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Happy New Year

02/01/24: What better way to start 2024 than with this ode to Fives by Dale Vargas...


The Joy of Eton Fives

We English are a funny race

The hours of sport that we embrace.

Maybe it’s our temperate clime

That makes us fill our leisure time

Simulating acts of war.

Nothing seems to please us more.


No languishing in ivory towers

Nor slumbering in leafy bowers

For us. We like to run and fall;

We like to kick and catch a ball

But to hit that ball against a wall,

That’s what we like, most of all


Our games appear in several guises,

One of them is Eton fives’s

Here’s a game played hard and fast,

But courtesy comes first and last.

If we think we’ve balked our foe,

We own right up and tell him so.


We start the game off with a serve

Without spin or twist or swerve,

Clever tricks that we deplore,

The purpose being not to score

A point, or some advantage lay

But just to place the ball in play.


Fives is e’er a game of skill;

Our aim is not to maim or kill

And should there be the odd dispute

No referees the air pollute.

If no agreement can be met,

The matter’s settled with a ‘let’.


In cut and thrust of rally play

No hint of rancour we betray.

We join our foe in friendly fight,

Of our injuries make light.

Casualties we have to bear;

Fatalities: extremely rare.


When we reach one point to win

We do a most extraordinary thing:

We allow the cutter a free hit:

Wherever he or she thinks fit.

Its characteristic of us Brits

Not to wear the cap that fits.


Some have said this siren game

Has left them never quite the same.

Some, who find it hard to sleep,

Count game-points instead of sheep.

Some have thought to leave their wives,

Such is the lure of Eton fives.


So, may this form of rich endeavour

Go on for years, if not for ever

Let us keep our acts of war

Within these walls, three, not four.

That’s the thing about us Brits;

We don’t always wear the cap that fits.


Happy New Year 2024!

Dale Vargas