I have had a few letters from readers asking me to explain the rules of the board game Dentistâ€™s Potting Shed, which was mentioned in the piece Blodgett And Trubshaw. Now, I hate to disappoint, but I simply canâ€™t be bothered to write pages and pages about what is, after all, a spectacularly dull game. Believe me when I tell you that if I started trying to explain to the beginner how to play Dentistâ€™s Potting Shed, we would be here all day, and probably tomorrow too, and even then we would have got little further than the first chubbgut. I would of course have to try to explain the meaning of a chubbgut itself, and that is only one of numberless terms a player has to understand before the dice are even thrown. So I am afraid that on this occasion I am going to ignore my imploring readers. If you want to play Dentistâ€™s Potting Shed, go and buy a set and read up on the rules yourself.
You might want to wait until next year, however, when a special edition is being released. On
Given the complexity and tedium of the game, it is hard to account for its popularity. Last year at Bodgerâ€™s Spinney, an international tournament attracted competitors from as far away as the
Although I did not go to the tournament, I read every single press report I could find. I was less interested in the board game than in the possibility that the hobgoblins would disrupt things, scattering the dice and counters and cards and terrifying the players. But no matter how thoroughly I scoured the papers I discovered nothing hobgoblin-related. I could only assume that they had clambered back up into the trees and remained hidden in leafage, allowing the Dentistâ€™s Potting Shed tournament to play itself out in the wind and the rain. I was perplexed by this until I read, the following spring, a lengthy article in the Bulletin Of Bodgerâ€™s Spinney Hobgoblin Behavioural Studies, written by an academic panjandrum, which explained everything in prose so crisp it took my breath away. If you want to read it too, look out for the issue of the Bulletin with a picture of Celine Dion on the cover.
I mentioned that I obtained one of my six tickets by buying it from a ragamuffin. What, you might think, was a ragamuffin doing in possession of such a prized piece of beautifully cut beige cardboard? I was certainly tempted to assume that the nipper had pickpocketed it. He was tiny and bony and as skinny as a pipe-cleaner, and it was easy to imagine him skittering, uncatchable, through busy city streets, dipping and snatching. Was I committing a crime by paying the ragamuffin for stolen goods? I did not like to think of myself as a fence, and I remained troubled until, a week after the exchange had taken place, I tracked him to the travelling circus of which he was an unlikely veteran. I learned that, from the age of just five months, he had been known as Howler Monkey Boy, and that his daredevil acrobatics, performed without a safety harness, were famed throughout the circus world. Ragamuffin he may have been, but he was no thief. He explained to me that one of his colleagues, a moustachioed nincompoop known as The Human Pencil Sharpener, was a besotted devotee of Dentistâ€™s Potting Shed, had attended the tournament when the circus was encamped nearby in Scroonhoonpooge, and had given the ticket to the ragamuffin as a birthday present. Satisfied by this tale, relieved that I was not a fence, I stayed around to watch that eveningâ€™s circus performance. It was bloody fantastic, especially Howler Monkey Boy himself, at whose antics I gasped. I even got to have one of my own pencils sharpened by The Human Pencil Sharpener, whose teeth-marks can still be seen upon it, for I have not written with it since, instead keeping it in a little tin display crate on my mantelpiece, for I have a mantelpiece. If, next year, I succumb to the fad and buy the special edition of Dentistâ€™s Potting Shed, I may have to move the tin crate to make room for the Busby Babes figurines. That will be a quandary, but I shall deal with it as best I can. What I might do is obtain a wooden panel and nail it up as a sort of mantelpiece extension. It would not look pretty, but it would create more display space, and who knows what further baubles and gewgaws I will want to add as the years pass?
And the years will pass, of course, and I am glad of that, for as each year passes I hope and pray that the memory of the Bodgerâ€™s Spinney hobgoblins pursuing me across the fields will one day begin to fade, and that there will come a time when I might sleep through the night without waking in terror, shuddering and screaming and scaring the wits out of my cat, Jeoffry. For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
The idea of a great, toothless, crumb besprinkled hobgoblin disrupting an international gaming competition in Bodger’s Spinney put me in mind of Grendel’s depredations on the Danish hall, Heorot, in the tale Beowulf. Perhaps the 8th century monk who penned this ancient tale was re-telling some ancient folk memory of a primitive scandinavian gaming competition of huge pagan ritualistic signifance disrupted by a similar hideous homunculus.
What would Ray Winstone and Angelina Jolie think of that?