Playing Darts with the Grownups (and Smoking)
When I was about 13 Dad said he would take me to practice darts with his team at the Post Office. Their home board was at the local sorting office at the Lansdowne in Bournemouth. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I was excited.
They were a good team and I think a majority of them played darts together twice a week – I’d go on to play alongside many of the them in the future, but just at that time it was a whole new world for me.
Of course, back then you could smoke pretty much anywhere you liked: pubs, buses (but not downstairs!), cinemas, offices and even shops! And smoking was a big part of the darts scene, along with drinking and swearing I guess – darts was and very much still is a working mans sport.
Not big, nor clever!
Dad had stopped smoking about five years beforehand (in 1980). I had never smoked – fortunately for me it was never something I ever got into.
I did try it when I was about eighteen – we were going to Poets Corner in Bournemouth (they were called fun pubs back then!) at the weekend and I thought it would be both big and clever to buy some fags. I think they were Silk Cut – someone had probably said they weren’t very strong. I worked my way through pretty much the whole packet by the end of the night and I thought I was pretty cool, until the next evening when I ran across the local common (cause it was dark and I was scared!) – when I got to the other side, I thought I was going to die! No, seriously, I couldn’t breath, my lungs were killing me and my throat was raw. I realised then that smoking wasn’t that great and I could probably do without it.
Anyway, my point is that I remember the post office club being quite full of smoke and not very luxurious. There were two dartboards, side-by-side, and we probably played Leave It, or Cricket or some other game that I’ve forgotten about now. I really did enjoy the experience and I couldn’t wait to go back again.
One of the players was called Norman – he was a long time friend of my dad, he’d been to our house and he wasn’t a stranger to me. After a few weeks of going to practice at the Post Office, Norman was impressed enough to ask me if I would like to play for his team.
I reckon I was probably 14 by then – it felt like I’d been asked to represent my country at football (a sport that I have no skill at whatsoever). What I’d actually been asked to do was play for Bournemouth Parks in the Hants & Dorset Darts league (Division 2) on a Thursday night. Wow, a league spanning two counties, this is going to be immense! The reality of the situation was that we never played outside of Bournemouth or Poole and the team were pretty desperate for players if they needed the help of a 14 year old with no prior experience, but this didn’t matter to me, I’d arrived on the darts scene.
If you’ve enjoyed Darts: My Big Chance, please leave a comment below and let me know. Or maybe share your teenage smoking experience!