Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

By Marcus Bartlett

During my years playing rugby for Hampstead Rugby Club I organised three Easter Tours to Amsterdam and the surrounding regions. Having worked in Holland from 1969-72 and with a reasonable working knowledge of the Dutch language this seemed like a reasonable contribution for me to make in return for the many happy years that I spent with the club and the many deep and lasting friendships that I made.

Easter tours were the highlight of the playing calendar and were eagerly anticipated, the cost per person was modest and covered your travel, accommodation and an appropriate item of millinery. 

The first Amsterdam tour I co-organised with Leon Sugarman, participants were issued with cream fedoras.

Chefs were the theme for the second tour, having been issued with chefs hats tourists were expected to complete the ensemble and many visitors to Amsterdam were somewhat surprised to encounter groups of chefs with knives, ladles, wooden spoons etc hanging from their belts.

The third tour was my favourite and the theme was schoolboys, everyone was issued with a bright red cap and I made a sign “children crossing” which was printed in both Dutch and English.

One member was reluctant to tour. Badger, so named on account of his grisly grey, white and black beard played in the front row and hailed from the West Country, in his opinion the tour was too expensive and despite many entreaties on his behalf from other members to make a concession, I stood firm, no money, no tour.

A tradition had established itself over the many years of touring that we would all assemble in “Dirty Dicks” public house after work on Thursday afternoon and from there would be whisked by coach to Dover and thence to the continent. 

With each new arrival at Dirty Dicks it became evident that tourists had responded magnificently to the challenge, everyone had shorts and a blazer and many had gone much further than the basics. Roger Dearling had a satchel containing a potato gun, a catapault, a pea shooter, pens, pencils, a ruler and a geometry set, he had grazes on his knees, ink stains on his fingers and an apple for teacher. (A man with time on his hands obviously).

 My memory not being what it was I checked with others of that generation and it is indeed the case that as people arrived at Dirty Dicks they threw their luggage onto a pile in the middle of the pub floor, meanwhile,  several intrepid individuals would climbed  up onto a gallery that ran around the inside of the bar and proceeded to take part in a diving competition onto the pile of luggage. These lunatics would then be awarded points for degree of difficulty and artistic interpretation.

Most people, including myself, expected the Badger to turn up at the last minute so I delayed departure for as long as I could but eventually it was time to leave. Having shepherded everyone on to the coach (no mean feat I can assure you) the coach pulled out into the evening traffic and we set off for Dover.

It was a warm evening I remember and the pavements were thronged with happy commuters eagerly anticipating the four day break, we had barely drive a hundred yards when  a bearded lady detached herself from the crowds on the pavement and ran in front of the coach waving a kit bag in one hand and a bulging black bin liner in the other.

 I instructed the coach driver to pull in to the kerb and Badger, for ‘twas he, approached the door of the coach, not one to beat about the bush he stated bluntly “ I want to come on the tour”.

“You can’t come on the tour Badger” I responded “you haven’t paid me any money”

Whereupon he thrust a handful of notes at me which I counted with great care “alright” I said “you can come on the tour but before you do I am curious as to why you appear to be wearing a rather attractive floral print dress”

To which he uttered the immortal phrase “I want to come as matron”

In the kit bag was his kit, in the bin liner was his girlfriend’s laundry. It transpired that Badger had committed some atrocity in the relationship and had been banned from signing up to the tour, as the deadline approached he offered to take his girlfriend’s laundry to the laundrette and was not seen again until late on the following Monday, the bin liner unopened, the laundry unwashed.

History does not record his girlfriend’s reaction but 40 years later he was dead.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it.


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