As the days count down to the big 4-0, I find myself thinking more and more about my childhood. I know I’m not about to be put into an old people’s home any time soon (note to the kids – you dare), but I think it’s natural to reminisce. As I squint my eyes in the mirror to give that necessary soft focus effect and slather my face with increasingly expensive moisturiser, I repeat my daily mantra: “40 is NOT old, 40 is NOT old,” and just pray to the God of L’Oreal.
To look at this elegant, sophisticated woman in front of you (ahem …), you wouldn’t believe I used to be majorly involved in the darts world. If you know anything about darts, and we’re talking twenty years ago, it definitely had a certain image associated with it. I was only 14 when I started, Mum being the captain of our local team certainly had something to do with me joining, and I continued to play for another five years. Until I got serious with a boy and everything changed. As it tends to do.
The darts world was a law unto itself. A microcosm of society wherein pints of snakebite and black (lager, cider and blackcurrant) were the preferred drink of choice and pork scratchings the accompanying snack. We travelled to a different pub or social club every week but the red velour sofas were always the same.
Alternate Monday nights were taken up with buttering huge towers of bread to provide the sandwiches for the teams if we were hosting that week. Inevitably, if we were the guests, we would be fed deep fried sausages, Scampi Fries and, if we were ‘lucky,’ corned beef rolls.
Caz (names have been changed, but, well, not that much to be honest), was the captain of one of our major adversaries. I couldn’t have created a better character for a book if I tried. Shell suits were the order of the day back then and she loved them. At least she’d never be able to creep up behind us, she crinkled as she walked. She looked like she’d just fallen off the back of a lorry (quite possibly she had), as she was adorned head to toe in ‘gold’ jewellery. Oh, and she had a voicebox. Comedy gold.
Were I to attempt to throw a dart these days, I wouldn’t stand too close as I doubt I’d hit the board. Back then though, I was actually pretty good. This annoyed the other teams, Caz especially, and so they sought the “Advice of The Committee,” aka The Oracle, as to whether I was allowed to play at 14.
My trophies are in the loft collecting dust (along with my leg warmers and photos of really bad haircuts that will never EVER see the light of day again) and, as much as I no doubt moaned from time to time about going, as teenagers tend to do (having one myself now I suspect my Mum’s thinking, ha, karma) it was great.
As a dart playing family, watching Bullseye on the TV on a Sunday afternoon was compulsory. We all wanted to be the proud owners of the first prize speedboat or caravan and Jim Bowen was definitely a bit of a hero in our house. And that was the beauty of darts. It brought us all together. Dad and brother played for the men’s team (still do) and it was something we all had in common. Not particularly good exercise, granted.
To all my non-UK friends, who may be wondering, WTF?! I know this all sounds a bit weird, and looking back, it was, but that’s why it was so great!
I’m off to dig out my shell suit …