Posts tagged Bill Nagelkerke

Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 16

It is the final chapter of Bill Nagelkerke’s cool story today.  Please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of the story.  We’d like to thank Bill for very kindly allowing us to publish Cauliflower Ears on the Christchurch Kids Blog.  You’re a legend Bill!

Chapter 16: Three cheers

It was over. The Greens had won the Junior Home World Cup. Our first Grand Final. Our first trophy. We danced. We hugged each other. Then we lined up to receive the Cup.

We shook hands with Junior Home World Cup organisers. Chip held up the cup for everyone to admire and everyone, including some of the Reds, cheered. And we cheered them as well and shook their hands, even Spike and Taggart’s.

‘No hard feelings?’ I said to Spike.

‘Get real,’ said Spike. ‘If it hadn’t been for you . . . ’

‘It’s not fair’ said Taggart, ‘letting girls play rugby. They completely stuff up the game.’

I took no any notice of what Taggart said. Neither did anyone else. So what that I’m a girl? I can play as well as anyone and today I proved that, even though it nearly turned out to be a disaster of a swan song.

There was a celebration afterwards at Mr Marlow’s place. Everyone came: the Green Team; parents; supporters; even Grubber’s dad although he soon dropped into a chair and feel asleep.

I felt hugely happy, and hugely sad, both at the same time.

‘How’d you know we were going to win?’ Sprigs asked Mr Marlow, looking at all the food laid out on the table.

‘I didn’t,’ said Mr Marlow. ‘We’d have had a party regardless. You made it to the Grand Final after all.’

‘But what if we hadn’t made it to the final?’ Sprigs said.

‘We’d still have had a party,’ Mr Marlow said, ‘because the Greens are such a great team.’

He looked at me. ‘And we’d have had a party because Wings is leaving us and we have to give her a fitting send off.’

I started to feel all sniffy.

‘Speech! Speech!’ the Greens yelled.

‘I can’t,’ I said.

‘Yes you can,’ said Dad. ‘You always have plenty to say at home.’

There was silence as everyone waited for me to finish blowing my nose. I took longer than I needed to because I was trying to think of something to say. Trying didn’t work.

The words didn’t fall into my head. So I stopped trying to force them out and I just said what I was feeling.

‘I’m really going to miss you guys. Miss you heaps. All the practice sessions, and all the games. Not being here to defend the Cup next year. But Mr Marlow is right about us. We are a great team and it’s because we’ve got such great players.’

‘And because we had my lucky laces,’ said Sprigs. ‘Don’t forget them.’

‘And because we’ve got Sprigs’ lucky laces.’ I remembered the broken piece was still in my sock so I pulled it out and waved it around my head.

‘Sprigs’ grubby laces,’ said Sprigs’ mum and everyone laughed.

‘It wouldn’t have mattered if we hadn’t won today because we would have given it our best shot and that’s all that matters,’ I said.

‘Liar,’ said Grubber loudly.

‘But true as well,’ said Mr Marlow. ‘Some other team will be lucky to be getting you as a player Wings.’

‘Three cheers for Wings,’ said Chips.

‘No, for all the Greens,’ I said.

So we all shouted our slogan: ‘Three cheers for the Cauliflower Ears!’

And then we got stuck into the feed.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 15

Chapter 15: Try

What’s happened?

The whistle’s happened, that’s what. The ref has blown his whistle and it’s all over, the game’s finished. We’ve lost. I’ve lost.

Grubber and Chip and Danny and all the others have crowded around me. Mr Marlow is suddenly there, too, helping me to my feet.

‘I’m sorry guys,’ I said, ‘I just couldn’t make it.’

I didn’t even try blaming the tackle, or suggesting it was another one of the Red’s fouls. No, it was all down to me.

‘It was all down to you,’ Mr Marlow said.

I hung my head in shame.

‘The chips were down and you did it,’ said Chip, using his favourite joke.

Finally I looked up. I knew I’d have to face them sometime.

Everyone was smiling. There were no frowns or scowls. Grubber was hopping up and down like he needed to go to the toilet, but this time it was a dance of joy.

‘Did what?’ I asked.

‘You got the ball over the line without letting go of it, even when you were brought down,’ says another voice. It’s Dad, and Mum’s there too. ‘You got a try right smack between the posts.’

Grubber’s dad has come onto the field as well, and right now he doesn’t look like a man who’s been at work for the past nine hours, and has spent most of the morning chewing his fingernails worrying about Grubber ending up in Accident and Emergency.

Sprigs has hobbled over with his mum because his ankle’s sore and bruised from that tackle.

‘Knew that lace would do the trick,’ he said.

‘You mean I did it?’ I said, still not believing it.

‘Course you did,’ said Chips. ‘You got five points for the Greens. And you don’t even have to convert the try. We’ve won!’

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 14

Chapter 14: Last try

The Reds got another try. The score shot from twelve-seven to seventeen-seven. Luckily for us they missed the conversion. The margin was bad enough as it was, we couldn’t afford for it to go any higher.

Then we managed to get a second try: Grubber managed to get another one. I saw him sneak a look over to where his dad was standing and I’m pretty sure I saw his dad clapping and cheering along with the other Green supporters.

Seventeen – twelve.

But the try was a corner and when Chips gave me the nod I didn’t think anyone would expect me to convert the ball from that hard angle. So no one, not even I, was surprised when I didn’t even though I’d been hoping like mad that I’d be able to make up for my earlier disaster.

There were only fifteen minutes left to play. The Reds, who we thought had been rough and tough enough, got even rougher and tougher. We were run down each time we made a break with the ball. They tackled from the side, from behind, from out in front. Grubber’s dad would be having kittens just watching. And we stayed a man down. Poor Sprigs wasn’t able to return to the field. All we could do was hunker down in defence and try our hardest to stop the Reds sprinting over the try line.

Then, unbelievably, the ref awarded us a second penalty. Taggart, back from the sin bin, was called offside.

This time Chip took the kick himself. I’d had my two chances. This time the ball went where it was supposed to, between the posts.

‘That was a really easy shot,’ Sprigs whispered to me, hoping to make me feel better. It did, but not much.

Seventeen – fifteen.

Only five minutes left to go and it didn’t look as if we’d have another chance to score before the whistle blew. Then it really hit me. If it hadn’t been for me missing the earlier penalty, we’d have been ahead.

I couldn’t help it. My mind drifted. Maybe they’re all glad I’m leaving, I started to tell myself. Maybe they’ve just been waiting for the day when I played my last game with the Greens. Maybe because I’m . . .

‘Wings,’ yells Chips. ‘Wake up!’

What’s happening?

I suddenly snap awake. The Greens have possession!

The ball’s being unloaded as we sprint down the field, the Reds on our tails.

Chip passes to Danny.

Danny passes to Grubber.

Grubber passes to me.

It’s a perfect break, a class formation. We sweep across the field like a bird’s wing.

‘Go for it Wings!’ Grubber yells.

And I do. I’m the winger. I have wings so I can fly. I can reach the try line. I can beat the odds, make up for my earlier failures.

But can I? Really?

No, I can’t. There are too many players marking me.

But I have to try. Give it better than my best. One hundred percent plus, and then some.

So I swerve and swing, duck and dive, skim out of their way.

Where’s everyone else?

I’ve ended up in mid-field, too fast for the other Greens to be in support.

Now the goalposts are right in front of me, so close, but Taggart is looming, Spike’s on my heels. I’ll never make it to put the ball down.

‘Drop kick!’ I hear a yell.

It’s Sprigs’ voice coming from the bench, screaming at me what to do.

But I can’t kick. I’ve proved that twice already in this game. I’m a useless, no-hoper kicker.

And I’m too close too the bar.

And then I fall flat on my face as I’m tackled from behind.

And I can’t bear to look up to see what I’ve done.

 

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 13

Chapter 13: Swan song?

I put the kicking tee into place and set up the ball. I looked from the ball to the goal posts and back to the ball. It seemed an easy shot. At least for Sprigs it might have been an easy shot. But for me it was another story altogether.

Boy, was I nervous. I was so nervous, I was sweating. I heard Mr Marlow’s voice in my head. ‘Attitude’s everything. If you think you can do it, you can. Steady. Focus. Imagine the ball flying high. Imagine putting the ball right where you want it to be.’

I tried my best to follow Mr Marlow’s advice but my kicking foot felt stiff and tight in my boot.

Even if I got this one, I realised, we’d still be behind by two points.

I started my run.

I stopped.

Deep breath.

I started again.

I stopped.

Another deep breath.

While the Greens stood silent and anxious around me, the Reds whistled and booed and laughed until the ref had to blow his whistle. ‘Keep quiet,’ he said.

Spike spat on the ground.

I couldn’t do it.

I had to do it.

One last run up.

Kick, and the ball flies.

It goes high. The Greens almost stop breathing and so do I. And the ball goes just wide of the post!

So close. But being so close means nothing. I missed it. I missed what would have been an easy shot for old Sprigs. I can’t believe it, but I have to. I missed.

On the sideline the Red Brigade cheers. The Greenies, on the other hand, look as if they’re going to cry into their scarves.

Suddenly I get the very bad, very deep-sinking feeling that I’ve lost the Greens the Grand Final, and that maybe Spike was half right. The Greens aren’t the losers, I am.

What a swan song. What a way to go out!

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 12

Chapter 12: Loser

We, the Greens, looked at each other. We’d almost forgotten the foul tackle. Who was going to take the penalty? Sprigs was our star goal kicker but he’d been carted off the field.

‘You give it a go Wings,’ said Chip.

‘Me!’ I cried. ‘Why me?’

‘We all know that none of us are a patch on Sprigs,’ said Chip, ‘but at least you’re fast and accurate, and good with your feet. That’s what Mr Marlow always says.’

‘That’s when I’m running! I’m a winger.’

‘Well, don’t start sounding like a whinger,’ said Chip impatiently. ‘Greens can be anything they want to be, that’s a key part of our game plan, remember?’

I remembered. I also remembered Dad praising me this morning for always giving my best. One hundred precent plus,’ he’d said.

‘Just give it your best shot,’ said Chip, as if he’d read my mind.

Everyone looked at me. Hopeful. Expectant. They didn’t want me to let them down.

‘All right,’ I said. ‘I’ll try.’

‘Good one,’ said Chip, and they all punched me on the arm for luck. Ouch!

There was another commotion from the sideline.

‘What now?’ said the ref.

A hand waving, holding something that looked like a piece of string. It was Sprigs.

‘What’s that boy want?’ said the ref.

‘Just get on with the game,’ said Spike.

‘Go check it out,’ the ref told Chip.

Chip ran over to the bench and came back a few seconds later with a piece of one of Sprigs’ shoelaces in his hands.

‘He had it stuffed inside his sock,’ said Chip, shaking his head.

‘It must be Sprig’s lucky lace, the one that broke,’ said Grubber.

‘What am I supposed to do with it?’ I asked.

‘Stuff it into your sock,’ said Chips. ‘Sprigs wants you to have it, for luck he said.’

‘Luck,’ I thought to myself. ‘I’ll need more than that. I’ll need a miracle.’ But I took the grubby lace and put it inside my sock.

‘Thanks,’ I called out to Sprigs.

‘What a bunch of losers,’ I heard Spike mutter.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 11

Chapter 11: Play on

It took Grubber’s dad only a few seconds to reach us, but it seemed like minutes, hours even.

‘I saw what happened,’ he said.

‘It’s been dealt with,’ said the ref. ‘Sprigs is going to be OK.’

Grubber’s dad shook his head. ‘That was just luck,’ he said. ‘It could have been much worse. I don’t want my boy to get hurt.’

‘Dad . . .’ said Grubber.

‘I’ve seen too many rugby injuries in my line of work,’ said Grubber’s dad. He looked at Grubber. ‘Why don’t you call it quits?’

It was hard to tell if Grubber was looking sick with shame, or sick with fear that his dad would actually force him out of the match. On the other side of the field the Reds were watching, wondering what was going on. They edged in closer to find out.

Mr Marlow arrived on the scene.

‘You’re holding up the game,’ said the ref to Grubber’s dad.

‘I hope you’ll let Grubber stay on,’ said Mr Marlow, calm as always. ‘We’re already a man down now.’

‘And how many more will get carted off before the game finishes?’ asked Grubber’s dad. ‘With rough players like them.’ He looked over at the Reds, who were only a few metres away from us now.

Before Mr Marlow could reply, Grubber spoke up.

‘I’m not going,’ he said. ‘I love rugby and I’m going to finish this game.’

‘Please Mr Foley,’ I added. ‘We can’t do without Grubber. Look at the way he got that first try for us. This game is way too important for us.’

Grubber’s dad looked at me, at Mr Marlow, at the ref, at the rest of the Green team.

‘It was a good try,’ he said, reluctantly. ‘I have to admit that. OK, I won’t interfere. Just take care, and play fair.’

He said that last bit loudly enough for the Reds to hear, before he walked back to the sideline. We all breathed great sighs of relief.

‘Penalty shot,’ said the ref.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 10

Chapter 10: Injury

‘It was a fair throw!’ I said, wondering what had happened.

The ref nodded. ‘Agreed,’ he said. ‘But a foul tackle.’

At first I didn’t know what he meant, so I looked to where he was pointing. Poor Sprigs lay on the ground, one leg twisted under him.

Taggart stood beside him, grinning, but sly and dangerous looking as well.

‘Legal tackle,’ he said.

The ref shook his head. ‘The ball had left Sprigs’ hands,’ he said.

‘Hadn’t,’ said Taggart.

‘Had too,’ hissed Sprigs from below.

‘You OK?’ I asked him.

‘Just twisted my ankle I reckon,’ said Sprigs.

The medics helped Sprigs off the field.

‘I’ll be OK,’ Sprigs said. ‘Good thing it’s not you being carted off,’ he told Grubber. ‘Your old man would’ve had a fit.’

Grubber looked anxiously towards the sidelines. ‘What’re we going to do now? We’re a man down.’

Sprigs glared at Taggart. ‘I’ll be back,’ he said.

‘Not likely,’ said Taggart.

Taggart was still grinning, but not for long.

‘Sin bin,’ the ref said to him.

‘Wha . . .’

‘Don’t argue. I’ll talk to you later.’

‘Not fair,’ said Taggart.

But, even so, he couldn’t stop smirking. He knew what he’d done. He’d taken out our best kicker.

‘Oh no,’ said Grubber suddenly.

‘What?’ I asked.

‘Look,’ said Grubber.

I looked. We all did. Striding towards us was Grubber’s dad.

‘He’s going to tell me to get off the field,’ said Grubber. ‘I just know he is.’

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 9

Chapter 9: Fouled

The Reds scored another try in the first half but missed the conversion, so the half time score was twelve to seven. We were feeling pretty down, even though Mr Marlow was pleased enough with us.

‘You’ve had a lot of ball possession,’ he said. ‘You’re doing good. With the wind behind you, you’ll play even better.’

We’d have to play lots better if we were going to win.

The Reds kicked off the second half. Spike’s best friend, Taggart, the Red’s loosehead prop, got to the ball first. He kicked it forward before Chip had a chance to tackle him. Sprigs managed to grab hold of the ball – he’d scrubbed his hands during the half-time break – and now it was our turn to run with it.

Sprigs had a good head start. It looked as if Mr Marlow was right. We might be the first to score points in this half.

Then the Reds bunched up and swooped down on Sprigs from all sides. Their heavy forward pack was one of the most dangerous in the Junior Home World Cup. If Sprigs had had eyes in the back of his head, man, he’d have been dead scared right then. Grubber might have wet himself if he’d been the one holding the ball!

Taggart was angry that his kick hadn’t worked out the way he’d planned it. It was obvious that he was after Sprigs, big time.

I was the closest Green to Sprigs.

‘To me!’ I yelled.

Sprigs already had it sussed. He passed me the ball from mid-field. It was the prefect pass, great height, angled back just enough, and my hands reached out to grab it, sweet as, and I ran with it.

Then the ref blew his whistle and the ball went dead.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Wings

‘Did you see how he tackled Danny?’ I asked Sprigs. ‘The ref should’ve spotted that, he was right there. If I’d been the ref I would’ve done something about it.’

‘It was legit,’ said Sprigs.

‘Barely.’

‘But legit.’

And I knew he was right.

Things improved a little after that bad beginning. Grubber scored a try and Sprigs’ place kick converted it sweetly between the posts.

Seven – seven.

‘At least my leftover lace is still working its magic,’ said Sprigs. If he could have bent down far enough to kiss that lace I’m sure he would have.

‘The try will help keep my dad awake and on his toes,’ said Grubber, sounding really pleased.

‘You did good to get him to stay and watch for a change,’ said Sprigs.

Grubber’s dad was a nurse at the hospital. He worked in Accident and Emergency. Grubber’s dad didn’t like rugby much, because he thought Grubber was going to get injured one day, but Grubber loved the game so much that his dad just had to let him play.

‘I told him this morning that I’d never talk to him again if he missed seeing us win the Junior Home World Cup,’ Grubber said.

‘You didn’t mean it, did you?’ I said.

Grubber didn’t answer me.

I was happy that Sprigs had converted Grubber’s try. Me, I’m not a kicker.

And I was really, really stoked that Grubber had scored that try.

But I couldn’t help wishing that it’d been me. I’m a winger, you see. That’s why my nickname is Wings. When I’m running I feel as if I’ve sprouted two massive feathery things that fly me all over the field.

I desperately wanted a chance to use my wings before the final whistle blew.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Kick-off

We were playing into the wind for the first half, which was good. It meant that the second half, when we’d be more tired, would be easier for us.

Spike Maynard, the captain of the Reds, stared over at our captain, Chip Butterfield.

‘Got the collywobbles?’ he asked.

Chip stared blankly at him.

‘Don’t you get it?’ said Spike. ‘Colly as in cauliflower.’ He turned to the Reds. ‘Not only thick ears but thick between the ears as well.’

Some of the other Reds laughed maliciously.

‘We’re going to flatten you lot,’ said Spike. He turned to look at me. ‘And you’d better keep out of the way if you know what’s good for you.’

‘Takes more than a bad haircut to frighten me,’ I said to him.

Grubber, listening to this exchange of compliments, momentarily thought he might have to dash for the toilet again but then something happened which made him forgot all about it. The ref had blown his whistle.

Danny Millwall, our first five-eighth, kicked the ball into play. The Reds and Greens both dived for it. Sprigs grabbed it but it slipped between his slippery, muddied fingers. The ball bounced and twisted like it was alive, but luckily ended back in Danny’s outstretched hands. Then Spike suddenly rammed into Danny – it looked like a high tackle to me – and bowled him over. The ball popped from Danny’s hands, bounced again and was picked up by one of the heavy Red forwards who spun round and raced into our territory. He was too quick for any of us. He threw himself between the goalposts for a perfect try.

Five points to nill.

Half of the spectators cheered. The Red Brigade.

The other half, the Greenies, stayed silent.

Five points to the Reds, and another two for the easy conversion that followed.

Seven to nill.

Seven points on the scoreboard, in the first few minutes of the game. What a way to begin the Grand Final. What a way to begin my final game.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Countdown

Five minutes to kick-off.

I checked the sidelines as we got into our positions. Yep, I could see Dad, and Mum had arrived as well. Choice! I’d been worried her plane would have been delayed by bad weather. They’ve both always come to watch me play and I was glad, and relieved, that today wasn’t going to be any different.

Sprigs checked his boot laces one last time. The new one looked much too clean compared with the old, so Sprigs poked his fingers into the soggy grass and dirtied the fresh lace until he couldn’t tell the difference between the old and the new. Now he felt a lot more confident, except his fingers were wet and dirty and slippery, and it was too late to clean them.

Grubber tested his stomach by cautiously poking it.

Butterflies gone?

Check.

He held his hand over his heart again.

Flip-flop drumming stopped?

Check.

Lips moist?

Check.

He felt perfectly fine.

That was the way it always happened. As soon as a match was about to begin he became instantly better. Full of confidence. Couldn’t wait to start.

He wished he was like that before a game, too. If he was, chances were his dad would worry less about him playing. It was too bad.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Team talk

‘Listen up now,’ said our coach, Mr Marlow.

We stopped exercising and listened up.

Mr Marlow had been a top player in his day. We knew this was true because of his cauliflower ears. The left one especially was flattened and lumpy from having been in too many scrums and rucks.

Mr Marlow’s ears had given the Green’s our other name. We didn’t often use it as a name ourselves. It was the rival teams, especially the Reds, who did. Whenever they called us the Cauliflower Ears, which was each time we played them, they used it as an insult. But we took it as a compliment, just as Mr Marlow had suggested. We’d even put it into our team slogan to show how proud we were of it. Grubber had written the slogan. He was good at writing poems.

‘This is a noteworthy day,’ Mr Marlow continued.

We all nodded. It couldn’t get any more noteworthy than this. The Greens were in the Grand Final for the first time ever.

‘Repeat after me,’ said Mr Marlow.

‘This is a noteworthy day,’ we repeated.

‘It’s the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup.’

‘It’s the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup.’

‘And futhermore . . . ’

Mr Marlow paused for a second or two, then went on.

‘. . . it’s Wings’ last match with the Greens.’

I felt really weird when Mr Marlow said that. It made it seem more real than ever.

When mum and dad had first announced that we were going to live in Wellington I felt:

  1. like a stunned mullet
  2. angry
  3. sad
  4. more angry
  5. a little bit excited

But I knew we didn’t really have much choice. My parents were both from Wellington originally and they’d always said they’d go back there when they got the chance. Now the chance had come. Besides, boths sets of grandies and most of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived there, too.

‘You’ll find another team to play in,’ said Mum.

‘Maybe.’ I said. ‘But they’ll be nothing nearly as good as the Greens.’

Wings’ last match with the Greens.’

Everyone turned to look at me as they repeated Mr Marlow’s words. I turned away and gazed at the muddy ground. We’d played together for so long, it was going to be tough to quit. That’s why we had to win today. Mr Marlow had called this game my swansong, my final appearance.

‘We can do it,’ Mr Marlow said.

‘We can do it,’ we repeated as one.

‘We can win.’

‘We can win.’

‘All it takes . . .’

‘All it takes . . .’

‘Is applying the skills we’ve learnt and practised . . .’

‘The skills we’ve learnt and practised . . .’

‘Our determination . . .’

‘Our determination . . .’

‘And consideration . . .’

‘And consideration . . .’

‘For each other . . .’

‘For each other . . .’

‘And . . .’

‘And . . .’

‘The opposition.’

Silence.

‘I’m waiting guys.’

‘The opposition,’ we said, knowing that consideration was the last thing the Reds would show us.

‘Great stuff,’ said Mr Marlow.

Then we chanted the Green Team’s slogan. It was short but sweet.

Three cheers

For the Cauliflower Ears!

‘Remember,’ said Mr Marlow, ‘you’ve come this far by fair play and by following the rules, so don’t let yourselves down.’

Then Grubber said the thing we’d all be thinking. ‘But the Reds give me the jitters Mr Marlow. They’re thuggish. That’s why everyone calls them the Devils.’

‘And that’s why you’re proud if they call you the Cauliflower Ears,’ said Mr Marlow.

‘Why?’ asked Sprigs.

‘Because you know how to play the game,’ said Mr Marlow. ‘And a good game played by Cauliflower Ears will always beat a bad game played by Devils.’

‘They foul all the time,’ I said,‘and they always try to make sure the ref doesn’t see what they’re up to.’

‘Then they’ll be the losers, whether they win or not,’ said Mr Marlow, which sounded strange but true at the same time. Not that we wanted the Reds to win, of course.

‘I’ve got to go to the toilet,’ said Grubber, suddenly all jittery.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 4

Chapter Four: Jitters

Kick-off was at eleven. At ten-thirty both teams, the Greens and the Reds, the Cauliflower Ears and the Devils, were warming up at opposite ends of the playing field.

We needed the warm up, and not just to get our muscles loose and supple. It was really chilly out on the field. Our breaths were puffs of steamy white.

‘Just listen to that,’ said Grubber.

‘What?’ asked Sprigs.

‘The roar of the crowd.’

Sprigs and I looked round. The single stand had several dozen people on it, their hands wrapped round thermos flasks. There were also about fifty supporters standing in little groups on the sidelines, marching on the spot to keep warm. The Red Brigade and the Greenies. But you’d hardly call it a crowd. And it certainly wasn’t roaring.

‘That’s not a crowd you’re hearing,’ I said. ‘It’s your heart drumming.’

‘That’s what it is,’ agreed Sprigs.

‘Is not,’ said Grubber, but he clutched his chest all the same.

‘It’ll be because your dad’s staying to watch the game,’ I said.

Wings was right, even though Grubber wasn’t going to admit it. He’d managed to drag his dad out of bed and make him solemnly swear to stay for the whole game. Now Grubber wasn’t sure it had been such a good idea. He always felt queasy before a game.

Today he felt worse than usual. His lips were dry and his stomach was doing flip-flops. His heart, now that he had his hand over it, was definitely banging away like a jack-hammer. Grubber wasn’t surprised Sprigs and Wings could hear it. The whole team probably could. Actually, he’d never felt this bad.

‘I thought I was going to be late,’ said Sprigs, as we stretched our legs and swung our arms. ‘Man, it was hard finding matching laces.’

This time Grubber and I looked at each other. ‘Can’t have been as hard as me having to wake my dad up,’ said Grubber.

‘You two can laugh,’ said Sprigs, ‘but no way was I playing without a matching bootlace.’

‘We’re not actually laughing,’ I pointed out.

‘Not yet you aren’t,’ said Sprigs.

‘What I don’t understand,’ Grubber said, ‘is why you only replaced one of the laces. They come in pairs. You could have put in two new ones.’

Sprigs shook his head. ‘I just had to leave one of the old laces in,’ he explained. ‘They’ve been my lucky laces all season.’

‘Don’t we know it,’ I said.

Sprigs was our top scoring fullback. He hadn’t missed a goal kick all season. We were all depending on him, and his lucky laces, in the Grand Final.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Butterflies

Grubber felt sickish. He always did before a game. His stomach had gone swimmy, his head felt light and floaty like a helium-filled balloon.

‘Maybe you’d better stay home,’ said his mother.

‘No chance,’ said Grubber.

‘But if you’re feeling crook wouldn’t it be more sensible?’

‘It’s not that sort of crookedness,’ Grubber explained.

‘Crookness,’ his mum corrected.

‘Whatever. It’s butterflies I’ve got. I can feel them dancing around.’

‘Are you sure that’s all it is? If you’re not fit to go, then sit the game out. It’ll keep your dad happy. ’

Course I’m fit!’ said Grubber. ‘I wouldn’t miss the game even if I really was sick.’

‘In that case, go and try waking your dad again.’

Grubber went to the bedroom where his dad was fast asleep after doing his nine hours on night shift. Grubber shook his dad’s shoulder.

‘Come on Dad. The big game’s starting soon. I need you to run me over.’

His dad groaned.

‘Hurry Dad, please, we’ve got to be there in less than an hour.’

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Lucky laces

‘Mum!’ yelled Sprigs. ‘One of my lucky boot laces just snapped.’

‘Snap back at it,’ said his mother.

‘That’s not funny!’ said Sprigs.

‘I thought it was,’ his mother said. ‘Go and find another lace then,’ she suggested.

‘I’ve looked,’ said Sprigs frantically. ‘There aren’t any spares.’

‘Take one of the laces out of your school shoes,’ his mum said.

‘They’re not the right sort. They’re much too short!’

Sprigs’s mum sighed and glanced at her watch. ‘I’ll get the car. If we leave straight away we should have time to stop off at the mall to buy a new pair.’

Sprigs looked unsure. ‘What if new ones bring me bad luck?’ he said.

‘Don’t be so superstitious,’ said his mother.

‘I can’t help it,’ said Sprigs. ‘These laces have taken us right to the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup. It could be disastrous for us if they miss the game.’

Sprigs’s mum raised her eyebrows. ‘Get real,’ she said.

Sprigs took no notice. Instead, he poked the broken lace into the turned-over top of one of his rugby socks. ‘There,’ he told it. ‘Now you’ll still be able to help us win the game.’

‘My son who talks to bootlaces,’ sighed Sprigs’ mum.

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 1

Bill Nagelkerke is a fantastic local author and one of our previous Star Authors on the blog. Bill has written some great books, including Old Bones and Sitting on the Fence, which are set in Christchurch.  As well as being a writer, Bill has also translated books, reviewed books for magazines and newspapers, been a judge for book awards, and he used to be a Children’s Librarian at Christchurch City Libraries.  

Bill has very kindly given us permission to publish his rugby story, Cauliflower Ears, right here on the blog.  We’ll post a new chapter every second day over the next four weeks so you’ll need to keep checking the blog to follow the story.  A huge thank you to Bill Nagelkerke for sharing this wonderful story with us!

Chapter 1: Getting ready for the big game

All over town members of the Green Team, sometimes called the Cauliflower Ears, were getting ready to play their final game of the season.

At Number 13 Lucky Street I was eating breakfast, wondering if Mum was going to make it back from Wellington in time for the kick-off.

At Number 54 Hoani Street, Sprigs was inspecting his boots, holding them up by their lucky laces.

At Number 217 Templeton Drive Grubber was wondering if he was going to be able to get his dad to wake up in time to take him to the big game. And also wondering if he would manage to get his dad to stay and watch for once.

My name, by the way, is Wings. You’ll have guessed that Wings, Sprigs and Grubber are our rugby nicknames, not our real names.

It was Saturday. The Saturday, the day of the big game, the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup series. The game in which we, the Green Team, were playing our arch rivals, the Reds, sometimes known as . . .  the Devils.

‘It’s just a game,’ my dad said as I wolfed down a great plate of porridge.

‘You don’t understand,’ I said. ‘It’s not just any game, it’s the game. It’s the Grand Final. In more ways than one,’ I reminded him.

You see, Mum had got an important new job in the capital, in fact she was already working there a few days each week, and we would soon be moving cities. This was going to be my last game with the Greens. Ever.

‘I know it’s important . . .’ began Dad, but I didn’t give him a chance to finish.

‘This is the one game we have to win,’ I said.

‘Well, just remember this,’ said Dad as he tidied the breakfast things away. ‘You’ve always given it your best shot, one hundred percent plus. No one can do more than that.’ He looked at me. ‘And don’t they say that the most important thing isn’t winning or losing, it’s how you play the game?’

‘Huh,’ I said. ‘Not when it comes to the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup. No way.’

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Rugby read #3: Sitting on the Fence by Bill Nagelkerke

With only 3 weeks to go until the Rugby World Cup kicks off, we want to share some rugby reads with you.  If you love rugby and reading, then these books are for you.  This week’s Rugby Read is Sitting on the Fence by Christchurch author, Bill Nagelkerke.

It is 1981 and Martin senses big trouble brewing at home.  The South African rugby team has been invited to tour New Zealand.  Martin’s sister, Sarah, is out to stop the tour in protest against South Africa’s racist apartheid system.  His rugby-mad dad is equally determined that the tour should go ahead.  Martin wishes the whole thing would simply go away.

“You just fence-sit like a dumb bunny,” Sarah tells him.  But Martin would just rather not take sides.

Then a new school leads to a new friendship, and Martin is faced with a choice.  He can walk away, or he can become involved in something that will end up being bigger than anybody could have predicted.  The story is based on the Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand in 1981 when the nation was divided between pro and anti tour supporters.

Recommended for 9+

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My favourite NZ books – Bill Nagelkerke

PhotoOne New Zealand book I particularly remember is Elsie Locke’s The Runaway Settlers, a story about a pioneering family who arrive in Lyttelton in 1858. They make a new home for themselves in Governors Bay, near Christchurch. I must have been about seven or eight years old when our teacher read this novel to our class. It had only recently been published. This was probably the first time I heard a story where events were happening in a place close to where I lived, not somewhere else altogether. It made me look at those places differently.

Many years later I was lucky enough to meet the author herself and talk to her about the book. Although Elsie is no longer alive, The Runaway Settlers is still around and it’s as good now as it was when it was first published forty-six years ago.

Bill Nagelkerke

So, what’s your favourite New Zealand book?

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Last post from Bill Nagelkerke

Thanks to Christchurch City Libraries for inviting me to be their ‘Star Author’ during October. It’s been great fun. I’m looking forward to reading the blog of next month’s Star Author.

Last week I visited the Centre for the Child in the Central Library and spoke to students from St Michael’s School as well as to some home-schooled students. I showed them a copy of the first story I had published in the School Journal, back in 1985. It was called The Magic Trick.

I’ve written several stories featuring magicians and magic tricks. I think it’s because stories aren’t that different from magic tricks, especially stories with endings that surprise.

Stories are magical in other ways, too. Stories can take you to amazing places and introduce you to some great characters, all through the transforming power of words and your own imagination.

So, keep on reading and writing, and enjoying the magic of stories.

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Bill Nagelkerke’s New Book

I have a new book coming out early next year. It’s called Hippo Ears and the Stargazer. This is what the cover looks like. Underneath is a description of the book, taken from the publisher’s website.

“People like stories that make them feel safe. Most of my stories do that. But sometimes I throw in a new tale that unsettles them. A tale about wandering stars for instance.”

Hipparchus and his sister Sappho live on the island of Samos in Ancient Greece. They spend their spare time listening to the ideas of their friend the Stargazer. They are enchanted by his stories about the stars, the sun and the Earth. But Hipparchus and Sappho discover that not everyone agrees with the Stargazer’s ideas, and stories can be dangerous. They must find their friend and warn him before it is too late . . .

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