(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)
Yesterday, I went to the 8th annual World Egg Throwing Championships at Swaton in Lincolnshire.
When I arrived, World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop told me there was room for me in the Russian Egg Roulette Championship. Last year, I acquitted myself well – I was runner-up. Not bad for a first attempt.
Russian Egg Roulette is the internationally-recognised sport in which two competitors sit facing each other across a table on which lie six eggs – five hard-boiled; one raw. Each competitor then takes it in turn to smash an egg of his or her forehead. The one who smashes the raw egg on their forehead – with explosive results – loses.
“All the spots for competitors (over 30 of them) are already filled up,” Andy told me when I arrived, “but we have left a couple of spaces for Simon Cowell and for Natalie Holt, the woman who threw eggs at Simon on Britain’s Got Talent. We’ve invited both of them but we’re not totally certain if they will turn up. If Simon Cowell does not turn up, then we have a man called Mark Heselwood prepared to stand in for him.”
Sadly, Simon Cowell did not turn up and, even more sadly, I was beaten by Mark Heselwood in the first round of the Russian Egg Roulette. The only fact which slightly mended my crushed ego was that Mark went on to actually win the over-all title of World Russian Egg Roulette Champion.
At Swaton yesterday, there were egg teams from Brazil, the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Japan, Slovenia and South Africa competing not just in Russian Egg Roulette but in the main Egg Throwing event and the Egg Throwing Static Relay contest and the World Egg Trebuchet Challenge, in which catapults based on medieval siege engines propel eggs set distances to be caught by plucky teams. All the eggs are rejects or outdated, so no food is wasted.
“There’s a team from Japanese national TV,” Andy told me when I arrived. “They have six cameras, one sound man, a make-up guy, a team of four, two directors and a producer,. They flew in specially for this last week.
“The team consists of two Japanese baseball players who can throw a good distance, one eggspert who runs a chicken farm and one manager who, before he became a serious actor, was a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger on TV. They’re making a one-hour documentary. What they do on their programme is take ordinary people with some skills and send them across the world trying to bring back gold medals to Japan. They’ve been here for a week and they’re here for another week.
“As a result of this, we’re hoping to set up an annual Japanese Egg Throwing Championship. We’ve just confirmed the first national Australian Egg Throwing Championships on 5th August
“When are the English Championships?” I asked.
“July 13th in Surrey. Then there’s the Dutch national Championships. The Belgian national championships are on 14th August…”
“And I’m very proud,” I interrupted, “that the Scottish national open Russian Egg Roulette Championships are taking place during the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe on 23rd August.”
“Indeed,” said Andy.
“It will look good in my blog if I say that,” I said.
“Indeed,” said Andy. “And, next May, we’ve got the Finnish national Russian Egg Roulette Championship.”
“Whatever happened,” I asked, “to that Australian children’s TV show who were going to to be filming Australian competitors egg throwing at the Fringe?”
“They are going to be filming here on 11th September,” replied Andy. “They couldn’t fit their shooting in with the Edinburgh Fringe times.”
“So they’re doing it in Swaton?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Andy, “at the special training course we’ve set up. It’s a long field with a mown strip down it. The Japanese, the Irish and the German teams have been all using it in the last few days at separate times so they don’t have to scramble for facilities.
“It’s a proper course. When you see Wild Willie O’Donovan, the Irish guy, watch how he throws the egg compared to anyone else. He is the Irish Road Bowling champion. You know road bowling? A 28 ounce steel ball over a three mile course in the least number of throws. Wild Willie’s unusual technique in egg-throwing is an under-arm lob which is peculiar to road bowling. He’s now successfully brought that technique across to British egg throwing and he’s the World Record Holder for Egg Throwing, set at the Irish national Egg Throwing Championships in Connacht four weeks ago – 71.2 metres.”
“You are a man who lives for egg statistics,” I suggested.
“I was interviewed on TalkSport Radio the other day,” admitted Andy. “I gave them all these statistics and no puns and they said You should be on Mastermind with your knowledge of Egg Throwing. But, of course, the only person who could set the questions would be me. That’s a bit of a problem.
“The good story, though,” added Andy, “is us raising – we hope – over £10,000 for charity today.”
Proceeds will go to leukaemia research, the local air ambulance and the emergency response organisation Lives.
“Japanese TV have given us a lot of money,” said Andy. “They were going to give us a donation but we’ve been so good to them over the last 3 or 4 days – organising and setting up things for them – that they’ve more than tripled their donation.”
“How did they fit that into their budget?” I asked.
“They’ve put it down as provision, organisation and facilitation fees.”
“Which, indeed, it is,” I said.
“Indeed,” said Andy.
“How did your Indian trip go?” I asked. (I blogged about it back in March.)
“Four guys from Sleaford went across there and kicked India’s arse,” said Andy. “We won the series 4-3 and beat 1.2 billion Indians at Russian Egg Roulette. But, while we were over there, we were also inoculating 300 million under-5-year-olds in a Weekend For Polio. In the last 20 years, every kid under 5 has been inoculated. The Rotary Club raised and spent £300 million on it. And the much-maligned Bill Gates gave us £300 million as well. We think polio has now gone in India. We were over there three years ago and we’ve been inoculating twice a year since then and polio is now only left in bits of the north west frontier in Pakistan and the south east frontier of Afghanistan.”
“And that’s because it’s too dangerous to go in?” I asked.
“Well, it was,” said Andy. “The fundamentalists were slaughtering the people who were doing it – they killed 30 at the beginning of this year – young nurses, young girls who were doing it. But the Taliban have now been persuaded that it’s not a plot of the Americans to sterilise all the kids and it’s actually stopping polio and they’ve actually come on side and are now actually protecting the polio inoculators.”
At that point, Andy was called away to be interviewed by Reuters.
The good news at the end of the day was that the Japanese won the World Egg Trebuchet Challenge, got their gold medal and may be back next year to defend their title.