Yesterday Mr Mustard's neighbours had tickets for the centre court at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club. What a lovely day they had.
Next week he is meeting friends in Cambridge for lunch and one of them was in recent years the senior world doubles champion at Real Tennis.
Tonight he had a free ticket in the public gallery for a game of Unreal Tennis at Hendon Town Hall in Committee Room 1 for the quarterly General Functions Committee Challenge Cup. The rules of Unreal tennis are unreal; there isn't a net, there are several players on the Court at once, they all have different coloured balls ( only blue, red or yellow, no green or white ) and the Umpire is likely to be slightly biased as she also plays the game.
Playing tonight with their ball of choice were, in no particular order :
Cllr Hutton - red ball
Cllr Farrier - red ball
Cllr Prentice - blue ball
Cllr Thomas - blue ball
Cllr Rams - blue ball
Cllr Suzette Palmer - yellow ball
Cllr Scannell - extra special blue ball.
It was an evening match of 6 games.
Cllr Palmer had been having some extra coaching in the Rules ( lots of them, there are orders about standing, points about order and all sorts of rules that Mr Mustard does not yet fully understand. He keeps reading the Rule Book but it isn't written in a language he understands ) as she claimed that the first 4 games, she called them games 6,7,8 & 9 ( you see I told you the rules were unreal ) should be part of the Monthly Cabinet Cup. The other players weren't having that, they had come to play and play they would. There was a vote and Cllr Palmer suffered a defeat on the tie-break. The players breathed a sigh of relief and play started.
7.07pm - Game 6 started. The Cash Collector Game.
There is only meant to be one ball in play at once and it lights up when the player hits it.
Cllr Hutton was quick to serve, she thought this round was being played too early.
Coach Christofi ( yes the coaches are always there and they think they are really playing the game when they should actually help the Councillors, one day they will realise ) stuck her racket in and said it was only a proposal to sack the ground staff although they were already consulting them for 90 days and then in came Cllr Thomas ( he thinks he has lovely ball control but his play seemed a bit coarse to Mr Mustard ) with a gentle lob that it was only if it was applicable that the ground staff would be sent into the long grass.
Cllr Rams then played what he thought was his ace, but it hit the net cord; if we wait till later will it cost more money ?
Coach Christofi then tried to play but she really didn't know which ball she was trying to hit so she missed the point entirely.
Eventually the game came to an end and only Cllr Prentice hadn't waved her racket at anything but now she threw her blue ball in with the others so that was 4 blues win, 2 reds lose and the yellow ball was kept back. The game had only lasted 4 minutes.
7.12 pm - Game 7 started. The IS & Procurement Cup ( formerly sponsored by MetPro - now looking for a new sponsor )
Coach Craig Cooper explained some new Rules about internal transformation, devolved procurement, centralised unit, transferring out that no-one seemed to understand and that he was going to get the top coach Andre Agilisys in to help so everyone would be able to play in the Procurement Cup ( contract definitely needed to play in that one ).
Cllr Palmer's yellow ball was straight in - foul - the Referee had panned that Cup, no-one had been following the Rules and she needed to know a lot more before that Cup could start. Oh, and the scoreboard is rubbish, its still running XP; will these new Rules help; she certainly didn't think so.
Cllr Thomas played a deflection and blamed a former player called MetPro who no longer played so that was all right then.
Coach Cooper was back; he wasn't trying to hand the Cup over to an outside contractor; this was just a tidy up of the Rules, get all of the team on one set of Courts instead of all over the Borough, oh and the scoreboard was wonderful.
The game had been going for 6 minutes and then the super blue ball came out. This game has to be replayed at a future date and a full set of new Rules is to be scrutinised closely.
7.18 pm - Game 8 starts - The less HR the better Cup
This was a new reduced format Cup after the very difficult Cup of 16 months ago when many players had to retire early from the game due to personnel circumstances. This game was started by Consultant Coach McGeachie. Schools had been saying that the HR Cup was being played too slowly and that they didn't know their basic strokes. To fix this another 7 out of 14 ground staff were going to football or something instead, anything as long as it was outside of these grounds and they would all be gone by 15 July. It didn't seem like long to learn a new sport.
Coach McGeachie said every effort would be made to help people continue at Unreal Tennis, except for letting some of them continue at Unreal Tennis ( don't blame Mr Mustard if you don't follow the Rules; nor does anyone else ).
4 Minutes later this game was over. All the balls went the same way.
7.22 Game 9 - The TUPE Challenge Cup
The Union representative was allowed 3 minutes in which she was allowed to try and explain why the TUPE rule book couldn't just be torn up the day after people changed league. She had picked up a 2 minute time penalty somewhere which wasn't explained in the Rules but the umpire's word is final so she adjusted her game and served hard. 76% of the ground staff were in favour of downing their tools if these Rule Changes were pushed through. Why couldn't they stay at the same club, go on free transfers to other clubs and remain paid by their home club?
Cllr Farrier was first in with a fine return of serve. She wanted to see a better quality game and that wasn't about ticket prices. She had been out on loan herself in the past and everything had been fine. She accused the Coaches of cack handedness. From the second row Mr Mustard couldn't see the faces of the coaches but he bets they were not a pretty picture.
Cllr Hutton had her racket out. How would the Rules be monitored she wanted to know ?
Coach Amanda Jackson stepped onto the Court. She had overdosed on OneBarnet pills and Mr Mustard heard another member of the audience shout out "gobbledygook" and so he didn't hear what she said. He is sure that doesn't matter.
Cllr Thomas was there arguing the Rules again. Rules questions are not for this committee. The ball was out.
Cllr Palmer also then argued about Rules and agreed that the proposed Rule changes would get changed by the satellite tour later and there was nothing the Unreal committee would be able to do about that.
Coach Sarah Murphy-Brookman chose to step in at this point with a precis of the new TUPE rules which no-one believed.
Cllr Palmer tried a late smash whilst enunciating "remember Connaught Homes" but the ball flew off court. In came the balls, 4 blue, 2 red and the yellow one in the crowd somewhere. That game had lasted 16 minutes; a record.
7.38pm - Game 10 - The School Governing Bodies Cup
Everyone was exhausted from the last game and so for this one all the balls were thrown in. On to the next game.
7.38 pm - Game 11 - The (Redundancy) Management (& Staff) Cup
The coaches were really up for this Cup. The players had seen this sort of Cup before and were nervous as supporters of the game, who provide all the money, had been complaining about unsportsmanlike play.
Coach Murphy-Brookman thought it was a great competition. Not as many ground staff had been knocked out as predicted; only 168 instead of 345 with an initial entry of 900. "How marvellous" she said. Those with the best knowledge had been retained and the worst 168 ground staff had been let go.
Then she tried an ambitious shot and got stuck on the baseline with balls raining down from all directions.
Cllr Rams was uneasy ( he usually makes Mr Mustard uneasy ! but that was a good return he made )
Cllr Harrier played a ball hard at her feet, the coach didn't know how to return it.
Cllr Hutton slammed another ball in the coach's direction and finally Cllr Thomas suggested a Rule change which was no rule change at all - the status quo. Where was Cllr Prentice - sitting very quietly on her chair collecting her Cup appearance money; she hardly played a shot in any game.
Coaches would not be able to send ground staff home against their will; only players could and the players felt that the public who pay for the game should be able to see it played out in all its glory. So an 11 minute game and that was it the match was over and the crowd dispersed.
The coaches escaped ( one had been overheard asking one of the linesmen if he could leave the match as soon as he had played but he was either so fascinated by the new style of play with players being much more aggressive, either that or the ball he took in the groin, that he did actually stay. One would think that a coach earning £130,000 a year could watch his players play a whole match which takes less than an hour. Mr Mustard knows who you are coach ) and then the players who usually have a little secret knock about also put their rackets and balls away.
The next match is expected to be even tougher in September when the players come back refreshed from their break.