2023: Ali Baba and the 40 Mals

Preparations for the 2023 Trip to the Isles were made well in advance for all 34 athletes. Most of the Lincolnshire contingent were going to fly direct to St. Mary’s, with the remainder in a holding pattern over Penzance. However, a combination of late fitness tests, family illness and Storm Agnes would all have their effect. Eventually 31 athletes met at Lands End International with the direct flight from Lincolnshire having been grounded.

The Scillonian ‘hell boat’ had already been cancelled due to Storm Agnes, and fog at most of the local airports prevented the Mal de Mers from flying to Scilly. The flights were eventually officially cancelled, so ‘what to do’?

31 Testosterone filled sportsmen all disappointingly crammed into a departure lounge with nothing to do and nowhere to go. In my 35 years of travelling to Scilly, this was the first time we had failed to arrive on the first day. A very big thanks to one of our senior fitness coaches for having a bright idea and contacting Cape Cornwall Golf Club. He enquired about accommodation for the night and fortunately they had vacancies for all 31 of us. The Trip was about to start but not on Scilly! This Trip was going to be full of ‘Firsts’.

Arriving at Cape Cornwall, Storm Agnes was just gathering momentum. We decided to play one of our Island golf tournaments in the afternoon. Teeing off at 2pm, the George Twist Tankards pairs tournament would be played over 18 holes. However, Storm Agnes intervened again, and just after lunch the rain came down so hard that the greens flooded and the course was closed. Were we downhearted? Never! The sun poked back through at 3pm and the tournament was transferred to the ‘Crazy Golf’ course next to the putting green. 23 Mals plus 8 New Boys did battle. The noise was deafening and after 14 holes of no ifs, and’s, or putts the winning team of The President (2022) and Darrel Foulk shone through, closely followed by Simon Hewer and Elliot Hick. I can safely say everyone knew each other far betterer after this, our first event.

Affairs of state meant we were due to flush in our new President Alastair Hick, and at 18.40 he was declared President or should I say Captain? Alastair quickly slipped into flight deck mode wearing his first officers jacket, with some fetching scrambled egg on his sleeves. Luckily for us we had agreed to eat at 7pm and join in the golf club quiz night, this thankfully kept the Presidents ‘State of the Mals’ speech down to about 20 minutes. Environmental and diversity issues were front and foremost of the Presidents hopes and dreams. The Endeavour Award was to be tweaked slightly allowing a free vote to decide the winner. A vote! Another first for this very unique club. Somewhere between the environment and diversity, last years ‘New Boys’, Richard Tredwell, Tom Hinchley, Russell Webster and Simon Hewer were flushed in as full members of the Mal de Mer club. Congratulations to you all. On a personal note it is very heartening to see New Boys of this quality and I would like to thank their sponsors for introducing them to this very special club.

For the evening’s quiz, the Mals and Cape Cornwall club members were divided into teams of 6 and a very pleasant evening was had by all – plus a useful first point was earned by the Mals! Although not at our usual first night venue, I must thank everyone at Cape Cornwall Golf Club for making us so welcome. A different start but still very enjoyable. Room allocations had been made earlier and one or two first time tourists would be getting to know each other even more betterer by the end of the night when the double-bed sleeping arrangements were revealed.

A return to Lands End airport for 7.45 on Thursday morning ahead of a bus trip down to Penzance and the start of our journey to Scilly on the Scillonian 111. The ‘stewardess of the day’ Simon Hewer collected sweepstake money and at 9.15 we set sail for Scilly. The Captain set the tone by saying it was going to be rough! He was right. Almost 3 hours later we arrived on St. Mary’s. Some unexpected Mals names featured in the official Mal de Mer chunder sweepstake results, with our own septuagenarian stalwart, Simmo providing Kevin Ridge with a prize fund of £31.

The flag was raised and I gave my usual wise words, then before we knew it we were down on Porthmellon beach playing football. Ably captained by Tom Hinchley, we played some attractive football but eventually succumbed to a 6 – 2 defeat. A gigantic squad were available for the beach volleyball. The practice game sorted the wheat from the chaff but we were silver medallists in a 3 leg competition, going down 2 – 0. Time for a dip. A mixture of 14 Mals and New Boys took to the water and reported back that it was a pleasurable experience. With such a fine example of mankind on display, the team photo was a shoe-in for this years Christmas card…

Time now for the hockey match. This was the first sport played by the Mals against the Islanders back in 1932, and is recognised as one of the ‘Blue Riband’ events. The Islanders fielded a strong squad but unfortunately were no match for the Mals, who won 3 – 0 and were ably captained by Keith Williams. Man of the Match went to new New Boy Geoff Snell. Also that afternoon, an unscripted challenge from the school basketball club led to match down at the school, with the 5 Island Globetrotters winning 34 – 18 unlucky captain Broadbent, we know they are a handful. Unfortunately the gigs were cancelled due to poor sea conditions so it was back to base for a livener!

Dinner was a typically noisy affair, with various sports reports and teams announced, and then it was all down to the Scillonian Club. Alex, with his finger on the pulse, selected a very strong darts team. Mr O thrashed the Crafty Caledonian, Jock MacDouble and the DG gave Steve (I’ve never lost to the Mals) Watt an archery lesson. Unfortunately all to no avail, as the Mals lost 5 – 7. Come on Mals just a touch more training and we will be there. Now for the pool… We drew last year and we did again this year, but the bold captain Simon Hewer accepted the decider challenge. Elliot Hicks, the Presidents Champion, thrust himself into the limelight and with a club full of Scillonian’s, Gibbo the Islands pool captain selected himself AGAIN! If only Jock had selected himself in the darts 2 or 3 times! Anyway I digress, and despite the Island captain’s skullduggery, Elliot put up a fantastic show, just falling short with a foul on his final ball. 5 – 4 to the Isles. Thank you, the Scillonian Club for making us so welcome.

The Thursday forecast said shorts, and as we wanted to win the golf, all the Mals had fruit juice! The sweep for the Presidents drive was collected by the ‘Stewardess of the day’, Darryl, along with the money for the morning competition, the Perry Pot. Elliot Hick pipped Keith Williams into second place. Nearest the pin was won by Adrian Cowell on the 2nd and Paul Broadbent on the 4th. Lincolnshire la, la! (Enough, Ed). The prizes were kindly sponsored by Oli Collins, James Barry and Sean Calfe. Thank you boys. Rather embarrassingly the President won ‘nearest the fairway!’ on his President’s Drive with a staggering 21 metre drive off the first tee. Alex Polhill won the sweep and was immediately deported to the Mainland for such a disrespectful guess.

The Golf Captain made what was an easy task, selecting the golf team, into some sort of drama, only revealing some pairs after the morning competition. A most enjoyable game was bashed about for 4 hours, leaving the honours even with one game to go. It would be remiss to say, Lincolnshire won the day, but it was true! Guy and the DG eventually won their match 2 & 1, to secure the Cup for the Mals. Thank you again to the Isles of Scilly team for a very competitive match. The Island Golf Club captain spoke very warmly about several members of the Mals golf team and the fact that he personally had never been beaten by any Mal, apart from last night at darts and today on the golf course! There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Andy Smith received the stand-in trophy. Well done Mals, another ‘Blue Riband’ event comfortably in the bag .The bowls team found themselves up against an in form team ‘The Scilly Strikers’ and were well beaten 44 – 17. The pedometer measured 18,770 steps today, it was a good job I had hit the ball straight!

Dinner was again a frantic affair, with results being declared and final teams being announced for the evening’s festivities. Four sports were fought for, the Badminton team were thrashed again, this time by 13 – 3. The rifle shooters (without ‘Top Gun’ captain David Epton) were captained by ‘gunner sergeant’ Charlie Applewhite. An improved Mals score still wasn’t enough to defeat the victorious Islands, 692 – 667. The Mals Merry Men claimed victory (it hadn’t been the best of days) when the toxophilites from the Islands were a no-show. The final official game of the night ‘vineyard snooker’ proved to be about 17,000 steps too far for our captain Guy Simmonds and we repeated the 2022 result by losing 3- 1. It’s been a long, but very pleasant day, rehydration was required.

How can it be Saturday already and the final golf competition? In overcast conditions the prestigious Nosworthy Noggin for goofers, was won by the Jesse James of the Mals, Geoff Snell! Close behind were Alex Polhill and Richard Tredwell. Winner of the golfer’s Bishop’s Beaker was “That’s my Boy” Elliott Hick, with Simon Hewer a very close second.

Anyone for cricket? The game against St. Mary’s is always tough and we wondered whether the cloud cover would favour our swing bowling attack? St. Mary’s batted first, scoring 141. The Mals replied with 104 all out. A valiant 47 from Tom Hinchley, plus a couple of wickets and a superb catch, deservedly won him the Mals ‘Man of the Match.’ Captain Richard Tredwell took 4 wickets and in his post-match interview remarked that playing at altitude had certainly affected some of his players.

Football manager/captain Harry Marsland had failed a last minute fitness test on the mainland so fitness coach David Nottingham very bravely stepped into his well-worn boots. The team selection promised a lot of energy but even more experience.

With an average age far too close to 50 and an Island midfielder signed in a late night transfer coup, the Mals took to the field. A well-drilled Island side faced a spirited Mals team and at the turn it was 1-1. The Mals almost took the lead with the first kick of the second half, striking the crossbar from the kick-off. Everyone earnt maximum points for commitment, including the Islanders linesman who openly criticised the referee when a foul resulted in a Mals free kick! Luckily the Mals played down hill in the second half, but as their legs started to get heavy the scoreline began to get away from them. With a few minutes to go the Mals captain was scythed down in the penalty area (a genuinely accidental elbow, Ed.) The resulting penalty was scored, but was the last kick of the game which finished as a 5-4 win to the Islands. A very close fought game thank you one and all. Thank you also to Andy Lunn for providing unpaid ‘care in the community’ and escorting our captain to the Island blood bin.

Super Saturday Supper was slightly downbeat with losses in the cricket and football, but the announcement of Rob Epton as President Elect lifted the spirits, especially with the thought of nut cutlets in a plimsoll sauce stirring the juices for next year!

The quiz venue had been sold out for weeks and a very close game saw the Mals finish with the silver medal, missing the gold by just 5 points. Official scorer Alex also received an award (first class) for coaching the Islanders in philately! (An indiscreet stamp remark that proved to be the turning point).

Down in the Mermaid the ‘boat race’ teams were warming their glasses! There was some skullduggery last year and some of the Islanders were still serving bans. The contest burped then swallowed and the Islanders again declared themselves the winners. With the replay on BAR available minutes later, certain misdemeanours were spotted but nobody seemed to care! Must be time for a sit down. Fortunately it’s a lie in tomorrow.

A slightly damp Sunday morning resulted in some questions regarding pitch inspections, luckily the answers were ‘full steam ahead’. The shooters shot down the airfield and the tennis and cricket teams plus the ‘barmy army’ boarded the Sea Horse for Tresco.

The tennis squad, Charlie Applewhite, Mr. Organisator, Tredders, Geoff Snell, Keith Williams and the Treasurer looked formidable in the warm up. Unluckily this wasn’t the case in the matches! All three contests were close, in fact all went to third set champion tiebreaks, with the Islanders emerging as 2 – 1 winners overall. The sun then came out and an optimistic Mals cricket team took to the field. Tresco batted first scoring a respectable 131. I think the captain’s report summed up the situation perfectly. “131 was well within our scope until the second ball!” Our flamboyant batting order was soon tamed by the Tresco bowling attack and only a late flurry by Tom Hinchley and Charlie Applewhite made the score more respectable.

I’m sorry to report that the clay shooters were also out gunned. Kevin Ridge proved to be our Top Gun, but still no match for the Islanders who won 201 – 183. Hard luck Mals, maybe next time.

Unbelievably it’s our last night on Scilly! Where did the time go? Despite Storm Agnes, the Trip has been another memorable one, very different in parts but still enjoyable.

The guest night dinner as usual was a sell out with Steve Watt responding to the Islanders toast. He modestly mentioned that this was his third dinner as Island respondent, which must have been an oversight on the administration side! The Endeavour Award was presented to Tom Hinchley, and the Ben Gurion Ethos Award to Charlie Applewhite. Well-done boys, both much deserved. Tim Garratt of the Five Islands School revealed the Merit Trophy winner, Maddie Blackwell. Thank you Maddie for your kind response and we wish you all the best in the future. The Future Fund revealed the most popular of winners, the DG! Free tickets to the Thespian’s all round! A cast of thousands, very loosely based around Ali Baba, took us through the life of Alastair Hick, and the ultimate pinnacle of his life, when he became President of the Mal de Mers.

Thank you Islanders, thank you Mals and thank you Mr President for leading us through another very special Trip. Unfortunately the weather once again interfered with our travel plans and the boat trip back meant travelling home in the dark and some very late nights…

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Wednesday 25th September, 2024
Monday 30th September, 2024