started with Chilli Beef, followed by a steak. If there are any cows left standing in the South West, I’d be surprised.

Gerry Talbot received the acclamation of the troops for arranging a great tour. On behalf of everyone, and following a whip-round, the VC presented him with a packet of tea and some out of date biscuits, it’s what he wanted.

So, what did we learn? Well... if you get a great bunch of guys, allow them to play golf every day, eat meat and drink large quantities of real ale you can have a great time. There was banter, jokes and much laughter and three tour virgins were initiated. When all is said and done, the result doesn’t really matter. But next year, well, that is a whole different ball game.

Joe Angella

Vice Captain 2021