I have been thinking back over my marbles memories and have compiled a list of 40 to mark my 40th tournament as organizer. Not all of them are to do with this tournament but they have all happened because of my love of marbles in general.
Thinking of landlords long ago I remember Linda’s ducks on a very wet marbles ring and dray horses “playing marbles” with snooker balls for the brewery’s PR company. I recall horizontal rain and also snow.
There have been lots of television opportunities – The Black Dog Boozers and Stanley Unwin at Maidstone, Pebble Mill at One, meeting an aardvark on a skateboard, and eating both a very big breakfast on the set of that very show and cake with the late Brian Johnson and Lofty from Eastenders at LWT. I got my Blue Peter badge for teaching the presenters to play live on the show, and one year it was bizarre to be able to stand in the doorway of the Greyhound watching our final in the carpark to the left and live on Sky Sports on the screen in the bar to the right! We taught Paddy and Rory to play for an unbroadcast show and spent a glorious sunny day at The Greyhound attempting to teach and then beating Chris Tarrant – he was terrible, and kept pinching food from everyone’s plates at lunchtime! A group of our youngest players were recruited to form a team and play for CBBC one year. Marbles is, strangely, particularly popular on the radio – Zachary and I took part in The Big Toe Radio Show, and for one interview Julia was the guest immediately after James Bond. On another occasion she followed up a breakfast radio interview in Brighton by running over a French student – not her fault!
We have had memorable trips to San Francisco with Darren and Tony, and to Tennessee with Barry and Paddy. Attending the National Marbles Tournament in New Jersey on behalf of the Japan Marbles Association was an amazing experience for Julia and me, and Mol and I visited the Hiltdebrandts’ local tournament in Germany. I also went to watch the Mondial Billes competition, where I made a spectacular video of the inside of the camera bag!
We spent half a day entertaining a deputation of tourism executives from Beijing who had been sent to check out 2 attractions – The Greyhound marbles and Windsor Castle! We also hosted the President of the Japan Marble Association who was fascinated by our cats’ marble skills and who insisted on including a caricature of Julia and me on their calendar to represent our tournament – on the November page!
I will never forget our fabulous international tournament, organized in the middle of planning our wedding, nor the fleet of colourfully decorated campervans rolling into the pub carpark the first year that Andreas Hildebrandt brought a German team here.
There have been new Landlords just before Easter, followed by new Landlords just before Easter. There was a panic when The Greyhound actually closed and was enclosed in a wire fence before being rescued by Jon Best, to whom I will be forever grateful. I love that I welcome new teams each year, alongside players who have been here far longer than I. The second generation players are a great delight as they convince me that the show will continue to go on and on. New trophies have been introduced and elements such as The Golden Oldies ensure continued interest for current players.
We have been lucky enough to visit marbles factories in the US and have met a number of art glass marble artists and one year my marbles collection featured in the Guinness Book of Records, accompanied by a photo of me in the bath, covered in very cold marbles, lots of them!!
I am very proud that attending our tournament has become an annual engagement for the Mayor of Crawley, and even more so that on a number of occasions, including today, this attendance has been as a player.
Most clearly of all I remember two tournaments : firstly the great Malteser Tournament, when our lost marbles situation with Parcelforce made every national newspaper and featured on the BBC 6 o’clock news with footage shot earlier in the day, and secondly the day when Zachary, as a very young honorary German, was a member of the runner-up team here in my tournament.
And finally there four particular people who are no longer here but who I always remember when I come to The Greyhound : Stan “the Man” Larbey, John Burnet, my dear friend Bert Cohen and my much missed father-in-law Ron.