We pored over the pictures and the lads mumbled a few complaints about not getting the trophy and I suggested they could stand up and reverse the decision if they liked. The swell of noise around us was still divided between ‘bastards’, ‘cheats’, ‘pompous twat’, we could beat ‘em anyway’ and ‘leave ‘em alone’, ‘that was nice’ and ‘doesn’t he speak posh?’ I wasn’t sure if the latter comment were a positive or a negative. It was the Red Horse, but I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.
We handed our picture sheet in and talked amongst ourselves.
‘Does this mean we can play properly now?’ Paul asked.
‘What do you mean; “properly”? Have you been holding back?’
‘Little bit.’ Paul said.
I looked at John and Steve. They nodded.
‘Bloody hell.’ was all I could manage.
‘I thought you were supposed to be rugby players?’ Carol said.
We looked at each other, at the assembled multitude in the Red Horse club room and then back at her. Steve opened his mouth. Before he could make a sound Carol spoke again.
‘And if you say “It’s the Red Horse” I’m going to tell them you’re all gay.’
It was the 1980s and thank goodness no longer illegal to like your own gender, but the Red Horse clientele would move out of the 1880s in their own good time.
‘Okay then.’ Steve said, ‘But I hope you can run as fast as you can talk.’
The MC switched his mike on again, repeating the electronic howling of earlier and brought proceedings to order.
‘While the lovely ladies…’ Carol’s eyes got even flintier than they had been when issuing her threat to us, ‘…are moving amongst you for orders before the second half, we’ll have the first of our spot prizes. These are questions for individuals to answer so anyone in the room except for staff can answer, so that includes our delightful guests,’ he inclined his head towards Carol. ‘I shall ask the question and anyone who knows the answer put their hand up. Jeff will select the person who put their hand up first and if correct they will win the spot prize. If the answer is wrong Jeff will indicate the second person and so on until we get the correct answer.’
‘Point of order.’
‘Aren’t spot competitions restricted to paying members of teams in the main competition?’
‘We’ve checked during the interval Ronald and it doesn’t say so in the rules.’
‘I would have thought…’
‘Three committee members have decided it’s open to anyone except staff.’
‘Well I think…’
‘It’s a committee decision Ronald. Bring it up at a committee meeting if you want.’ He turned to the paper in his hand. ‘Now then, this prize is a lovely tankard engraved with the Red Horse motif and our motto “Crown of Strength”. Now if you are all ready the question is: Who wrote the tune for the song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” in the film and show “Cabaret”?’
There was a lot of blank stares and then a couple of hands shot up. Jeff selected one.
‘Incorrect. Jeff, next one please.’
‘An imaginative try Ronald.’
‘Frank?’ Jeff said, selecting the last remaining hand.
‘Sorry Frank a creditable effort but he was the Director.’
Jeff and the MC exchanged glances.
The Rugby Club was out. Songbooks of musical theatre were not our forte. And then I saw Carol’s face. She was smirking, and her hand climbed into the air. Jeff saw it but did a very convincing act of looking to the far wall as if seeing another hand raised, somewhere, anywhere.
All eyes except Jeff’s were on Carol. Eventually even Jeff couldn’t pretend he hadn’t seen the rock solid hand in front of his face. ‘Er, the young lady here’ he said pointing somewhat redundantly to the lone hand aloft in the room.
‘John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote the song.’ She informed him, ‘But it was Ebb who wrote the music.’
The MC’s eyebrows lifted and he pasted a broad smile on his face.
‘Why, that is spot on young lady! Many people think it was an original Nazi song from the Third Reich but it was specially written for the stage show. Well done. Would you like to come and collect your tankard?’
Carol stepped up. The room had that heavy silent feel to it, like the atmosphere before a thunderstorm. She shook hands with Jeff and the MC, picked up the tankard, held it aloft and beamed at the room. A rumble went around the place. A storm was coming.
We admired the tankard and prepared for the first round proper of the second half.
The talk at half time and Carol’s individual win broke any reserve we might have had about playing to win. We got full marks on the first two rounds and dropped one in the third on the value of Pi to six decimal places because we couldn’t decide whether the last digit should be two or if, as were truncating it and the next value was six it should be three. We went the wrong way.
The half time altercations must have inspired some of the opposition as well because we had not broken away from the pack completely. Two other teams, Jack of All Trades and Red Horse Crown Princes were keeping pace with us and muttering still about numbers.
There was another spot prize. I was hoping the question for the “beautiful set of Red Horse Coasters” would be more in keeping with the assembled Red Horse knowledge base and would restore some bonhomie. The MC’s smile was even wider than normal as he opened the envelope with the question in it.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, one for the aficionados I think. Ready?’ There was a chorus of ‘get on with it’ and he began.
‘Only three men have won the Waterloo more than once, who was the first to achieve that notable accolade?’
We were safe. The Waterloo was a crown green bowling competition held in Blackpool at the Waterloo Hotel each year, and that was as far as my knowledge went. I was pretty sure that made me the top wrangler on bowling in our team. Carol’s face was a mask and I couldn’t tell what, if anything she might know about double victors of the supreme championship in Crown Green Bowls. Then I remembered her grandfather; a keen bowler and member of a club that regularly sent players up to Blackpool. There was not a flicker on her face, no movement of her limbs.
There were other hands up all over the room already though. We’d be safe this time. Someone would get this right.
‘Sorry Frank. He has won it twice but he wasn’t the first.’
‘He’ll win it again this year an’ all.’
‘That’s as maybe, but he wasn’t the first. Yes, Ronald.’
‘No. Perhaps he should have, perhaps he will, but he hasn’t yet.’
Another flurry of answers scattered names of past winners into the room, but none was the name of the elusive first double winner. The MC still had a smile on his face, but it had outstayed its welcome, like a week old halibut on a fishmonger’s slab.
‘Come on ladies and gentlemen, time’s ticking. I’m amazed no-one knows this great man. Winning the Waterloo twice should make him a legend.’
‘Well he weren’t from round here.’
Laughter ran round the room, mingled with mutterings about the difficulty of the questions.
‘Get on with it man.’
‘Thank you ladies and gentlemen for your comments.’ The smile vanished. I had a feeling that might have been his pet question. ‘We’ll reserve the coasters for another time then, unless there are any other answers…’ he waved a couple of hands away, ‘…from people who haven’t yet had a go.’
Carol face broke into a smile, ‘Well I need something to go under the tankard don’t I?’ she said, and raised her hand.