Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Connections To A Sporting Life

And talking of John Betjeman (I warned you, this week will be an endless series of connections), who can forget his magnificent poem "A Subaltern's Love Song".

"Miss J.Hunter Dunn, Miss J.Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn"

I am not sure if Miss J Hunter Dunn features in this particular line-up. I doubt it because, as the eagle-eyed will have spotted, they are badminton players and not tennis players. Uncle Frank is there; that's him on the right hand side of the front row. What exactly his function in the team was, I am not sure, but I suspect he scared most of his opponents off the court before the game started.

But I am being needlessly mean : Frank was far more of a sportsman that I have ever been. My school football playing career lasted a single afternoon in 1957 when I was a member of a team that lost to Boothtown Primary School 12-0 (needless to say, I was the goalkeeper).

For a while I quite fancied myself as an athlete. My brother Roger and I, along with our next-door neighbour David Greenwood, set out a running track in the field behind our houses. This is a picture of the boy who could have been Seb Coe if it hadn't been for a couple of twisted toes and a bad case of laziness. That is David Greenwood keeping the lap total (I should point out it was a very short course) and I assume it was Roger who took the photograph.

Where am I going with all this you might ask. Well I am going to the Indoor Bowling Arena on Leeds Road, Huddersfield. I am taking you there because less than 24 hours ago, my bowling partner Denis and myself, for the first time ever, beat the girls at crown green bowling. You might not think this is much of an achievement, but I see it as a culmination of a lifetimes' training and preparation. All those breathless laps were not in vain : today I stand on the pinnacle of sporting achievement.


  1. Hello Alan:
    Betjeman's poem is an absolute favourite of ours and your photograph complemented it well.Even though they are Badminton players, one felt that Joan Hunter Dunn could well have been amongst them. Those striped blazers certainly cut a dash!

    We are no sports players at all, indeed, we positively go queasy at the thought of anything more strenuous than a brisk walk. But, well done on your bowling achievement, was the moment of glory captured in a photograph?

  2. Jane & Lance : Sadly not, but we know we did it and that is all that matters.

  3. Congrats on your win. Victory comes to those who wait for the right time. Quote of mine.LOL

  4. Once a happy kid, makes for a happy man! I just enjoy reading about your connections, and seeing the photos, even if most of it is well not a connection for me! It's all very interesting! It is cool though how Daniel Defoe is connected with all of us...and even cooler how his story about Moll Flanders was brought kind of back to life as well....a great writer he was!

  5. Well done! Olympic medal is in the post. I was surprised to find out that Joan Hunter Dunn was a real person! I wonder what she felt having the poem dedicated to her!

  6. What a great photograph of you in youthful exuberance. I love it. Yes, all that training paying off, must be exhilarating after a lifetime of preparation. ;) Did you ever have to jump over a padded gymnastics "horse?" Me, neither. I crawled over it with great flair.

  7. Terrific motion shot there!

  8. Persistence pays off! I'm sure you and your buddies had fun along the way.

  9. Good to hear you are entering the Athletic Hall of Fame! I enjoyed your old photos..I find it curious why the three people in the front row are dressed differently from the others in the photo..those stripes are something else:)

  10. Is it true that the training for bowls takes so long because you're not allowed to play until you're over 65?

  11. Another of my favourite poems. I used it, with the appropriate photographs, for an anthology I made for my Mum’s 90th last year. I like the fact that you are smiling as you run towards Roger. A happy moment obvioulsy.

  12. Ah yes bowling. I hoped all worked out for your side. The photos are wonderful. I guess I had never heard of the scary uncle.

  13. You look quite happy in this pic- I always wanted to be an athlete, but sadly I never progressed beyond 7th grade volleyball.


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...