Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Show Announcers

Lillian and Norman Haddock had been members of the Committee at the Vale of Vaysey Riding club for decades. They were re-elected at successive AGMs and retained their seats regardless of changes at the helm of the Club.

The Haddocks attributed their longevity to hard work and a generally perceived “niceness.”

Their real secret, however, was that they did not aspire to power or pose a threat to anyone.

As jobs were allocated to the Committee members for the Club’s programme of show-jumping galas, one day events and dressage competitions, the duo of Norman and Lillian were invariably inked-in for ring announcer and commentator duties.

Norman prepared assiduously for each event on the dining room table in the their dormer bungalow in the picturesque hamlet of Upper Denture. He was a mine of information, statistics and horsy gossip. He enjoyed pointing out little-known facts to his audience, usually coupled with a cheerful quip or avuncular advice. No-one could say he wore his research lightly.

Lillian’s numerous jobs included the collation of competitor lists, scoring and keeping an eagle eye out for fences down and other infringements.

Mrs Haddock was the unchallenged mistress of the Club’s Longines stopwatch and pushed the button to ring the very loud bell to announce the beginning or unfortunate early end of every round.

Norman required a seamless supply of data at just the right moment to enable his announcement to achieve the required air of effortless authority.

When it was time for dressage to music, Lillian cued the music over the public address system precisely as required.

Everyone at the Club knew that whilst
Norman may have been the star striker who won most attention, it was Lillian that was the midfield dynamo who really made the team tick.

To be honest, the spotlight tended to go to Norman’s head on occasion and he was testy if not downright snappy if the correct name or information wasn’t immediately to hand when needed.

On the rare occasions that Lillian had actually gained solo control of the microphone, when Norman had to attend to call of nature, he was not above intervening with a correction on his return.

For her part Lillian bore such humiliations and periodic brusqueness with patience and resignation. Occasionally she would “go quiet" for a good twenty minutes in protest at a particularly rude contradiction, but
Norman simply never noticed and sailed on regardless.

He’s off again” she thought as
Norman took flight with another exotic metaphor or reminiscence about the Hickstead Derby in ’73.

Very rarely,
Norman’s commentary adopted a conversational tone and Lillian was invited to express an opinion on a competitor’s record or technique. Such input usually ended in tears when Norman brutally disagreed with Lillian’s contribution.   
Only on one memorable occasion, thinking the microphone was switched off, did Lillian tell Norman in surprisingly graphic Anglo-Saxon terms "where to stick your patronising corrections."

Members still quote Lilian's remarks and Norman's blustering protestations in response: "Steady on Lil, old girl. It seems a chap can't make a constructive observation. Keep yer hair on." Despite incidents such as this, on most occasions, Lillian still did her best to accommodate Norman’s demands, glares and finger-snapping in the commentary box.

He thought of himself as a great communicator in the proud equestrian tradition of the legendary Dorian Williams.
More like Doreen Williams at the off-licence” thought Lillian, quietly.

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