Archive for August, 2021

Double Top

Saturday, August 14th, 2021

My dad was a great dart player. He and my grandfather won the  Swansea Hancock’s Dart League doubles title in 1947/48. That was no mean feat. Darts was the undisputed pub game in the country. It would be decades before pool tables were installed in pubs, and very few, if any, pubs in Swansea had skittles alleys. Trivia Quiz leagues were a figment of somebody’s imagination back in the 1940s. My dad’s favorite shot was ‘treble 19.” Some darts connoisseurs would argue that he should have aimed for the maximum number of points, “three treble twenties,’ giving you a total of 180. Nevertheless it’s difficult to criticize a player who regularly scored 171.

I once asked my dad for advice on how to improve my dart game, but he wasn’t very forthcoming. It was probably similar to asking George Best or Ivor Allchurch how to play football, or seeking Fred Trueman’s advice on how to bowl fast, or asking Tiger Woods how to play golf. They all had one thing in common. They had a God given talent for excelling at a sport, but they were unable to explain to lesser mortals how to do it. Basically throwing darts accurately came naturally to my dad and grandfather. By all accounts, my grandfather (who  unfortunately passed away before I was born) was a bit of a hustler. He would go down to the pub with only enough money  in his pocket to buy one pint, put his name on the board to play the winner of the previous darts game. Losers were obliged to buy the winner a pint who remained on the oche to play the next opponent. Sometimes my grandfather would have an early night by losing his first match, but invariably he  enjoyed many raucous nights and several free pints when he was unbeatable.

They both played in a darts team in the Hancocks League for a pub called The Jersey Arms which was situated in the Hafod, best described as a blue collar district on the outskirts of the old town centre. A darts team comprised eight players who would compete with other pub teams over  a best of five legs. Each leg comprised 501 points with a double to start and a double to finish. Each player would take turns to throw three darts until one team ended the leg with an appropriate double.

My uncle Phil was the landlord of the Bevans Arms in Morriston, and quite often my dad would play  darts for my uncle’s pub team. My mum would sometimes serve behind the bar to help my uncle if he was short staffed while my dad played darts. One week, the team was a player short , and my dad persuaded my mum to make up the numbers which she reluctantly did. She was very short sighted, but vanity prohibited her from wearing glasses which she usually kept in her handbag.

A couple of hours had elapsed and the teams were level with two legs apiece. My mum had barely hit the dart board never mind trouble the scorers when the final and deciding leg began. The teams matched each other in reducing the 501 to reasonable proportions until they were both left with doubles to win the leg and the match. My mum was next up for the Bevans Arms and my dad pointed to the double twenty (DOUBLE  TOP,) and said: “aim for the top of the board Vi.” Her first two darts didn’t even hit the dartboard, but her third and final dart sailed miraculously into the small segment they call double top. The pub’s clientele erupted into joyous raptures, but my mum returned to her place behind the bar serving pints of Trumans ale, and exclaimed: “Never Again!”