In 1969 I was destined to be the next Eric Bristow as I won the darts tournament at my local youth club.
Sadly, the promise of being the successor to the Crafty Cockney (I didn’t attend elocution lessons, so was halfway there) was never to be; although my 14.3% O-level pass rate suggests that a misspent youth was evident.
My auntie Vera trained me, from an early age, to regularly hit double top – she’d tried to teach me piano on her Blüthner piano, but realised early on I’d be less Liberace, more Lazarenko. I was a dart prodigy; what Mozart was to symphonies, I was to 160 check-outs.
The youth club met in the hall of my old primary school in Balham. It did seem odd, as a twelve-year-old, a. going back there not singing Hill of the North, rejoice (which we seemed to sing every week during assembly) b. no sight of a recorder or Glockenspiel and c. it was dark outside.
We were fed copious amounts of orange squash in the days when people didn’t realise the dangers of E-numbers – it’s a curious sight, watching a group of pumped-up teenagers trying to play table-tennis as if killing a large rodent.
We’d also play snooker – well, I say snooker – the tables were the size if Fred and Joe Davis had been three-foot midgets, with less felt on the table than a very tiny piece of Fuzzy Felt. However, it was an escape from parents, homework and Glockenspiels.
The evening of the darts final arrived – which I’d breezed through to, beating several eleven-year-old girls in the process. I’d been practising trickier check-outs with my aunt the previous night only for the other finalist to have succumbed to Scarlet Fever (not brought on (as we all believed) from watching too may episodes of Captain Scarlet). So, by default, I won.
Although, to this day, I still think oche is something played at posh schools.