The Green, Green Baize of Gateshead

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In October 1983 a brand spanking new snooker centre opened adjacent to the Springfield Hotel on Durham Road, Gateshead. Being a big fan of the game back then, along with a few mates, I signed the dotted line to become a club member.

With the exception of a dimwit called Nadger***, who’d regularly chalk the wrong end of his cue, my buddies and me were all roughly of the same ability. Subsequently making most games we played fairly competitive, close run affairs.

*** – No one knew how he got the nickname Nadger; not even him!…… Although I would suspect it was something to do with him being a knacker!

From memory, among my green baize nemeses back then were Gary ‘Hurricane’ Simpson, Dave ‘Ears’ Jackson, Dave ‘Blew It’ Blewitt, Alan ‘I’m Going Home If I Can’t Break’ Mudie and Alan ‘No Im Not Embarrased To Be Bald’ Newton. Lads whose deeply ingrained desire to win took confrontation levels in each frame of snooker to gladiatorial proportions.

Gary Simpson got his nickname Hurricane, not because of played shots with the speed of professional player Alex Higgins. moreover his habit of breaking wind just as his opponent was cueing up. A distraction tactic that made playing conditions less than fragrant and raised questions if his diet included mice.

Dave Jackson thought he got his nickname of Ears because of his sticky out lugs, which gave him a look of the FA Cup. But the dry-witted South Shields lad actually acquired the pseudonym due to the fact someone identified Ears was an anagram of Arse. Dave wasn’t an arse, however the nickname stuck with my buddy oblivious to its real roots.

Dave Blewitt acquired his nickname Blew It as a consequence of his penchant for blowing it when confronted by a high pressure shot….. Well, that and the fact his surname was Blewitt!…… Diminutive of stature Davy B had aspirations of jockeying horses, but as they wouldn’t allow him to bring them into the club he made do with a game of snooker..

Alan Mudie was a lad on my shift at Compower (The computer are of British Coal) on the southern cusp of the Team Valley Trading Estate. Bushy of moustache, he had a look of Canadian snooker player Cliff Thorburn and the snooker skills of TV presenter Cliff Michelmore.

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Alan habitually conceded 4-point fouls from his facial hair touching an in play ball while cueing up. Alan had the propensity to confrontationally shout “Get in there, you b**t**d!” to a beaten opponent after potting the black. A proclivity that didn’t go down well with the other lads; apart from the simpleton Nadger who took it as a compliment.

Alan Newton was another bloke from my Composer shift. What he lacked in hair on his bald pate he made up with ……. well, skin I suppose. If memory serves me correct, at the time he played snooker with us reprobates Alan was going through a marriage split…. A situation probably not helped by the fact he was at the snooker club all the time with us idiots. An accomplished mechanic, he once kindly only charged me £250 for fixing a faulty Clacton pivot on my car.

What of my snooker prowess? Well as alluded to above I was about the same average standard as my buddies (apart from Nadger). On a good day I could get the occasional 30+ break and on a bad day I couldn’t find my cue, or my arse with both hands!

In 1984 I got to the final of the National Coal Board Staff Welfare Club Snooker Competition. A one frame knockout tournament that took place over one evening in the Sunderland Snooker Club.

I recall as we (a middle-aged guy in Accounts and me) stood awaiting the winner takes all final to commence, I overheard my mate Dave Jackson inform another friend “I just hope he (me) doesn’t win or he’ll be chuffing unbearable at work tomorrow!” ****

**** – Dave didn’t actually use the word chuffing. His adjective of choice was a tad brisker and rhymes with ducking.

As Dave and me were really good mates I was slightly put out by his need to wish ill-fortune my way. Someone later told me the outburst would’ve been down to the green eyed monster. But it wasn’t, it was definitely Dave’s voice I heard using those locutions.

Anyhow, Dave’s wish came true. A consequence of imbibing too much beer during the evening, vanity at not wearing my specs and the fact the other bloke was a better player, saw me vanquished at the final hurdle.

I took my defeat gracefully though, congratulating the winner by shaking his hand and joining the crowd at warmly applauding his victory.

After the applause’d died down, I shook my opponents hand again in congratulation before turning round to look in Dave’s direction to rant “Are you happy now you spiteful get!” *****

***** – I didn’t actually use the word get. My adjective of choice was a tad brisker and rhymes with frastard.

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