Monday, 21 November 2011

Day 696: Big In Belgium, The Polished Turd, A Season Of Shits, The Grip Of A Drowning Man, One Finger On The Next Level, It Finally Happened: Meltdown On The Oche, The Clubber Lang Factor, Mesmerising Darts, Back In The Heart Of Dartness, Darwinian Darts Evolution, and DARTS T-SHIRTS FOR SALE!!!

Hours Of Practice: 735
Miles Walked On The Oche: 588

"No trophy! No flowers! No flashbulbs! No wine!
He's haunted by something he cannot define
Bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse,
Assail him, impale him with monster-truck force" - '
Going The Distance', Cake

We're back. Over 1000 unique visitors. Nearly 7000 visits. Over 500 hits from America. Nearly 1500 hits from the UK. Over 2,000 hits from...Belgium. Fucking BELGIUM. Do they even play Darts over there? Or do they just think it's something to spread on a baguette? (They eat baguettes, don't they?) Whatever keywords I'm using, they sure seem to appeal to the Belgians. Maybe 'Checkout' is a Belgian colloquialism for 'Monkey Porn.' I don't know what the hell's going on, but I'm not complaining.

Either way, after a blogging gap of 5 months, welcome to the latest installment of the blog that Hercule Poirot once commented on ("My 'little grey cells' are telling me this is, how you say, fucking idiotic") and that is spiking Darts sales in Burkina Faso: Arrows Of Outrageous Fortune. Firstly, mention should be made of the major cosmetic changes that have recently been applied to the Diary Of The Tungsten Trial To Titantic Triumph. Let's not have any new-Facebook-layout style rants here, Darts Fans; it was long overdue, and personally I'm rather pleased with it. It gives the blog the sense of unwarranted grandeur it deserves. Let me know what YOU think though. The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that it's been 5 months inbetween entries, and yet the practice hours have only gone up by about 150 hours. Not enough, I know, and it has to be said 5 weeks in a row out of those four months were spent without throwing as much as a single practice dart...but we'll come to the reasons why later (and why a half-finished version of this blog has sat on my laptop for the majority of that time, incomplete and unpublished...)

First up, I'm sure you are all bending your stems in anticipation of knowing the final placing of The Earlsdon Cottage LadyBoys in the summer Chapelfields Darts League B season. As I said at the start of the season, "Boys, I don't care if we mainly lose all season, as long as we don't come bottom. All I ask if merely that we do enough to come at least second from bottom. That's all." So naturally, we came bottom with just 5 points. 11 league wins for yours truly, but a few nightmareish, nervy performances still; but that's been addressed, and again, we will come to that later. Still, morale remains high, and the result made us more determined to do better in the winter season. The lads new to the game have installed home boards to get their practice up, and are approaching it with new gusto, which is genuinely heart warming to see. Despite a few personnel changes (1 now got to babysit on Wednesdays as his wife has work, 1 can't face the travel halfway across town on the bus anymore (but is available as backup) and one decided on the night of the new season that he had work commitments. Nice) the team is fired up, and, in our first match of the new season, we played the freshly relegated Highway Club. Nice bunch of lads, who unfortunately for us were missing a few key players, and were a man down automatically handing us 1 win out of the singles (7 singles matches, 3 doubles. I'm reliably informed their missing man was terrified of us and bottled it. Soiled himself, the story goes.) I chose this night to play some of the best competitive darts of my life, and even hit a two-dart 98 pressure checkout in the doubles (annoyingly, this sort of thing and this standard of play is fairly common for practice. Hopefully it's starting to break into my competition game. The end result? A draw, giving us 2 league points and putting us on nearly half of our total of the previous season after one game. To say the mood leaving the pub was ecstatic would be an understatement. The best moment, however, was whilst shaking hands with the very pleasant members of the other team, one of them, who'd played against my old team and myself about 5 years ago-when I first played darts on a casual basis, before stopping for several years-asked, 'When did you learn to play like that?' Probably one of the best compliments I've ever had in my life, if a little backhanded. He'd seen an impressive improvement, and had commented on it. If that wasn't a sign that I'm getting somewhere, then nothing is. Only a little thing, but I tell you what, Darts Fans, these are the moments you've got to savour, as if you don't you'll quit. Encouragement is rare when you're chasing a stupid dream, so grab whatever you can get. That also applies to going on the pull. Anyway, all that said, we'll no doubt get shafted next week. You watch, a few more losses and my previously shot-down suggestion of burning down the opposing teams' pubs before away games will suddenly start to seem more and more appealing. Although perhaps a little obvious who the perpetrators are when the only pub left intact is ours. We'd better burn it down too at the end of the season, just to be sure. EDIT: Coming back to this paragraph several weeks into the season, we've chalked up another win and to my delight monday nights have managed to become a regular team practice night. Great for me, but even better for the odds of the other guys improving; and they are.

Something I've noticed; I need a lengthy warm up, roughly 45 darts thrown. Otherwise, I start badly, and that bad start gets in my head, and it's all downhill from there. OR, I start to get annoyed with poor performance in my warm up, and think I'm just off my game for the night, and then go in with a lack of confidence. I now EXPECT to have a bad warm up; that means I can't get upset about it, and then when I play my game I find I'm playing well.

Other things that have gone out of the window-in a good way-is my limp wristed early release of the dart so it goes crashing into the floor a good two feet from the board. My grip is very light on the dart, hence me using very grippy darts, but even with that, some days I pick them up and they just feel like I have no purchase on them, so, in my unending quest to spend money on Darts Tat, I picked up a bottle of Mighty Grip. Not to be confused with Almighty Grip, which rather than being a sporting aid is actually that which God uses to keep a hold of his children. Apparently. No, MIGHTY Grip is a small bottle of powder that you put on your fingertips. The beauty of it is that it goes tacky very quickly but doesn't rub off onto your darts, and washes off easily. An unexpected bonus is that I now have the ability to scale sheer, smooth walls effortlessly. If only I could shoot webs as well. The MG has made a big difference to my game, as my throw feels more confident, but the downside is I can't really play without some sort of grip additive now, as the darts feel too smooth. I know, you'd think of all the things I'd be used to by now, being too smooth in any capacity would be one of them...

The thing is, Darts Fans, that I'm no longer using the same grippy darts I was last time. I've changed darts again. There's a reason why, but more on that later...again. I thought it may be interesting to have a quick look at the darts I've gone through, in an insightful feature I call 'Stop Blowing Money On New Darts.'

Long time readers may remember (though I HIGHLY doubt it) the original Tungsten Tools Of Tournament Testwithstanding: the Harrows Aliens (27g)-
Which, when I decided to experiment with weight and try the best selling dart on the market at the same time, were replaced by Phil 'The Power' Taylor's then dart: The Phase 5 (26g, Black)-
And, when thinking about getting a spare set (I always have a spare set for the van, or my back pocket mini case) and not wanting to pay a small fortune for another one, I learned of the existence of the much cheaper rip-off version: the McCoy Marksman (26g, Black)-
These are more difficult to get hold of now; I wonder if you can guess why. Anyway, I preferred these as they had a more substantial feel to them, but became slowly obsessed with the idea of front-weighted darts matching my throw, so they eventually gave way to Dennis Priestley's 26g signature dart:

But I soon found I just couldn't hold onto the bloody things, and after trying and failing by adding rubber O rings to the grooves, I decided to try something more grippy, and after asking the forums for recommendations, I went for the Hi Tech Vice (26g):
I stuck with these for some time, and they are a great dart; in fact, three members of the team switched over to these too after trying mine, and I'd recommend them to anyone looking for a grippy, front weighted dart. But then the repeated great practice/poor match performance combo continued for one too many wednesday league nights/DartPro League games, and things just started to get ridiculous. The expectation of failure became overwhelming, and it took only a few bad darts to throw my head game into an incredibly dramatic downward spiral (read: tantrum.) I can remember, clear as day, one DartPro league game where I threw my umpteenth 26/21/11/7/3 and actually gripped my head in my hands and moaned in frustration, tears in my eyes. Things got so bad that I started avoiding practice, finding little reasons to do so, and worst of all I didn't even WANT to. Several weeks passed without practice. Hours lost (half the reason for the low hour addition above.) I knew something had to be done.

It was time to call in the professionals.

In a stroke of luck so precise it can only be described as the Gods Of Darts smiling down on me, proving (if any proof were needed) that I was the Chosen One of Darts, not only was there a new hypnotherapy centre within walking distance of my flat, but a hypnotherapy centre run by a hypnotist who was a part time referee/caller for the PDC. I shit you not. Sean Casey Poole ( - that's the website for his comedy hypnotist stage show, can't find the one for the centre, but it's Serene Mind and Body in Coventry if you want to google it and get the number) had the horrific, hellish task of sorting through my neuroses and hang ups to find the cause of the problem. He had to go and see another hypnotherapist afterwards to help him get over it.

Now, there may be many of you pooh-poohing the idea of hypnotherapy as an aid, but I couldn't disagree more. Darts is a game of millimetres after all, and therefore is a highly mental game. If you underestimate the importance of the mind in this sport, you just need to look at how many players are unable to perform without a drink.  Either way, I sat down with Sean, who I can recommend very highly, and we went through the idea of me taking poor performance so hard; how it had led to me throwing games before they were even halfway over because I had just decided that I was going to underperform again. Through a very interesting session, he tried to press home what I knew on the surface, but couldn't internalise; the fact that sometimes you just play badly, and sometimes you play well, and you have to learn to be able to take the bad with the good. Obvious, right? I knew it was true already, but there's an immense gulf between knowing it and being able to accept it. And that's the thing with hypnotism; it's a very, very subtle fix. When you're under, you're conscious, and you know what's going on, but you're just very relaxed. When you leave, you don't feel like anything revelatory has occured. And when it comes to game time, you don't suddenly find yourself miraculously relaxed, or noticing anything different. You still feel pressure and nerves. You still worry about winning, and desperately want to. But you realise when the game is over, win or lose, that you just tutted over the bad darts, went and got them, and waited for your next go. That may sound like nothing, but anyone who's been lost in the self-doubting hell of an endless run of sporting bad form will know what I'm talking about. Either way, Sean made a difference, and I stopped worrying, but I still had lost my darting mojo, my get up and throw (oh, I must remember that one for league night. I'm sure they'll love it. As you can imagine, they all love my constant darting theories and philosophy, and in no way are sick to fucking death of it.)

There was only one way to get it back, one that has been proven to me over and over again, and this brings me back to the darts evolution listed above; go and buy new darts. I came home from league night one week after switching back-out of a mild desperation that still hung over from my pre-hypnosis matches-to my old Harrows Aliens, believe it or not, and putting in a great league performance as a result. Convinced the answer lay in a dart somewhere between my then current Hi-Tec Vice and the Aliens, I lost several hours into the dawning of the following thursday morning perusing online darts catalogues. I though I might have found my answer, and, too impatient to order online and wait, I rang the newly reopened Midlands Darts Centre in Yardley (about 25 minutes from Coventry) once I'd woken up. They didn't have the ones I was after (the name escapes me) but had an almost identical, locally made set. Naturally, I headed over (avoiding the potenial pitfall of getting directions to the Midlands Arts Centre down the road in Birmingham instead. I can only imagine similar confusion the other way round, with the box office staff manning the weekend matinee performance of Little Ayolf being asked where the 26g Dark Destroyers were by confused looking middle aged men in polo shirts) and spent a good two hours on the instore oches they had set up, blown away by the immense try-before-you-buy selection and the on hand advice of the owner (I cannot recommend this place enough.) In the end, I came away with something UTTERLY different than that which I'd come in for, and a whole 2 grams higher than what I'd been using:

The only problem is, I have no idea what they are. I've seen many similar, but not the same as these. If anyone can tell me, it'd be much appreciated, so I can buy a spare set. Either way, the combined effect of all of the above was electric. Not only was I practicing again with a vengeance, but my performance was the best yet (To put it into context; in the last blog entry I was delighted with permanently cracking the 70+ barrier. Now I'm on the verge-not consistently enough yet to claim it as my current standard, but I'm doing it-of cracking the 80+ barrier for good.)
And then...with a timing so perfect it can only prove, if proof were ever needed, that the Gods Of Darts think that I am in fact the antichrist of darts, for they struck me down with illness, and I lost another two weeks. And I don't just mean bad timing in terms of halting my major return to form. You see, Darts Fans, the thing is that lately, I've been struggling with a fairly major period of the blues. Mid-life crisis? Maybe. In my (very) early thirties now, and with a string of failed attempts at greatness to my name...and then I get up and face another day with only two very cute but conversationally stunted canines for company, and suddenly it can all get on top of you, very fast. Don't get me wrong; I know I am very blessed. I live in a nice home, financially we're doing ok, I have a loving girlfriend, etc etc. It's all good. And I would FAR rather have a string of failed attempts at what I wanted to achieve than to have settled for something less...but as I believe I waxed lyrical on last time, you can't help but find yourself looking in the mirror and seeing the age lines working their way in, wondering if you were right. The illness (nothing serious, just a long lasting and unshiftable bout of man flu) meant me staying in bed all day in an attempt to see it off, which really didn't help fight off feelings of isolation and wasted time. I mean, we're talking what, about a week or so ago this ended. And since then I've been playing catch up on not only various little jobs that need sorting (gig invoices, bills, finishing off my website for the music work-yes this will be plugged like a bitch on here. While I'm at it, buy The Physics Of The Dead for the Kindle/Kindle app for your smartphone for 89p from It's mindblowingly fucktastic) but all the other little bits of projects that I always seem to be working on. And in the frantic catch up of the last twoish weeks, the darts has suffered. So all of that-the mindgame crash, the illness, the catch up-has hit my practice hours hard. But don't worry, darts fans; I'm back on it as of NOW. I'd hate for you to worry, after all. Hello? Hey!

One important thing I realised only the other day is how it's has been months and MONTHS since I entered a tournament. This is because I decided to have some time away to improve before having another go-a good way of gauging progress-but frankly, I didn't mean to leave it THIS long, but on the plus side I reckon I'm so much better since the last one that in a local level tournament I could really give them a good game. Plus I have a season and a half of pub league competition experience under my belt since then. Don't scoff; the pressure in a pub league is far worse than a tournament, particularly if you're the captain, and a deeply sexual one at that. Think about it; you're in front of your mates-who have been drinking-and you can lose in just two legs. Most tournaments are best of 5 or, more usually, 7. Our pub league is best of 3. The margin for error is narrow as fuck, frankly, and so the pressure is high. Going to a tournament compared to that would be a walk in the park. So I make this promise to you now, darts fans; by next blog post (SOON! SOOOOOOONNNNN!!!!) I will have been to another tournament (as long as there are some on; I wrote that before I checked...)

Right. Now onto the fun stuff. In my spare time (minimal. Despite technically having all the time in the world, I never allow myself any. You wouldn't believe it, but it's true. So much so I have recently started to make an effort to allow myself it...) I've knocked up a couple of...DARTS T SHIRTS! WOOOO!! GUARANTEED to get anyone you like wanting to have sexual intercourse with YOU*. I've deliberately picked the nicer-fitting t-shirts, as I think baggy tees generally look a bit naff, which means they weren't the cheapest ones available, but they're still pretty cheap. BASICALLY, I love the idea of getting a cool darts T shirt to wear, or some nice darts merchandise, but I could never find any that were particularly interesting and/or actually funny. So I made a few of my own. The link at the top of the blog will take you to the shop, and just to ram it even harder down your throat, here it is again:

So far, there's just the three available, but if people like them I'll do a few more. All of these are available in a variety of colours, by the way. Here's the first:

That's right, YOU can be amongst the first to potentially get sued by the NBA for wearing this little beauty! Note the tag underneath (this blog's new URL, by the way) that will definitely get the men/women/violence going. Next:

YES, the blog title is in there, but it's actually a PHILOSOPHICAL DARTS T SHIRT. The text, a classic Shakespearian quote, reads:

Gettin' horny already, eh? You knows you is. Plus, you can show the world your love, support, and admiration for the most inexplicably still running blog on the internet. And the most basic (and cheapest) one is this:
Tell the world that YOU, yes YOU believe that you are the very future of darts! SEE how they admire your forthrightness and bravery!! Definitely. Definitely. I have to say, if anyone does buy one, for the love of all that is holy take a photo of yourself in it and send it to me. You would make my fucking year. (Probably also best to stay away from naked flames too. I can't vouch for how fire retardant these are. I'm sure they're fine.)

Anyway, Darts Fans, that's all for now. As I finish typing the last lines of this waaaayyyyy overdue update, I see it's now the early hours of my birthday. Which makes me think of presents. Which makes me think of what a GREAT Christmas presents any of the above shit would make for...I dunno. The postman. As ever, a very, very sincere thankyou for anyone taking the time to read this; the numbers do seem to be growing at an almost alarming rate, and whilst I can only assume that Google has confused the word 'Darts' with 'Cliff Richard's Naked Cock' and the unique user stats went mad as a result. But anyway, even if you wandered in here by mistake and stayed for the nonsense, thankyou. Your support is very gratefully received.

Stay Hungry,

Straight Shooting Luke Smitherd
(*level of attraction from opposite sex generated by t shirt may vary, indeed to the point where the t shirt may even seem to have the opposite effect.)
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Darts T Shirts

Sunday, 19 June 2011

(HOLLYWOOD STYLE DRAMA EDITION!) Day 535: Finding The Cure For 'Darts Back', The Evolution Of The Earlsdon Cottage Desperadoes, Humiliation And Heroism, Smashing The 70 Barrier, Strengthening The Mind At £20 A Time,The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Darter, and A Shameless Literary Plug

Hours Of Practice: 583
Miles Walked On The Oche: 466.4

Welcome back Darts Fans, and people who couldn't give a shit about darts but read this nonsense for some reason; thanks for coming. For those of you have been asking me where the next blog update was (there are actually people that do that) it's time to rejoice as this installment is a REALLY long one. So get comfortable. Make a cup of tea first. I'll wait.

This latest edition of Arrows Of Outrageous Fortune comes to you
via an all-new approach, specially formulated to give it that extra touch of spice! The Luke Smitherd Excitement Filter (tm) is being applied to this blog from here on in, to turn it from an
engrossing and highly arousing read to an explosive sex-fest of action, raunch, and hilarious things involving mainly darts. And TERRORISTS.

So what's been happening recently on the Tungsten Trail To Titanic Triumph? I'll tell you what; back pain, Darts Fans. Back pain. It's been a while, but the double header of an old gym-obsessive-
days training injury coming back to haunt me (right shoulder blade) as I took my guitar off at the end of a gig to feel it 'pop' and not really settle back in as usual, combined with a new, more
worrying addition of lower back pain on the right hand side (the exact point at which my body hinges as I lean forward on the oche) and getting sick of recent, constant neck stiffness, I made a
tough decision. Some money will have to be spent. Once I'd managed, after this realisation, to unclench my buttocks with the aid of a paramedic-standard set of 'Jaws Of Life', I went through Google and found someone professional, knowledgable, insightful, and cheap. My sports massage/physio appointment with Tanya was booked.

After a thorough session of prodding, probing, stretching, ande hardly any screaming like a girl, Tanya left the room after announcing she 'just wanted to check something to be sure.' When she came
back ten minutes later, to my great concern, her face was ashen, and her eyes were slightly watery. More worrying was the fact that this had nothing to do with the £10 note I'd confusedly tucked
into the waistband of my towel. Someone told me that's how physios prefer to be paid.
'You might need to sit down,' she said. I thought this unusual, as I was already lying on my stomach on the table, but I sat in the opposite chair anyway, pulling my towel tight and suddenly
feeling very aware of how cold it was in there.
'Luke', she said, looking at the floor. 'When I finished the assessment...I wanted to be certain before I said anything. So I put the results through the computer to be sure, and it's confirmed
everything. I've run the tests 3 times over, and the results are always the same.'
I sat there and said nothing. With a deep sigh, she continued.
'Every darts player runs the risk of Dartenisation-'
'Wait, what?'
'In layman's terms, Dartenisation occurs when a darts player combines a large amount of practice with an incredible amount of being sexy. It's very rare, but it happens. But yours is a case so
advanced that no-one has ever seen anything like it.'
' what are you saying?'
'I'm saying,' she said, her eyes welling up, 'That if you play as much as ONE MORE game of could die.'
Though the news hit me like a sledgehammer, it only strengthened my resolve, as I stood without a word.
'Thanks for the assessment Tanya, but if you'll excuse me, I have PRACTICE to do.'
'Weren't you listening?!' she cried, aghast, 'One more game and you could DIE!!'
'THEN I'LL SEE YOU IN HELL!!!' I screamed, producing a dart from somewhere inside my towel with a flourish and throwing it at the plate glass window, shattering it. Screaming heroically, I jumped
out of the third floor window frame, removing my towel and tying it around my neck like a cape in one swift movement, revealing my throbbing and

Sorry about that, the Luke Smitherd Excitement Filter (tm) seems to have a bit of a sensitive trigger today; I just nudged it and it flicked to maximum on the anecdote. Here's what actually

After the run through, I was getting dressed whilst Tanya was outside looking at her notes. When she came back in, she was carrying what looked like some kind of diagram.
'I want you to take a look at this,' she said, handing me what appeared to be an outline drawing of the human body, covered in small dots.
'What are these?' I asked, pointing at one.
'Representations.' she replied. 'This isn't your diagram, this is an example. But the dots represent where I've identified certain...findings in your musculoskeletal genetic make-up.'
'Woah, slow down there Einstein!'
'Ok. Luke, every human being has in their blood stream tiny particles called Tungstichlorians. Whether they play the game or not, these determine how much potential they have to be able to play
incredible Darts. Your count is 127.'
' that a lot?' I asked. She stared at me for a long moment, almost in disbelief. Finally, she spoke.
'Luke...the person whose diagram this is...their Tunstichlorian count is only 76.' She pointed to the name at the top of the sheet. I peered at it.
It read, 'P. Taylor.'
'Luke,' she said, wide eyed, 'You are going to be the greatest Darts player...of all time.'
'THEN I'LL SEE YOU IN HELL!!!' I screamed, producing a dart frommmmmmmmmmmmmm-

Fucking thing. I'll switch it off.

Basically, over three sessions, my lower back-which was 'rock hard with tension' has eased off nicely, my neck has been improved, and my shoulder blade is not a darting issue. She said, based on
the fact that I spent many hours a week leaning at the same point, it was unsurprising my lower back was so stiff. It made me wonder how many darts players who suffer from back issues-a very common
factor in the game-even consider getting a sports massage, perhaps embarrassed needing physio for a sport that is unathletic in the least. It's an endurance test at the highest level-absolutely no
doubt, both mentally and physically-but it is of course not a sport for 'athletes'. She recommended a few post-practice stretches to remove any tension that may develop, and I'll list these at the
end for anyone that's interested (including those kindly suggested by Shane Amadan via twitter; thankyou Shane. HE'S following on twitter folks...and you can TOO! Click the button above! YEAH!)

This talk of stretching may bring to mind the fairly recent ad in which a woman on a blind date with a 'comedy' darts enthusiast says 'Stretching? Really'? when she sees him 'hilariously' stretching before he shows off at darts. This is also the same ad when this woman, on a date with someone, whilst he's obviously a ringpiece, says 'Is darts even a sport?' A more true-to-life response from him would be 'Yes, stretching, because the human body isn't designed to stand rigidly at an angle for hours on end. And yes, as it's recognised as a sport by all the sporting bodies of the United Kingdom, then it officially is, as well as the fact that Darts requires muscle memory, throwing, walking, accuracy, and extreme hand-to-eye co-ordination, to answer both of your staggeringly rude fucking questions about something I'm clearly passionate and enthusiastic about, you fucking twat. Plus, you're not even really fit enough for me to consider brushing your ignorance off in the hope of a fuck, as frankly, you're not worth the effort,' before headbutting her and pissing on her unconscious face. That's what I'D have done, anyway.

So I'm now going to go back to Tanya once every 6 weeks for a back M.O.T., as the difference it's made to practice comfort has been pretty immense. Take my advice, darts players; google 'Sports Massage' for your local area and get yourself booked in. If you're in the West Midlands, visit They're great.

In the meantime...I've finally cracked the 70+ average barrier, in that I'm maintaining an average of 70 or over throughout a day's practice. Or rather...I was. Let me explain.
Whenever I sit down to write this blog, darts fans, I write a little list of subjects that I'm going to cover. This is because I know I'll take weeks, coming back and doing a little bit here and
there, and don't want to forget what I was going to cover. Any changes that occur in the meantime, or any relevant news, get added in later. And on the list for THIS blog was '70+ average,' and
this was a very big deal; actually hitting and going beyong the target I set in my '500 hours milestone' blog. But somewhere between starting this blog and now, something happened. And I blame the
fucking league darts...the best way to explain this is to move onto the next item on the list, 'Fucking league darts.'

Don't let the title make you think I'm negative about wednesday nights; I love it. I've been lucky enough to get a get bunch of chaps together for the team, we have a great laugh, attitude
throughout is very positive, and I'm genuinely cheered to see steady improvement through some of the players newer to the game. The whole thing is ace, and I ALWAYS look forward to it. BUT.
I've won 4 out of 7 league matches-not bad-the difference between practice performance and competitive performance is, quite frankly, staggering. I'm hardly unique in this-the most common threads on the darts forums by FAR are along the lines of 'Why do I play so bad in competition'/'Inability to produce so frustrating'/'I've just murdered my wife in a fit of darts induced rage. I'm going to do the neighbours now, please stop me'-so this might not be news, but the sheer LEVEL of discrepancy has been, at times, staggering. 100s and 80s in practice, 26s and even 11s in competition. THAT bad. Only some pretty flashy checking out-103 and 94-has saved my bacon. Even seem to have developed, on occasion (but on enough for it to have become a it to have become a running team joke) what  I refer to as the 'Hello Sailor' throw. I have a soft grip on my darts (helps maintain a nice release, but requires very grippy darts to balance it out, if that makes sense) and when I manage to hit that perfect form of 'letting go' of the dart mid throw, it drops into the lipstick at least 1 in 3 darts every time. EVERY TIME. It's great. But I've started an alarming habit of sometimes
letting go of the dart way too early, so if just kind of flops out of my hand and doesn't even reach the wall. The frustration/rage from this, combined with the aforementioned poor form has led me
to even turn from the oche and throw my darts into the floor out of frustration. I know. Embarrassing for me, and for the team. And especially risky given that the venue was a bouncy castle. But I

But the other annoying thing is that this has had an effect on my practice games, slowly driving me back into the mid to high 60s, perhaps due to a combination of anixiety over poor comp
performance, and over analysing my throw. It HAS meant I've discovered a few things-don't let my arm get lazy (maintain a fast motion in the arm) release a little earlier than feels 'right' to make
sure it hits the lipstick, and-this is a big one-take a moment on the oche in comp games. Take moment to settle and relax, and then just throw my own game as I would at hoe. Tried this in the
double-in format doubles game last night, and it made a big difference (112 check in. Great performance all round...and then the always reliable finishing cocked up. GNNNNNNNNNN....)
Still, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before this is all ironed out; the trick is to remember all the above (plus keeping the head still) without it being a CONSCIOUS thing. Just have to wait
until it's internalised, and I should be laughing. Fuck it, roll on the 80+.

But as ever, darts fans, the Straight Shooting One refuses to give in to adversity. Fuck THAT, darts fans. In a move that I described as 'insightful' and others have described as 'Buying Snake
Oil', I decided to tackle the mind problems head on. After some probing research (five minutes on the app store and google) I discovered a 4 cd download aimed at sportsmen and women-for just £20!!
Eh? Eh?-called 'Mind Of Steel.' Although the name could do with a bit of work (from, no doubt, the same people that brought you 'Penis Of Titanium' and 'Bowels Of Vesuvius') I decided that this
could well be handy on my journey to develop Instinct Of Tungsten. So I forked over my money (Eh? EH??) and downloaded it. I'm only halfway through so far, and have gleaned a few useful titbits-
sadly, nothing game changing yet-but so far there seems to be an alarming trend with the work of Dr. ShallRemainNameless (Dr. StateTheObvious) in that his 'lessons' seem to go along these lines:
"Your mood is vital to the outcome of your game. The wrong mood cam dramatically alter the standard of your play, and so you have to make sure your mood is correct." (He pauses briefly, and you wait to be told exactly how to achieve the correct mood. He then continues:) "Another important thing is energy..." What the fuck?!? TELL ME HOW TO CORRECT MY MOOD THEN IF IT'S SO IMPORTANT, YOU BLITHERING JACKASS!! And then it occurs to you that quite possibly, the blithering jackass if you, for handing over your £20 to this guy's Bank Account Of Adamantium. But I haven't finished it yet, so who knows? It might have the secret to a Mind Of Steel after all.

Speaking of the mind, that brings me nicely to the other issue I've been pondering at the moment. In a strange kind case of the opposite situation occuring in order for me to consider the current
situation-if that makes sense-Angela is currently inbetween jobs. This means that, at the moment, in the daytimes, instead of only having two dogs for company (and they sleep most of the time) I
suddenly have another person around all day (although again, Ange is either applying for jobs or getting jobs done around the flat, wanting to both make the most productive use of her free time and
to avoid distracting me from getting my own shit done. I am, unfortunately, very easily distracted. Excuse me, there's a blue car outside) and it's great, although I have to confess, despite our
best efforts, I'm not getting as much done as normal. It's so easy to get sidetracked, and take a little longer over meals, and lie in a little longer when you're cuddled up comfy with someone
else. All of which is ok, because it's nice, and it's only temporary. Something interesting that Ange said the other day-in her free time she's now made her own 'jobs' list of tasks to get done-
was that she knows what I mean about there not being enough hours in the day. She was referring to what I often find myself thinking when I get up early, have breakfast, do my morning darts, work
on whatever jobs need doing, have dinner, more time on whatever jobs, then afternoon darts, then it's 7pm (my usual sign off time.) I then think back on the day, and 9 times out of 10 think 'Where
the hell has the time gone? I haven't dawdled, messed around, or really slacked off today, and still I've got NOTHING done.' I always thought that maybe I just wasn't really working hard enough,
but Ange has the best work ethic of anyone I've ever known, and SHE says she finds herself thinking the same thing. It's just wierd how the time seems to evaporate out from under you.

But anyway, realising how much I'm already used to Angela being around has simultaneously made me realise how much worse it's going to be when she goes back to work. Before, I used to actually very much enjoy having these solo days, as I could kind of revel in waking up, focusing, and getting on with things, darts and otherwise, and then my day ends when Ange gets back from work or the gym
and we have our free time together. All good. But I'm now starting to dread her going back, as I can see a very dark period where I wake up to an empty and silent house...every day. It's ironic; I
chose the path of employment that I did because I couldn't stand the idea of routine, and being bound to the same place every single day on someone else's say so. But what I've actually ended up
with it's far, FAR more constricting than any job. In the week, I dedicate all my free time to getting things done, and if I don't, I become overwhelmed with guilt and self-loathing for letting
myself down and contributing to my life not progressing fast enough. Then the weekend comes-when the 9 to 5ers are off having a good time-and I go to work. And that is my life. Yes, this is all for
a reason, and it's all part of a bigger goal of getting somewhere better, be it through darts or other means...but it's a long, long road that stretches out in front of me, Darts Fans, and I can't
see the end, and there's too many days when that leaves me under a big, blackcloud. And the biggest sacrifice of all-by a huge percentage-is the darts. Because it's a big commitment time-wise, and
it's time I could be having a lunch in a nice pub, or watching a film, or doing whatever the hell I like (as most people assume I do I with all my free time. I wish I did. They have absolutely NO
idea) but I don't. Because if I'm not putting that time to good use-darts time or jobs time-then I'm not ever going to make the changes I want. I just hope to god it's all worth it in the end.
But whenever I get down about it-the time spent on darts-I remember that I love the game, and I look at the improvements I've made, and the things that need fixing that I KNOW are fixable, and I
put my head up. I truly believe I can go the distance to get into the big time, and there's a lot of people-friends and, disappointingly, close friends-that openly laugh at that, but fuck them.
What are they doing? What dreams are they chasing? None. And I'd rather have a laughable dream than no dream at all, and I'd rather say 'I tried this and failed' than 'I didn't bother.' It's just
hard, Darts Fans, to keep plugging away at something that all common sense says is a waste of an enormous amount of precious time, and you find yourself stopping and thinking 'hold on...what am I
doing?' (That's not self pity; I'm not trying to garner sympathy, just to explain a facet of the 'journey.') And not only that, but to think that even if I realised it was all a waste of time...could
I stop? After so much time invested in it-and FAR much more to go-could I walk away with nothing to show for it? Or would I have to keep going, despite knowing (if such a realisation occured) that
I was doomed to failure, because I couldn't live with not finishing a job I'd already put so much into? That's a hard question, darts fans.

But I will say this. I actively took a week off practice this week, not for any desire to get away from the game or anything, but because I'd gotten so little jobs done lately, and also because I
figured a week off would probably be a good thing regardless; ideally helping to keep my enthusiasm healthy, and just to check everything else was ok. And all week-despite getting lots of stuff
done, which has been great-you know what I've been absolutely itching to do, all day, every day?

Play darts, mo-fos. Play darts. I miss it, I love it, and I can't wait for tomorrow when the week off ends. So maybe all the above is just a load of bollocks after all. Time will tell. The blog
will either end with some kind of major trophy or a note that simply says '10,000 HOURS FOR FUCK ALL!!! GOODBYE!!!' and a headline somewhere...I do rather hope it's the former rather than the

And to continue the more positive theme, a mention must be made of this seasons online DartPro League. I THINK I've mentioned it in a previous blog, but via the always excellent darts forums, Skype, a webcam, and the free software DartPro, I've entered, for the second time, a season of the dartpro league, which, as the name suggests, is playing darts against a human opponent via the aforementioned soft and hardware. The first season, I don't think I won a game. THIS season, I've played, I think, 2 league games and 1 cup game-as well as 2 friendlies-and won them all, and all by some margin. 5 for 5. Don't get me wrong-they were close games, I didn't throw to my best average by a LONG chalk (see previous section on competitive league night games, GRRRR) but some tip-top finishing (including a 118 checkout) put me over well, I think the closest scoreline being 7-4. So if that doesn't say there's an improvement-no wins to 5 wins, and two against people who've beaten me soundly before-then what does?

So THAT's a nice place to leave this installment, Darts Fans, and what a nice long installment it's been. Let no-one says that Arrows Of Outrageous Fortune doesn't give you plenty of bang for your
no-bucks. Speaking of money's worth, if anyone needs to book well-priced live musical entertainment for whatever occasion, contact Barry Herbert at Mainstream Management, and say you want to book
Luke. Mention this blog, and he'll say 'That's interesting' and still charge you full price. BUT!! At over 100 downloads (and if any of them were from you, darts fans, I thank you sincerely from
the bottom of my heart) the free download of my book, The Physics Of The Dead, is going great guns. If you have a blackberry, or iPhone, or any kind of smartphone, get the FREE Kindle app on it
first and visit to get your copy. Let's face it; if you enjoy this meandering blather, then think how much you'll enjoy some carefully crafted, well-
structured, exciting mystery-driven fantastical realism in the same vein as Lost and Twin Peaks, all for FREE! UNLESS you fancy spending the £1.71 to buy the pay version from
(  You can at least see the cover here...and the 5 star review!!) For those of you who have sent me your very kind reviews, I am very, very grateful indeed. And for those that didn't like it and kept their opinions to themselves, that's probably best...

And to you, Darts Fan, book bullshit aside, thankyou for reading, as ever. According to my stat counter, this blog has now-God alone knows how-now has nearly 500 unique users. Of course this is
some kind of computer error, but it makes me happy. Thankyou. After I sign off, I shall list the stretches recommended by Tanya at Fire And Earth ( and Angela (don't worry, she's a qualified personal trainer. And a terrible drunk) and Shane's helpful twitter suggestions. I just need to find some internet photos to illustrate...

See you next time, Darts Fans.

Stay Hungry,

Straight Shooting Luke Smitherd

All these stretches are, of course, to be done POST practice. You should never stretch muscles that haven't been lightly warmed up. The whole lot should take you no more than about 3 minutes, and it's really worth it. Man with cap photos and text courtesy of

Lie down on your back and pull both knees up to your chest. Hold your arms under the knees, not over (that would put to much pressure on your knee joints). Slowly pull the knees toward your shoulders.
Sit in a chair or on a bench with both feet flat on the floor. Start by rotating your head and chest to one side, so that at least one hand touches the back of your chair. Keep your feet planted. After you place yourself in this position, take a big breathe and, on the exhalation, twist just a bit further. You can also do this standing about one foot in front of a wall (keep your back facing the wall). Place one or both hands on the wall behind you to stabilize your torso and brace against your hands to twist your spine further. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Interlace fingers with your palm facing inward. Drop shoulders, stand upright with your back straight, and push your hands forward. Hold for 10-20 seconds.
You don't have to do the shit with the bent elbow, this is the best  photo I could find. Basically, this, but seated upright, with your waist straight. Bend to the side at the waist with your extended arm up and over your head and to the side. Hold for 10-20 seconds, then swap sides. This will also turn you into a girl with a ponytail.
THIS ISN'T THE RIGHT PICTURE EITHER, BUT THE LEG POSITION IS RIGHT. Do the previous exercise, but with your legs like this. Ah, you'll work it out.


Can't find the right picture. Bollocks, I'll just describe it, it's mind numbingly easy.
Stand upright and turn your head to the right. Then push your left shoulder down as you stay looking right. Hold for 10 seconds, then swap sides. Piece of piss.


Flat Roofer Nottingham Derby

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Day 482-The '500 Hours Of Practice' Special! Going Back To My (Darting) Roots, The Birth Of The Earlsdon Cottage Galaxy, Wednesday Is Darts Day, A Trip To The UK Open Qualifiers, Analysis Paralysis, and Blog Reflection. PLUS! 500 Hours: What's Changed, How Badly I've Failed At All Of My Goals So Far, And Goals For The NEXT 500 Hours

Hours Of Practice: 504
Miles Walked On The Oche: 401.6

500 hours. A milestone. A turning point. A horrific realisation that-based on the scientifically accepted  rule of it taking 10,000 hours of practice to master anything-I'm only 5% of the way there. Wank.

Still! 5%, eh? I'm proud of it. It SHOULD be more over the time period since I started all this, but given the various other factors that have affected the regime over time, I think it's decent going. And so, it's at a time like this that a man needs to take a look back at where he's been before he can decide where he's going. Which today will be a trip to the Newcastle coast with Angela's family, but what the fuck has that got to do with darts? Nothing, that's what. So let's talk about DARTS. Come back.

So, given that I've reached a certain stage in what I laughably call a career-and that I was in Newcastle-I thought a return to The Plough was in order. Long-time readers may remember in the early of my march up The Tungsten Trail To Titanic Top Trumping Triumph that I used to practice a lot in pubs, mainly in Cramlington where I spent most of my week whilst Angela still lived in Newcastle. My favourite haunt-and a cracking boozer full stop-was The Plough. About a year ago, I was in there 5 days a week without fail, two hours in the morning, two hours late afternoon, and during that time there used to be 3 or 4 of the same chaps that would come in after work for a pint or two. Obviously, Monday to Friday I'd be there already on the oche, and eventually over time it progressed from nods of recognition to the inevitable question; "What's with all the darts then?" And I told them. After that, though we were never overly chatty-as I didn't want to interrupt their evening, and also, y'know, the darts thing-there was always a brief bit of chat. I had visions of me finally taking down Phil Taylor on the world stage and them watching in The Plough, saying 'Aye, that fella used to practice in heeya every de-ay, fuckin' cham-pyan he was." Or possibly "Every dee-ay ah though to mesen, 'I'm gonna chin that fucka if he doesn' stop with the fuckin' darts.'"

Anyway, on the week that I cracked the 500 barrier-and it being a good year since I was last in there-I thought a return journey should be on the cards seeing as I was in the area. As I approached, I saw through the window that the main bar was rammed. Obviously a football game or something. I hoped very strongly that the snug would be less so, and that no-one would already be on the oche.

It wasn't, and no-one was. Result. I ordered a Strongbow and headed for the board-lovely throw they have in there-only to realise that someone was sat at a high table right on the oche line. I looked on the TV; someone was...playing Call Of Duty on the Xbox? And it was the guy sat at the table. Upon asking at the bar, I discovered that it was a charity tournament night, and that yes, they would mind moving the table forward half a foot. Despondent, I sat at a barstool.

At the end of the bar, I recognised a face; was that one of my guys? I couldn't remember. I thought I saw recognition in his face, so I tried a nod. He nodded back, and nudged his mate, who turned around-I recognised him-and cracked a smile. "Ah, how you doin' mate, how's the darts gannin'?" I felt this particular trip down memory lane had been worthwhile after all.

The 500 hour mark has also coincided with my return to the Wednesday night Chapelfields Pub League, after starting a team at The Earlsdon Cottage. Though the standard of players in my team starts at 'Rank Amateur'' and rockets downhill rapidly from there, the crack is great and I'm getting the competitive play I need. And I clearly DO need it; despite playing the best darts in my life in practice, I played the worst darts of my life in our first game. I also play in a wednesday afternoon practice league now in Birmingham-discovered through the good people on the forums-with pro and county players. I've won the odd leg-which is hella good in my opinion-but am a long way off getting a win against the top guys. A LONG way.

The irony is, I attended the regional qualifiers for the UK Open a few weeks ago...and a funny thing happened. I turned up towards the end of registration time, only to be told I needed to be wearing trousers, collar and shoes to compete, with it being an official PDC event. Looking around the room at all the other competitors dressed in the appropriate gear-who seemed to be looking at me-and combining that with the volume at which this guy had addressed the issue-a felt like a bit of a twat stood there in my t-shirt, board shorts and trainers. Fortunately, the venue was a Riley's just down the road from my house, so I had time to boot it back, grab my suit trousers, polo shirt and shoes, and hoof it back into the venue.

"Just in time mate, board 3, you're on now."

No warm up, nothing. Straight in, and in arguably the most important game of my career (playing for a place at the goddamn UK Open at the Reebok Stadium, no less.)

I played the best competitive game of my life and rinsed him 3-1. Second competitive win of my career.

Elated, I toddled back to the bell-end (guy had a real attitude all day, I thought) and told him I'd won. Second round at the UK Open regional qualifiers!! Awesome!...except I wasn't. Eh? Apparently, because the numbers were odd, what I'd just won was a preliminary; it didn't count. If I were to win the tournament, I would have done so by playing an extra game than everybody else. As I was still on a high from my win, I just accepted this news, but when I thought about it later it seemed to me that this wasn't right. Surely there should have just been a bye for someone then? Anyone who knows anything about tournament structures, feel free to weigh in on this issue.

Either way, in my second round/first round game, I lost 3-0 in a VERY close game against a superior opponent; but only slightly so, I thought, and that in itself told a story. 500 hours ago, I would have been terrified of this guy, but now I was not only unafraid but I could give him a game that on another day could have gone my way.

This makes my cracker-ass performace in my first league game all the more frustrating...but if there's one tale of woe I hear time and again on the forums and in person, it's one of inconsistency, so I know this is something common. Even so, I decided to take a £20 gamble and pay the folks at to analyse my throw. It works for golf swings, so why not darts throws?

The problem with the game of darts is that it can't REALLY be taught; different things work for different people. The key thing overall though is consistency, and this can only come from biomechanics that are repeated identically every time, all the time, and then adjusted to suit for the required targets at any one time. Therefore I thought paying for an online throw video analysis might be worthwhile.

And if you fancy seeing the video yourself it can be found here:
And if you can be bothered to read the analysis, you can download it from here:

Basically, in a nutshell, it can be summed up as this: Thowing action, release, and follow through all very good. But something I didn't know before now; I've been moving my head. What difference this will make to my game once I stop this from happening remains to be seen.

Before I get into the actual stats of my progress (which may be a bit much for some of you to plough through) I thought, after a brief look at earlier entries, that some of these needed mentioning. I chose my first darts after throwing a 58 in the shop, like this is something to be proud of. Today, a 58 is a total cock-up. I hoped to be 'well into the 30 (darts) checkout zone.' Now I hope to be checking out below 21 darts; once upon a time, a 19 or 18 darter would mean a screaming lap of the house and a call to my girlfriend. Now it's just a little 'ah, well done' in my head. They happen all the time. I did also mention something about practicing in pubs to stave off the cabin fever of being in the house. I think there's a LOT of truth in this, but this would mean practicing without my carefully selected shows on the background, and that would be a big loss. I have to find some sort of middle ground, I think; I miss pub practice.

So, for the dedicated, let's break this little 500 hour retrospective down into sections (If you're not interested in the stats, just skip this part.)

3 Dart Average: Initially, this hovered around the 45 mark, before drifting into the mid 50s at around the 300 hour mark, although this would be on a good day, and would not hold up in competition. A bit of a tweak of darts, and this became a consistent 55, but it took a key revelation via usage of a Winmau SightRight to discover my stance was all out of goose. That, combined with another switch of darts, took my average into the 60s at around the 400 hour mark, leading me to set a goal of a consistent 70 average by the end of April. Didn't quite make it....but I now am proud of a consistent 65-70 average.
Goal For Next 500 Hours: Consistent 70 by the end of May, consistent 80 by year end.

Checkouts: Initially inconsistent, frustrating, and constantly extending each game. By about the 400 hour mark, my checkouts are now, I would say, excellent. Funnily enough, the once-hated Double 20 has now become a fond friend.
Goal For Next 500 Hours: None in particular here. Just keep improving.

n01: Long time readers (if any) will remember this as the program that simulates an opponent for me to practice against. For a long time I was playing level 4 and getting beaten, then level 5 and getting beaten. From about the 450 hour mark I am now playing against level 6 and, usually, by the end of practice I would say 70% of the time we're tied in games, 25% of the time I've won more, and 5% is his. I'm happy with that at this stage.
Goal For Next 500 Hours: To consistently beat level 7 and start to give level 8 a game.

Mental Game: Easily still my weakest part-as could be said for nearly every player-although this has gone from letting me down in competition every single time, to going from the sublime to the ridiculous; massive confidence to zero after 3 bad darts. But at least it's an improvement, and I put this down to increased competitive exposure. As you have already read, this has increased and will continue to do so.
Goal For Next 500 Hours: See a fucking hypnotherapist or SOMETHING. Will definitely do this.

Number Of Darts To Checkout: See above.
Goal For Next 500 Hours: Get it regularly below 20. n01 only remembers your number of darts to checkout on winning games; pretty much every day I'm winning in an average of 21 darts, but thats obviously only the winning ones. Still, I want to get that winning average at 20 or under.

And so, with that, I shall retire to bed for the evening, and a stronger-than-ever resolve to attain darting greatness. I think that's the best thing I can say; though my love of the game has been through peaks and troughs, I love it now more than ever. And I think it's also appropriate to say that those of you who actually read this bullshit-be you readers from the start, total newcomers, or somewhere inbetween-thanks very much for taking the time. I really appreciate it, and I mean that. Onto the next 500.

And then the next 9000. FUCK.

Stay Hungry,

The Straight Shooter.

PS If you actually enjoy the aforementioned bullshit, you can download my novel The Physics Of The Dead for whatever eBook reader app you have on your smartphone, iPad, or even PC. Just visit from whatever device you want to read it on, and follow the link. I'll actually kiss you on sight if you do. And hell, if you own a Kindle (or have a Kindle app) you can find it on the Kindle Store under Luke Smitherd. Thanks all.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Day 461-Competitive Spirit (And Mixer, And Cider), The Shame Of The Straight Shooting One, An Unpleasant Run-In: Part TWO, 'Hello Stoke On Trent!', Front Loading And Sighting Right, Cracking The 60+ Average, and The Future Of Darts XII

Hours Of Practice-477
Miles Walked On The Oche-381.6

Good afternoon; as I write, I have one eye on the clock, as it ticks down towards 6pm. At that point I must gather my things and trudge (drive) my weary way down the M1 towards Derby for an appointment I do not wish to keep. Sigh...but more on that later. For now, let your love flow as we delve together into the past month or so in the world of the Straight Shooting One, to find the treasures that lie therein. I can see them. They look like pork scratchings.

Firstly, draw your eyes to the practice hours total above; I've been hitting the Oche hard. That, along with my new promise to myself to attend a minimum of two tournaments a month, has had my feet firmly embedded in the world of darts, and this is a good thing. In fact, since the last blog entry I've entered 5 tournaments, and achieved...well, there's a few stories to tell first. They begin with the realisation of a need for ruthlessness.

Too much friendliness at tournaments from me. Not focused enough. Too much concern over how my game was being perceived rather than just thinking about getting the thing won. And so I'd made up my mind to minimise the banter and maximise the sheer, bloody-minded determination to win.

And so, typically, at the next pub tournament (that shall be unnamed) my opponent (who shall be given the same treatment) was the friendliest, most pleasant chap I'd had the pleasure of playing against, with whom I was powerless to not return the light hearted chit-chat. But then I REALLY let myself down.

After claiming the first throw via nearest bull, by a sheer moment of idiocy, I managed to throw both of my first two darts clean over the 20, landing side by side just above the double. My opponent-a thoroughly nice chap, who even remembered my name-interjected, and said 'Luke, it's not double in you know.'

He'd seen where my darts had gone, and assumed I wasn't aware of the tournament rules and was aiming for the double, thinking I was playing league rules and trying to hit a double to begin my scoring. He was giving me an opportunity to start again.
And, darts fans, I am ashamed to say, that in a moment of confusion and a flash of 'BE RUTHLESS!' running through my head...I said 'Oh! Of course...tsk...' then walked over to the board, AND TOOK MY DARTS BACK. I watched his good-natured, we've-all-done-it smile on my way back to the oche line and realised all I needed was for my head to turn into that of a donkey, Warner Brothers cartoon style, replete with t-shirt saying 'Jackass.' I felt smaller than Jo Whiley's charisma. And for the rest of that game, I couldn't shift the guilt, despite trying to convince myself that I was simply taking advantage of an opportunity to win (ruthlessruthlessRUTHLESS) and failing completely. I had straight up cheated, and I knew it. My game went to pot, and I found myself thinking 'I hope this guy wins,' just so I could get what I deserved. He did. I was relieved.

There is ruthless, and there is ruthless, and then there is cheating. The Straight Shooting One made a judgement of error, and swears it will never happen again.

But now for an update to an incident that regular blog readers (all 2 of them, including my girlfriend) will remember.

At my most recent outing, a saturday afternoon tournament at a social club in Birmingham, I saw a familiar face; the man I'd given a piece of my mind to when I'd felt slighted by his lack of courtesy after I'd scored for him at two separate occasions. The concerningly-I realised, with the clarity of a sober man-large man I'd given a piece of etc etc.

Now, since the first run-in, having given the matter some thought, I'd realised I was in the wrong. I've even nearly forgotten to say thanks to a scorer after a game simply because my head was still in the game, so it's easily done-though not right-and I caused a scene where it wasn't necessary. So I'd decided already, should I ever see him again, to apologise and buy him a beer. Looking at the size of the man, I decided I'd probably better up that to two beers, and full access to my girlfriend should he so wish.

The question was, how to bring about a situation where I COULD apologise, especially when in all likelihood he wouldn't even remember me. However, this would soon be resolved, for the gods of darts proved they have a sense of humour; I was playing in the first round, and it turned out he would be scoring for my game.

Irony, my friends.

So my opponent and I began warming up, and if he recognised me, he gave no sign. Taking a deep breath, I threw my practice darts and addressed him directly at the same time.

"I owe you a pint mate."

He looked at me, slightly confused, and I followed up with a smile and said, "You don't remember me do you?" He shook his head no, smiling slightly himself. I collected my darts from the board and walked over. "I'm the guy who drunkenly moaned at you after-" He interrupted me with a click of his fingers and a point, smiling fully as it dropped into place. "Wolston." He said, naming the venue. "Yeah, that was me. Look, I just wanted to say I was out of order and I'm sorry-" He waved it away, shaking his head. "Nah, don't worry about it mate." "Well, I owe you a pint, so I'll buy you one when I'm done here," I replied, offering my hand. He took it. "Nice one mate, nice one. What was the name?" he asked, meaning for the scoreboard. "Luke."

"Right. You've just lost then!" he said, and laughed, and I felt very good that the whole thing had been resolved.

And, despite going two legs down, and despite being observed by someone who I knew was an excellent darts player...I won my first competitive tournament game.

It was a crap game by both our standards, but the main thing was I was not only the guy who'd kept his head and won it, but I'd had to stage a comeback to do so. I felt like the king of the world.

But I haven't played in a tournament since, as I've undergone a change in employment.

In an industry (entertainment) where reliable, steady income is always at risk, ongoing economic fears have lead to the most lean Christmas and January of my professional life, and so I decided to forgo the convenience of a super-sweet but highly unreliable residency at a bar on the other side of the street from where I live, in exchange for going back with my old agent and going back out on the road around the Midlands. This mainly means one thing; social club audiences.

These can be notoriously hit and miss. Some clubs are brilliant, full of people who have actually come out for a good time, to socialise, to literally eat, drink, and be merry. And then there are those venues whose patrons have come out solely because they don't know-or try to think-what else to do, and to play Bingo. Note the capital B.

In the main, so far, I've been lucky. And, most importantly of all, my diary has gone from empty to full in a matter of weeks, and so I'm delighted with my decision. But the big downside is the hours at which I've been getting home, often on Sunday nights and midweek. This has meant getting up later, and then my whole day is a shambles if the routine is broken. I can't get my head together, can't concentrate; the whole sleep issue thing again. But the main thing is that practice, though affected, has still been pressing on.

And most importantly, improving, thanks to the aforementioned extra hours and two new bits of kit. A new set of darts, and the Winmau SightRight.

Liking the 26g Dennis Priestly darts I'd been using of late-darts with a significant extra weight towards the front end, or 'front loaded' as they say-but unhappy with the grip, I started a thread on darts forum asking for suggestions of similar, more grippy front-loaded darts. The response was fantastic, and eventually I settled on a set of Hi-Tec Vice in 26g. Not only have these improved my game, but combined with the Winmau Sightright my average is now solidly around the 65 mark, and often in the low 70s (my goal is to have it firmly locked in the 70s by the end of April.) The SightRight is basically a piece of kit that you place under your dartboard, directly under the bull, and look at from the oche line. If the two white lines on it appear to be in line, then you are stood in the right place. If not, you're off centre. To my great surprise, I was actually slightly too far to the left. The idea of the thing is that, over time, you will stand in the correct place naturally.

Many-including myself-thought it might be a bit of a gimmick, but I have to say I swear by it; my general standard and average shooting up to the point where 19-21 darters are commonplace, and the trebles are dropping in all the while. If you want to tweak your game, google it; they're about £20 delivered. Or you could just build your own if you can be arsed.

Apologies for the slightly subdued tone for this month's blog; I started this over a month ago, and haven't managed to get it finished. So I swore to myself I'd get it finished today, as there's actually more news to tell-and more interesting news, thank heavens-but that has to be for another time. Sigh. I'll get it up real soon, as the bishop said to the actress.

Stay Hungry,

The Straight Shooting One

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Day 376-Baximum To The Maximum, Earlier Start Equals Better Finshes, The Bigger Pitcher, Fear Of Small Children, and Club Smithero-The Photo Tour

Hours of practice-338
Miles Walked On The Oche-287.3
Good afternoon; see? I told you I was back on it. And so to prove it, here's a blog update EVEN sooner than anyone anticipated, or more importantly, wanted. But humour me like you have been doing and you'll be finished before you know it, and can get back to something more important. What that might be, I can't imagine.

Happy new year first and foremost; you'll notice an increase in the practice hours, though not as many as I'd like. I was pretty badly ill, like many at the time, over Christmas, which put me on my ass for about a week since the last blog, then family time at Christmas, then busy with December gigs (busiest time of year traditionally, as opposed to January, which we'll come to shortly) so it's been tough to cram as much in as I'd have liked. Still, once new year was out of the way, I've been getting in a solid 4 hours per weekday. What's that you say? "Woah, woah, hold on there Straight Shooter; not that we ever think enough of ourselves to even CONTEMPLATE correcting you, but we remember very clearly in your last blog-as we always memorise ever word you bless us with-that you said you were going to drop you practice hours to 3 hours a day? Please don't exercise your wrath upon us."

Calm down. You're correct, I DID say that; I have simply approached the issue a different way. Let me explain.

I thought about it-the reducing practice to three hours due to time constraints issue-and decided I didn't like it. But the time issues simply weren't going to go away. So I used my usual, Alexander-The-Great-when-confronted-with-the-Gordian-Knot-esque technique of powerful, decisive action ("Fuck it!") and switched back to four hours. I was simply going to have to get up earlier.

Now, take a moment to be honest with yourselves. Those of you with daytime-based jobs; if you were suddenly confronted with the task of setting your own hour of getting up in the morning, I'm guessing 95% of you certainly wouldn't be up any time sooner than 9:00am. Those that say otherwise either are liars or people that love going to bed at 8. Personally, I always like to be up at about 9:00/9:30, seeing as I generally don't go to sleep til about midnight. As has been well documented here, I have a lot of trouble with sleep generally, so as you can guess, early starts and I don't always see eye-to-bleary, bloodshot eye. So I've been pretty pleased with myself for consistantly getting up at that time when a: I sleep like The Flash on crystal meth, and b: I don't HAVE to get up that early seeing as my work is all on weekends.

So, the solution to the four hours a day whilst having time to get anything else done, eat, exercise, walk the dogs and have any kind of life-i.e, get up an hour earlier at 8:00/8:30-was a fairly daunting one. But if I was going to stay serious about this, I would have to do it. Those of you scoffing at the idea of being nervous about getting up at 8:00 ("I get up at 6:30 every day!! Ha ha!!"-well done for having a job that makes you get up extra early to enthusiastically suck The Man's filthy cock. Have a congratulatory breath mint) try doing your day when you wake up 6 times a night. Then we'll discuss how wonderful you are.

And, so far, it's working. I had the genius idea of letting the dogs sleep in the bedroom floor, seeing as they'd wake up and get excited when Angela got up to go to work, and would be jumping all over the place thus keeping me awake and stopping me from hitting that snooze button. I have to tell you, all the willpower in the world counts for nothing when you don't have to get up for anyone else but you. The thought process goes like this:

You at 11:00pm the night before: "I can't wait to get up early tomorrow! Seize the day! Get loads done! Unstoppable!!" (Go to sleep really wanting to get up, physically excited.)


Unfortunately this genius plan backfired spectacularly with the dogs waking up even more reguarly than me, deciding that the square foot of duvet to their right was definitely more comfortable than the one they were currently occupying, or heading downstairs to the toilet via a click-click-clicking of claws on the laminate floor of the bedroom. This all added up to one of the worst night's sleep ever, and to two confused dogs being put back on their downstairs bed at 6:00am. My second solution was better; get Angela to leave the bedroom door open in the morning when she gets up for work, then to let them out downstairs after they've been behind their baby gate all night. No matter how sleepy I am, the sound of happy paws thundering up the stairs and wagging tails happily bounding onto the bed always makes me smile. And if it doesn't, the smell of dog breath and slavering tongues slopping noisily in my ear soon makes me get up just to get away from it. It's done the job so far.

So generally I stagger up at about half 8, then have a nice slow breakfast, and nurse my morning sugar free Red Bull (there's nothing like the first one of the day) til about 9:15, then make sure I'm on the Oche for half 9. I do an hour, have a short break for a very little snack (if I don't, about an hour and a half in I get pretty light headed. Only happens in the morning session. Wierd)
then get the second hour done. On a good day, the morning session is all wrapped up by 12:00 midday. Then a nice bit of dinner, take the dogs for a half hour walk, then back to crack on with whatever I'm working on for a few hours, then the afternoon two hours. Hopefully all sorted by about half 6, then tea with Angela, and whatever I'm doing that night. I find the whole thing strangely comforting; I'm in control of each day, and it's all achievable. The massive, massive downside is a distinct and rather crippling lack of human contact. This is something I'm attempting to address, and I'll let you know how that's going when I have more news. The dogs are very smart, but their conversational skills don't extend to much more than letting me know when they want a belly rub or need a shit.

But the consistent, lengthy practice has paid off; my previous record number of darts to checkout on 501 was 17. I smashed that in practice against the computer by pulling a 14 darter, much to my delight and the surprise of the dogs at my girlish, shrill scream of delight. That featured a 180 followed directly by checking out 107 in two darts (treble 19, centre bull.) And I put this down to an important adjustment to my technique.

After some horrific play recently, with my online league game against my strongest opponent yet featuring such staggeringly bad darts from myself that I was genuinely stunned and left wondering what the hell was going on. So I had a little look at my throw and realised what the problem was; I was throwing too low. I was aiming AT the lipstick, but my natural throw has a drop to it. I much prefer to use heavier darts than lighter ones, as I feel without the weight I have no control. To compensate for the weight you either have to throw harder, or allow for the drop (the 'parabolic path' of the throw, to use a wonderful term I picked up from Mr Silberzahn) and somewhere down the line, when I made a conscious effort to focus more into the treble merely than the 20 (see previous blog, if you can take more punishment) I'd forgotten this. I needed to pitch up more, allow for the drop to stop the dart dropping short of the line and landing agonisingly in the 5 or 1.

It worked; my average shot up into the 70s over the next few practice games. I felt great, hit the aforementioned 14 darter, and headed into my first tournament since last summer feeling very positive. In a last minute decision upon a bit of a search of the darting forums, I decided to attend the Cotgrave Open in Nottingham.

A much better atmosphere than the one listed in the last blog; a nice mix of people there for the craic and people focused on their darts (and I'm delighted to say I witnessed the general approach being one of making a point of not only thanking a player, but shaking their hand. Nice to see) and generally it was a positive vibe in the room (photos of the event to give you an idea can be found at this link: I'm in one. See if you can spot me tucked away.

I stood in the warm up board queue, and my heart began to sink as, despite my breakthrough the previous day, my darts had reverted to awful. To add to my horror, a 13 year old kid was ahead of me in the queue comfortably throwing darts. He wasn't playing in the tournament was he?! Playing the way I was, I had horrific visions of being shown up in front of a baying crowd by the darting equivalent of Dougie Howser, MD. The only thing that could possibly worse was...

...confirmed as I glimpsed to my right. No word of a lie, a 12 year old girl was throwing in the queue opposite. The announcement over the pa of the start times for the juniors' and ladies' competitions could not have been more welcome when it came.

The poor form continued into my game. It was EMBARRASSING. It wasn't until the end that I realised what I was doing; I was trying so hard to 'focus and throw properly' that I was succeeding. Succeeding in producing the incorrect throw I'd been producing recently, and not adjusting for the higher pitch needed that currently feels unnatural and requires a deliberate effort to produce. I lost, and lost heavily, but knowing where I'd gone wrong and knowing how to fix it took a lot of the sting out of it. Onwards and upwards.

Anyway, to close out this installment of everyone's second favourite blog about trying to become a darts professional by a musician, comes the massive news of the official date of The Future Of Darts World Championships XII-February 26th, more on that nearer the time-but also, due to popular demand (4 people) I'm finishing with some photos ("Fuck me, SSLS! The blog has photos now too?! When do you stop GIVING?!??" The answer is 'When there is no more love in the world...') of my own home 'dream' darts throw and bar. Long in the planning, fumbling but successful in construction, wasteful in expense, crippling in debt, devastating in impact (when it collapses, as it doubtless will.) A guided tour, if you will, to give your a greater understanding of the world in which I find myself rattling around in all day going slowly insane. Let's
start with the external fluff:

This is the kitchen pool table...obviously. At Club Smithero, we don't just believe in darts. We believe in pool, too.

This is the living room oche. This isn't the main event; all the bells and whistles are in the bar, of course. But this is a nice, bonus oche should it ever be needed. Note the Eclipse Pro Trainer board-as mentioned in previous blogs-on this throw to give more training variety if needed. 60 to make this setup, including light and surround (not including board though.) Took about an hour, and I am CRAP at DIY. Very easy to do. If you want to know how, ask me.

This is the bar I built in the actual darts room (The Snakepit Lounge.) I must stress-HEAVILY-that that isn't me behind that bar. That's a friend of mine. I know you're looking at his hair and dress, and thinking 'FRIEND, eh?' No. Not that kind of friend. And that's not his purse on the bar stool either. Note the surround sound speaker built into the side/holding the whole thing up. Pretty proud of that.

THAT'S me behind the bar, in this not-at-all-posed shot. This kind of thing happens 24 hours a day in Club Smithero. Just with dogs. As mentioned last blog, The Snakepit Lounge also incorporates a hi-def 1080p projector with surround sound that provides us with a home cinema:

It can obviously also be used for Xbox Games too:
(That's Angela being forced to pose by the screen to give you an idea of it's size. She's 5'5".) And also can display the Sky TV feed from the living room:
And can be combined with the disco light box and mirror ball with some visualisers from the pc feed to switch it to club mode:

Actually, before we get to the main event, here's a picture of Club Smithero's other much-loved residents, sat in The Snakepit Lounge:

Angela, with Jeff and Lynne. Speaking of the latter, here's a close up:

This is where they sit and watch when I'm practicing.

This is them getting bored of watching and command me to feed them. This photo hasn't actually been touched up in any way.
So's my pride and joy.
The first shot is with the tv as a monitor; as it's rigged to a pc, with a wireless keyboard that sits nicely on the bar, it runs n01/Dartpro and is also a fantastic scorer: The second is with it in TV mode. Here's a better shot of the scorer:

And a few close-ups of the Circumluminator/F.O.D.atron 5000:

So there you go! It took a lot of work, but let me stress as I did last time; a lot of it was done on the cheap/smart, and the only things that really cost were the projector and the FODatron. And they were only after a long period of saving, so this isn't me trying to be flash. It IS stuff I'm very proud of, but not in a look-what-we-can-afford kind of way, because these are all one-off, much saved for purchases. All those 'special favours' in back alleyways were all worth it in the end. If only I could stop brushing my teeth.

Anyway, as usual, thanks for reading; it's genuinely appreciated. And hey-HEY-if you've enjoyed this installment, why not leave me a comment? I'm regularly surprised by the amount of people that have mentioned they read this shit, given that I only have 6 followers (HINT) so let me know you're out there. Let's call a spade a spade-I'm an attention whore, and STAGGERINGLY needy. Anyone who has a blog is, didn't you know? Love me. LOVE ME.

Until next time darts fans,

Stay Hungry,

The Straight Shooter