Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Great English Game - Greengrass

It was the day that England had the gall to go Gallic, beating France by playing them at their own, inimitable, crazy-paving game.

I toddled along to my sports pub in Stockholm, arriving half an hour before kick-off to be sure of finding a seat with a good view of the big screen. As I passed the side of the pub, I glanced inside and saw a heaving sea of green and white. The penny dropped: Celtic were playing Rangers.

I took a last, deep drag on my cigarillo, survived a coughing fit and made for the entrance. Gearing myself up to wade through a welter of Fergiespeak, I lunged for a slot next to a bearded kilt at the bar. Pint pulled and tasted, I turned to survey the scene: where was the best place to stand?

Then the next penny dropped: Hammarby! Not Celtic scarves - Hammarby scarves! Yes - local club Hammarby, with their green-and-white colours, were in the semi-finals of Sweden’s bandy championship, and their ground is a stone’s throw from the pub. Their fans were here in force, enjoying a pint before the game.

Bandy? To put it simply, bandy is hockey on ice. It’s not ice hockey - the players don’t wear all that silly protective gear, and it’s not played on a small rink. The pitch is about the size of a football pitch and there are eleven players on each side. It is hockey, adapted to the climate of a country which - until recently - enjoyed long, icy winters.

Bandy has many positive aspects. One is that big money has not taken over: it is still, if you like, the ”people’s game”. And bandy people have a whole ”bandy culture” of their own - not least the bandy briefcase. This briefcase - preferably of the brown, retro variety - traditionally holds all that is needed to brave two hours standing in an open wintry arena, i.e. a thermos filled with coffee and a hip flask filled with hooch. It’s a great Swedish game!

A great Swedish game? No - a great English game! Bandy originated in the Fens, and its rules were formulated in 1891 by C.G. Tebbutt, captain of the Bury Fen Bandy Club, when the National Bandy Association was founded in England. In 1894, Tebbutt visited Stockholm to spread the gospel. Perhaps he took along star player William ”Turkey” Smart, whose surname mirrored his way of skating - hunched forward, arms a-flailing, just like today's players.

Some say that it’s all the fault of a volcano on the other side of the Earth. In 1883, Krakatoa erupted in faraway Indonesia. Its soot and ash polluted the atmosphere, leading to a low-budget version of the Ice Age in Europe. Markets were held on the frozen Thames. The wetlands of the Fens froze, too, and the locals had no choice: if they fancied a game of hockey, they had to play on ice. Anyone for bowls? Oh, sorry - curling!

These days, bandy is big in Scandinavia, Russia and (cue: Borat) Kazakhstan - but hardly anyone knows about the game in its native Fen country. Strange, really, in view of the fact that an English bandy club has won the European Cup - the footy version, that is. The original name of Notts Forest was, apparently, The Nottingham Forest Football and Bandy Club...

48 comments:

MotM said...

GG - You don't say that the Brits invented Bandy! I had that down as the quintessentially Swedish game.

I've seen it on SVT and the commercial channels and I love the hoardings around the grounds which seem to be advertising the local barber or florist. I enjoy watching it, but prefer the ice hockey for the histrionics of the coaches, the interviews with players spouting blood and the Lord of the Rings style Golden Helmets that our Karlstad team have recently won more often than not.

Great to read of another sporting culture and amazing to learn of its history.

allwell said...

I like this a lot. Not only have I never seen bandy, I've never even heard of it. Clearly, I need to get out more.
Did you enter this into Big Blogger?
One thing though. I'm led to believe that the one way to guarantee a hissy fit from a Forest fan is to refer to their team as Notts Forest. Notts County, yes, because Notts is short for Nottinghamshire, but Notts Forest, never. Apparently.

bluedaddy said...

Bandy? Just dandy. Nice tone GG. A blend of information and personal experience; sport and booze. What more could we want? Maybe a song?

19th Century Britain does seem to be an extraordinarily productive time for inventing/codifying sporting pastimes.

bluedaddy said...

Allwell. This site is fast becoming the World of Sport of the web. All manner of interesting but obscure sports are being showcased. But does that make Ebren Dickie Davies, and AndrewM Fred Dinnennennage?

And you're right about the Notts Forest NoNo midduk!

greengrass said...

I stand corrected on "Notts Forest": I've been away from Blighty far too long (I even get hammered for calling my beloved Red Devils "Man U"). My profuse apologies to any Nottingham Forest fans who might stray on here (touches forelock).

Big Blogger? No thanks - I prefer a friendly forum like this to a dodgy competition like that. I might compete if there was a big prize on offer, but this place is far superior.
Anyway, I'm thrice banned from GU - how could I expect a fair deal on Big Blogger when I can't get one on the blogs?
gg

andrewm said...

GG, very interesting and a nice personal touch to it as well. Can't say I'd ever heard of bandy but it sounds like fun, especially the coffee and hooch part.

pipita said...

Greengrass

Superb. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I also was completely ignorant about the existence of this sport, wouldnt think Astor ever heard about it either...

Bluedaddy

Dickie Davis??bloody hell!!What nostalgia, makes me remember saturday afternoon's as a kid waiting anxiously for him and all those unappealing sports to get off the screen and have "Land of the Giants" take over...

MotM said...

Dickie Davies? Did anyone see Eric Morecambe guest on World of Sport? The entire crew were in convulsions and DD was rendered speechless - I don't think anyone found out who won the ITV 7 that Saturday.

pipita said...

Mouth

That must have been priceless!! I only remember Benny Hill's imitations of Dickie's World of Sports. Seem to recall he was portrayed as a drunkard who was touching his secretaries, those you could see at the back of the set, all over

MotM said...

That was pretty much how Benny Hill portrayed everyone!

Zeph said...

Trust us Brits to invent a sport with a silly name, eh? Very enjoyable piece - I especially like the briefcases...

greengrass said...

Benny Hill, indeed!
Is this a quichey attempt to hijack the thread?
You'll be opening a virtual taproom next...
gg
P.S. Just heard a whisper that an old, stroppy, poster friend has been banned again, thus putting himself in a position to get back on and equal my record. I'd better get on there again rapid - ready to behave impeccably, but still fall foul of the moderators.
Oh, Modfather Andy, where art thou?

andrewm said...

GG, I'm just trying to digest the news that the old scoundrel has done it again. What a rascal he is :o)

marcela said...

gg - superb. as bd says, perfect blend of information and personal.
hockey on ice - not ice hockey.
i love when just six words can convey so much! simple tastes, mine, really.

indonesian volcanoes in olden days has an almost OiT feel to it, and the local pub full of scarf clad supporters is a nice image too.

made me ictchy to read more...

hannibalbrooks said...

Brilliant GG!! I loved it.

... and for those who pine for Dickie, here is a treat, but beware; Alan Minter was still world middleweight champ and Chelsea were in the second division ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcEXQiYO9do

olivier said...

Don't encourage him. It's obvious that he's making it all up. I mean, who's ever heard of Bandy? Seriously? It's just another one of those imaginary games that people in Sweden invent to relieve the boredom of the long winters. And the influence of Indonesian volcanoes on british sports? Oh please...

And England beating France? Fiction again, and a real stretch of the imagination at that.

bluedaddy said...

I know what you mean OiT. Korfball, Stoolball, Bandy, Va'a Racing... it's all bullshit, and I for one won't stand for it!

offside said...

BD,

What we should agree on is whether this place is an on-line journalism school or a creative writing course. Articles like this one only add to the confusion. What next, Peter Crouch as a Premiership striker? Get a grip, people.

greengrass said...

Offside, BD -
there ARE some Swedish sports which appear to have been invented to relieve the boredom of the long, dark, Swedish winters. One is the famous "Summer" game, which consists of a bunch of people sitting together and guessing if and when summer will occur; come autumn, they try to identify which day it actually occurred.
There's a Finnish version, too, where those involved don't guess out loud, but sit together in silence and think about the day that summer might occur/occurred.
Then there are the Swedish women.
Nuff said.

Now, look - when it comes to bandy, seriously...
Oh, forget it!
GG

pipita said...

Offside

Youve been sending some very inspired comments lately. I particularly enjoyed this one you sent to pondwatching on sid's thread yesterday: "hear the caribou are pretty good at doing the gambeta too". Keep it up

olivier said...

pipita,

if you want an article on cariball (teams/herds of caribou doing the gambeta across the toundra using a seal pup for a ball) you should talk to greengrass. He's the expert on imaginary hyperboreal games.

pipita said...

Crikey, that sounds fascinating, a Professor Greengrass lecture on cariball. Where does one apply for this?? Definetly count me in

greengrass said...

Can't we get some real blog feeling on here? Isn't there someone worth banning for doing sweet f.a.? Offside must be a candidate, in serious danger of dropping his paddle by having a mild dig at the writer of the article (a cardinal sin, punished by excommunication, on the GU).
And speaking of the writer (who, I realise with mild surprise, is none other than my good self), can't someone come on with one of those crawling posts along the lines of "Oh, Mr. Greengrass, sir, you must be such a nice person: you, a proper writer, come on here and mix with us mere posters like wot we were - well, human beings, like." Come on, big me up - Marcela gets droves of those!
Greengrass
P.S. Are my ancient eyes playing tricks with me, or do we in fact have - procentually - far, far more female posters on here than the GU has ever had?

offside said...

greengrass,

I believe the proper formula is "big me up, Scotty"...

About the percentage of women, I wonder if it has anything to do with some of the bloggers' plan to set up a "Bi Blogger" thingy.

Apparently, the suspects have already (and very cunningly) changed their names to bluemommy and MyGrandMothaAndMe.

greengrass said...

offside -
must you be so brutally honest? I believed that all the gels came on here because they thought us more attractive than, say, Glendenning.
OK, then - I think I'll go back on GU in transvestite guise, as "DogSavetheQueen".

pipita said...

Greengrass

Beat me to it, I was thinking exactly about that. So I assume Ebren's the Seani here, doing all the banning

offside said...

DogSavetheDragQueen, more like.

Ebren said...

While I agree that I am far more attractive than other sports blog editors - I am afraid I can't ban people.

I can delete posts, articles, and even restrict use (as well as having the option to read, alter, and apporve every comment that goes on here).

But ban I can't.

greengrass said...

pipita -
are you going trannie too?
Mrs. Greengrass just told me to stop parading about in her best frock or I'll be scaring the neighbour's dog (one of those French pooches, very sensitive).
Anyway, she's ordered me to stop being silly and get off to bed.
Night, all!
GG

pipita said...

Greengrass

Mrs pipita has been complaining about the very same thing ever since I first entered the GU blog

offside said...

Ebren,

banning people is dangerous. Think of the potential consequences. Some bloggers would break away, form a (better) counter-blog, write their own articles, enjoy complete freedom of expression...

Scary.

pipita said...

Yeah, just imagine, next thing they'll start receiving canooing articles from offside, and cheesy comments from pipita

bluedaddy said...

GG: Mrs. Greengrass just told me to stop parading about in her best frock or I'll be scaring the neighbour's dog (one of those French pooches, very sensitive).
Anyway, she's ordered me to stop being silly and get off to bed.

And people wonder why he keeps getting banned!

Can't even remotely stay on topic, and out of his wife's wardrobe, on his own bleedin blog.

Bloody great post though :0)

offside said...

"Can't even remotely stay on topic"

On his own article, I might add. A lost cause if you ask me.

Still, I'm on strike 'til he comes back.

offside said...

Sorry bluedaddy, you did say that: "on his own bleeding blog", which I managed to misread as "on his own bleeding dog", which even I thought was strange.

That'll teach me to blog and shave my legs simultaneously.

guy anthome said...

greengrass,all i ever know about hockey was that these guys skating around in a plastic helmet, waving a stick in the air when the puck was in the net, had just scored a goal.Until wayne gretzky was traded to the los angeles kings.This guy didn't even look like a hockey player, he wasn't big, he has a baby face with blond long hair, you would have figured him for a surfer if you'd run into him on the sand at santa monica.He could be the angel at a christmas play. But this was aguy who had scored the most goals ,92, in a single season and brought L.A to the stanley cup final.

greengrass said...

guy -
all you ever knew about ice hockey was all that anyone ever needs to know. It's a girlie sport - all that protective clothing! So typical of the U.S. of A. Look at American Football, which those big girls' blouses romanticise as "gridiron"! Roughly the same as rugby - in no way more dangerous - and they have to don mattresses and crash helmets before they even dare to go out on the field and fondle each other.

The LA Kinks? There's no bloody ice in Los Angeles - talk about a contrived "sport"!

Give me an honest-to-goodness game of bandy anyday (as long as I don't actually have to go and watch it: I can't find a frock that's warm enough).
Greengrass

miro said...

please, please, please

Don't allow your/our self-sufficiency and self-love to prevail!

Don't make a pseuds' corner a REAL pseuds' corner!

greengrass said...

Miro -
don't worry! This is just teething troubles, a rush of blood...
We're not used to enjoying all this freedom!
GG

offside said...

I don't know, greengrass, this could be something else altogether, something more sinister.

Have you read Mouth and Mimi's piece? I am not ready to seek help.

greengrass said...

offside -
it's all down to who is doing the counselling bit.
Maybe we get the Blogaholic counsellors we deserve:
(sings, ruminatively)
I'm hoping for Harry,
I might get Barry.
We blogaholics
Have had our frolics.
When every wife
Says "Get a life!",
We come round here,
And now it's clear:

(All hell breaks loose in a community chorus):
We must stop posting!
We must stop posting!
We must stop posting!
It's time to move.
We must stop posting!
We must stop posting!
We must start finding
A better groove...

Scratch solo by 4tt, cocktail-shaker maraccas by Offside, posters cariboogie-
ing all over the place...

Ebren said...

I assume that was meant for mimi and MotM's thread?

it's fun regardless - I imagine it to a tango beat to keep the Argies happy.

MotM said...

GG - I have written some appalling verse at the same time you were working up this ditty.

I'm hoping Ebren will see fit to publish and that it will spur others to rhyme.

pipita said...

Not to worry ebren, professor greengrass is a graduate of the astor piazzola academy, so he
will bring along his bandoneon

greengrass said...

Yes, a tango it is, with an Eric Idle-like reflective verse (definite Piazzola flavour), then a Spice Girls-inspired marching chorus.
Mind, I think it's more likely to scare other posters from rhyme than spur them onto it...

mimi said...

Loved this. We truly are becoming the 21st Century's Wide World of Sport.
Could the Bandy Briefcases be the origin the much-mocked today Man Bags?

offside said...

Well, greengrass, if that thread isn't a tribute to your particular brand of wacky off-topicness, I don't know what is.

Blogging on ice, I call it.

guitougoal said...

another night at cleaning and closing, i'll tell ya these bloggers are crazy. Could you, at least, turn off the light on your way out....please.

Tweet it, digg it