Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: Chaucer goes to Wimbledon

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In Competition No. 3345, you were invited to submit a report on a popular sporting event as it might have been written by someone who is not first and foremost a sportswriter. In a high-class field, David Silverman, the Revd Dr Peter Mullen and Ben Hale were unlucky to lose out on the £25 which goes to the winners below:

It is the usual nightmare. I select a horse of those milling at the start of a steeplechase. I opt for the grey, committing immediately a humiliating crime against the form book Father scrupulously maintained. No steeple materialising from the winter gloom, I grow anxious how the race can be completed before it is commenced. The beasts set out at the wordless behest of a figure on a rostrum. They are guided by the insistent hands and elbows of jockeys, ancient, weatherworn children holding whips in ominous reserve for the closing stages. The race extends over several miles, the prominent performance of the grey horse increasing the certainty of its ultimate failure. A darker horse ridden with presumptive confidence looms always in cool pursuit. Hulking fences winnow the runners and my grey falls, to howls barely recognisable as mine, at the last. I instruct Max Brod: incinerate my betting slips.

Adrian Fry/ Kafka

When that in sommer with his gentil sonne

Folkes make a pilgrimage to Wimbledonne

They gatherre in a mounde lik manye ants

To see yonge ladyes show hir underpantes.

And also menne hir play with furrie balle

And listenne carefulye when judges calle.

Lik fiendes they runne and jumpe with naked thighyes

To rousse a chere or else to winne a prize.

And muche distressed they are if they shoodde het

The litel furrie balle againste the nette.

Bothe yongen too and olden com to watche

What folkes informe me is a tennis match.

Butte tho I tried to seeke for reasons why

The motley crowde hir cam, confused am I.

Frank Mc Donald/Chaucer

Still to be left, left in the channel, ball from outfield to infield, carried on boot, left and cross, no more, he gave up, that’s how it seemed, dribble and a cross, asprawl after tackle, impossible he should go on, that’s how it seemed, cross to the right, always to the right, ground wet and receptive, the crowd restive, breath held tight, into the area, that’s how it seemed, but how if he feints, to the right, that’s how it seemed, swerve and dink, slowing to halt, still and not still, that’s how it seemed, voices whispering in stands, rain in faces, but why to the right, right and no other, net in sight, impossible he should shoot, yet tackle and sidestep, left and a zigzag, impossible that he would, that’s how it seemed, nous and a nutmeg, ball still spinning, VAR forgotten, onside not offside, goal and the Cup.

Bill Greenwell/ Samuel Beckett

You may wonder why the Wooster brain cell has legged it to jolly old Qatar to offer words of wisdom on a football match. I find myself in this somewhat rummy situation thanks to a regrettable wager with young Bingo Little. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that when I toddle in after a leisurely lunch, I find our chaps have just scored something called an equalizer. ‘Good-oh!’ I say, ‘We’ll jolly well thwart these French chappies, eh?’ Jeeves looks thoughtful. ‘I fear, sir, our left flank may be vulnerable… indeed, they’ve scored another goal.’ ‘Great Scott! Good egg!’ ‘No, sir, I think you will find a favourable outcome was achieved by the opposing team…’ Can’t say I’ve grasped this game yet, dash it. Waking from a brief post-prandial snooze, I notice Jeeves is a tad downhearted. ‘The penalty, sir. He missed it.’ Jeeves is inconsolable.

Sylvia Fairley/ P.G. Wodehouse

Those of you familiar with my work might think my talents lie elsewhere but when asked to report on the Open, claret jug and all, I’m like, why not? As an old paramour of mine, who collects golf courses and has handled a few jugs in his time, once said: ‘You gotta think big.’ So suitably attired in open crotch plus fours, I’m here at Trumpberry where much fancied Spaniard Maximo Machismo makes full use of his whippy shaft and thrusts in front. Handsy South African Retief Goosem is lucky to get relief in the rough and go down in one while Dutchman Magnus Koch comes from behind with a late surge. Local hero Roger Mee keeps his end up but is disappointed with his 69, blaming a lack of feel round the hole, something I’m able to help him with later. Full disclosure. Golf isn’t cool. It’s hot!

Sue Pickard/Stormy Daniels

Mr Lucas J. Davenant stepped on to the balcony of the executive box, into the noise, stink and cold of the big soccer match. He would have preferred to be among the sweat and trivial fanaticism of the crowd but, up here, they served drinks, big, cold, carnivorous American-style drinks. His host, Gunsby, was indulging the pretence that he could shout into his phone privately. Davenant loved money and vulgarity. Here was plenty of both. The stadium was a beehive where each group knew its role. He stood enthralled by the uncomprehended, intricate waggle-dance of the players. The big African defender floored his man and there was a drama of waving arms, anger, dismay, pleas, consultations. Play on. This guy was pulling down millions to floor his opponents. Davenant decided to track the big African defender and pick a fight. He needed the taste of blood in his mouth.

Frank Upton/ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Something – the search for duality, or an atavistic craving for a pie – compelled me to make the savage pilgrimage to Wembley, my mood labile, with an inchoate sense of transgressive pleasures to come. I yearned for the epiphanic, ancient purity of England (vs Belgium) or to be cradled in the holiness of match-passion. A taut, swollen, sinuous rut. With a ball. Rapt beneath the strangely numinous beauty of the arch, I felt a tingling disquiet as the ‘playful rainbow-cross update’ was visible on England’s charcoal-coloured shirts. With glazed fury I witnessed a detumescent rearguard acquiesce. Somebody flapped an appendage at a clearance, gifting a present to a Belgian. Somebody, tormented by the burden of himself, fell over. But somebody’s haunches gleamed as he notched a penalty kick, and somebody’s deep-seated desire for parity rose like the sap in a sycamore.

And, at the end of the day, four lads scored.

Richard Spencer/ D.H. Lawrence

No. 3348: A tale of one city

You are invited to submit an extract of up to 150 words in which Charles Dickens writes about today’s London. Please email entries to by 1 May.