The Thamesian: ‘Why squash with my dad made me love bar billiards’

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WELL played to Guy Fotherby and Darren Withey who set a new world record by playing squash in Thame for 31 hours, 35 minutes and 34 seconds.

A total of 475 consecutive games of squash is pretty impressive but raising £10,000 for Cancer Research and the Chiltern Centre for Disabled Children is even more impressive.

If I ever have 31 hours, 35 minutes and 35 seconds to spare I aim to break their record, just out of spite.

All told I reckon I spent around that amount of time at Racquets in my youth. Back then it was Thame Squash Club and most of that time was spent trying in vain to beat my dad at squash.

He had the philosophy that he would never take it easy on me and would play any sport as though his life depended on it; if I beat him then I had done it on merit and could feel very proud.

Naturally, I lost most games 9-0, but it forced me to improve my game and develop a competitive streak, even if the odds were stacked in his favour. He was 33. I was eight.

Afterwards we would retire to the bar and the fevered competitive spirit would be tested over a fiendishly ferocious game of bar billiards.

I think I loved that game more than squash to be honest.

If you haven’t seen a bar billiards table then think of a quarter sized pool table but the pockets are sunk into the table rather than in the corners and are all worth different points. Two white mushrooms and one black one guard the most valuable pockets and you lose your score if you knock them over. Like Super Mario meets snooker.

Unlike any other sport you have ever played bar billiards hinges on the last shot every time. You have to plant the last ball into the 200 hole which is next to the black mushroom. Knock the mushroom over and your entire score is wiped out.

Imagine England 600 runs ahead in the Ashes with one wicket to get and someone knocks the mushroom over and they lose.

Imagine Wayne Rooney nodding home a hat-trick in the World Cup final and toppling the mushroom in his celebrations. Actually, I can imagine that but it is still a ridiculous rule.

In writing this I thought I would challenge my dad to a game now, partly for old time’s sake but mostly because I might actually beat him.

I checked out the All England Bar Billiards Association website (www.aebba.org.uk) and was mildly upset to find that the nearest table is apparently in Ibstone. I soon got over this disappointment when I saw that Oxfordshire’s top player, ranked third in the country, is none other than Phil Collins. Drumtastic. Keep away from those mushrooms Baldy. Me? I am off for a 32-hour game of bar billiards where the score ends up 0-0. Someone call Norris McWhirter.