Innocent, whopping games of summer

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By madcap inventor John Ward

June, the month and not anybody of the same name as in human form, seems to be the month where silliness in assorted forms takes over, as I was reminded a little while ago as I was wandering around the St Tropez of Lincolnshire, Skegness. I had bumped into somebody I knew years ago although there is a gap of some years now since we last met (he tells me) and in those heady days of the 1980s, which was in the last segment of the previous century before you wonder, and not a measurement for clothing, and he took part in a traditional old English sport called – wait furrit, wait furrit – Wallow Whopping. Yes indeedy, as ,would I fib to you?

I thought the idea up as a sort of silly sport that filled a slot in a local gala event where I used to live and, for my sins, also helped organise among friends and neighbours who all clubbed together our resources and ran it. We did them for four years and they made money for assorted charities in the process while getting the local kids off the street – it’s amazing how you can stack them up in rows in people’s front gardens, but there you go – but it was down to somebody saying “there’s nothing for the kids to do around here”. We also ran soapbox derbies as another event for them.

You may be wondering by now what was/is Wallow Whopping and you may well ask. It was born out of desperation, the need to fill a hole in the events programme and above all else, cheap. The idea was that water-filled balloons were thrown over a fixed wire, a bit like volleyball, but the wire was five feet high, stretched between two posts, and the idea was, two teams of five threw these water-filled balloons over the wire and on the other side, they were caught (hopefully) in plastic buckets. Those intact were awarded points, as what do points make? Sharp bits at the end of darts, pins and nails of course (good game, good game, and back to the ole scoreboard).

This proved to be a winner as it was indeed cheap, a good time-killer plus the kids loved filling the balloons up as quite a few went pop before being fully filled and on a hot June afternoon (remember them?) this was a bonus to them as they got covered in water and it gave a whole new meaning to good, clean fun. Now step forward somebody from the then local radio station, in the form of their ace reporter, Lucinda Dazzling-Wotever who had heard word of this traditional, centuries old English pastime (that had recently been thought up, lest we forget, amigos) and to her mind, size questionable, and with a whole career in front of her, anything that smelt of bonus points on the slippery slope of career advancement were helpful and so she appeared with microphone at the ready, as I took her on a whistlestop delve into the ancient sport of Wallow Whopping.

I explained, with straight face as best I could muster, that it evolved from the old English practice of when a young girl wished to walk out with a boy from the other side of the river, as it was in those days before cattle grids as rivers were cheaper and already there of course, the practice was to stand on one side of the river which separated them, and the boy would throw a sheep’s bladder filled with water across the river and if the girl caught it in the pail used for getting water from the well (as there were no taps fitted on the river), she was granted permission to go a-courting, as this was seen as an initiation of sorts. It proved if the boy had good eyesight, and, always a good thing when milking cows, as it’s best to know or see which end you are dealing with, if the girl was swift of eye and arm to catch the bladder, which down the years was called the Wallow and this throwing was called Whopping, hence the process being called Wallow Whopping.

To the casual passer-by, this might seem like a right load of moo-cow droppings and you would be right, trust me – but not to Lucinda Dazzling-Wotever, who perhaps saw this as a scoop (it’s like a small shovel but more curved) and, as she listened intently to every word as her eyes bulged in their sockets, I wondered if there was room between her ears for anything to take the slack up as in perhaps, say, a brain.

Now would anybody fall for something like this? Well, yes, she and the station did as it did go out on air (just the once, we believe) but my point is that if you can say things with conviction and a straight face, then anything is possible as, after all, we were told there is a hole in the ozone layer but nobody has ever produced a photo of the hole, although the job to repair it has never been put out to tender to repair it, but we believe it of course, or rather some still do I’m told, but I am still holding out to see the photo of the damage before I commit myself.

Back to the encounter, then, in “Chip Shop Alley” in Skegness. Kev was in a Wallow Whopping team that won it the second year, he said, and to be fair, it’s been a while now, plus I have slept since then, so I didn’t really recognise him, but he asked, when was the Whopping coming back, like? I pointed out I have moved on, in a manner of speaking, as in the area I live in and, as I am presently into the fine old art of Cabbage Hurling that I put together as a form of fun sport that involved local grown produce, cabbages, being propelled from basic Trebuchets – or big catapults in simple terms – towards stationary targets, as in this instance, old tyres, and with a prize of £150 plus silver cup for any three-adult team, so not bad going and beats the old goldfish in a plastic bag malarkey.

Originally there was the usual bleating of “wasteful” at the start, but all the remains are used as cattle feed afterwards, so not as messy or wasteful as some other sports where there is nothing left afterwards but plain mess.

It’s now in its fourth year and the number of references to it on the almighty internet is impressive and it’s being held at the forthcoming Holbeach Town and Country Fayre (blatant plug!) so why not pop along and see for yourself how this all works? Plus, have a look around at all the other events going on from stalls to arena events and as a bonus – we spoil you, we really do – if you mention this column, you get a free handshake plus directions on where to find your car in the car park, where you tied your horse up, or which tree you leaned your bike against, as this is mainly what the summer is about,having fun.