Lawn bowls-a short story

falls on deliveryMy bowls received there first clean of the season which commenced last Sunday. I went along but did not consider writing a story or a blog. Everything was so cold still. Words would almost have icicles on them. It was a pity that Spring had not joined in to warm us and enhance the play. 

Unlike the Gala day in 2009 which experienced the Australian version of a  ‘shower’.bowls shower

However, the afternoon was enjoyed by all players including myself. It sure was a challenge with wind gusts, shivers and eyes watering. The dark clouds offered some splatters of rain, but mostly it was dry. The occasional cloud parted to give us an indication of what Spring weather could be like and to remind me that I was actually in Australia and not back in Kent, England.

Being the start of the bowling season, it was a mixed day, bringing different challenges for the players. Despite the weather some excellent bowls were delivered.

In the ‘tongue in cheek’ few lines that I wrote last year about a pretend bowls gala day, heat was the biggest hurdle for most bowlers. 

Such A Lovely Game, Bowls.

Time for afternoon tea. Most of the ladies are now sitting and almost all, no doubt, happy to rest their hot, stressed bodies and throbbing feet. Of the ladies standing, nearly all will be the young element in the club. Although not easy to acquire new youthful members, the club is fortunate to have a young ladies’ captain.

As part of the controlling body for today’s play, the captain’s eyes survey the scene. She takes note of whether the players are so far satisfied or not. She hopes the umpire is doing her job well. At this time, it seems that there are no real problems. There will always be the occasional bowler complaining that the rinks are sloping at one end. That the breeze is too unpredictable. Or that their bowls are having a bad bias day. Even a forecast of the inevitable thunder storm, will not deter the dreams of some bowlers.

Older members not playing but with the thrill of the game still alive in their veins, would find themselves in the kitchen, making sure that water urns are full and boiling nicely, that cups and mugs are available – handles to the right, and that tea spoons have been washed upPlaying with Kitty, tables wiped, and the bread has been properly buttered.

Of course, it depends who is considering youth or age. To a seventy year old player, any age lower than their own could be considered young. And the younger players, not having had the dubious pleasure of understanding senior years, would probably not think too much about older players except in their ability to play to a standard which would support the best of them. Young or old, many of the ladies would be hiding behind some kind of painkiller – the draw of the greens being stronger than the need to rest up weary or hurting bodies today. There is after all money prizes to be won and reputations to be strengthened.

One home team player in particular has slipped out of her seemingly crippling bowling shoes and is sporting a pretty pair of pink, open flip flops (they did have flat soles). Sticking to the rules of allowable bowling gear is often hard for younger players. They do not have the years of draconian regulations which haunts the older players’ minds. And the silvery haired members can only mumble discontent because passivity forbids them to make any formal complaint. A grumble or two later and a grimace or two that might just kill, if allowed to strengthen, will have to suffice.

A couple of rather rotund ladies are fanning themselves with little effect, using a drinks coaster and the latest copy of Jack Hi, cooling their fingers on a glass of lemon, lime and bitters chock-a-block with ice cubes. The room is pleasantly buzzing. Laughter pops up here and there as the joke tellers recount the latest funny acquisitions and elsewhere conversation is as relaxed as the heat will allow. The temperature will be reaching 36 degrees Centigrade (in the shade) and the weather although usually the last topic for fading conversation continues to attract various opinions as to what constitutes appropriate playing conditions for all players. The competition is only partly done and it will be a very different scene once the final ends are completed.

“Whoever said that bowls created an even playing field?” Annie knew who, but simply wants to stir the pot a little. “There is no such thing!”

“What, in any sport?” Evelyn is a keen golfer as well as a competitive bowler but no one answers her.

“Just look at the contenders. The heat must make a big difference to players of such different ages.”

“I like the heat.” Evelyn, tries again. It is almost a challenge to the pasty ‘Pommes’, who as much as they enjoy their bowls, do their best to keep away from the skin destroying elements. They have lived in Australia long enough to have their minds filled with the fear of the dreaded C being removed from their scalps. So along with the pain killers, follows a plethora of protective creams. Mustn’t forget the sprays. Joining the sweat and strain, are the over and ever friendly flies. It doesn’t have to be March to be well and truly bitten by a March fly. Ouch!Elizabethan bowls

“Well, the oldies certainly have plenty of experience behind them,” offers Moira. “Which perhaps gives them an advantage over younger players.” She is in awe of particular bowlers, of whose age she has no understanding but whose expertise on the greens is never short of legendary. There is something very satisfying about playing with one of these magical ladies who could deliver the most difficult shot, to save the day, whenever needed. With such devotion to the game, together with such veneration comes the joke, “If a bowler falls off the perch during a game, does it constitute a dead end?” It nearly always gains a laugh.

“The stamina of younger players can also be a great advantage,” says Annie, remembering how many activities she used to be able to put into a day. She is aware that the shortness of breath that she now experiences, is rather more a connection with the pounds of extra flesh she carries, than the extra years that continue to add discomforts unforeseen. Time may give wisdom but also takes away from the more physical side of life. The gaining of wisdom can very often come from a sedentary occupation. And wisdom is no more guaranteed to frequent a bowling club than the houses of parliament.

“And it also depends on how much of a gambler you are,” she adds. “Winning every now and again, gives a great boost to one’s self esteem. The feeling contains within it a propensity to addiction and that can be a problem, just like a sweet tooth. Hard to resist.”

“It would be nice if some of these oldies stepped down and gave the newer players a chance,” proposes Kathie, easing out of her chair, making a beeline for the bar. A smidgeon of a shock wave passes through the resting ladies. Many thought about the unyielding, outmoded rules that kept some old bowlers in positions that could have been vacated some time back, but few members openly stated the obvious. Change is not welcome by some, especially if it meant relegation and even worse, loss of power and removal from the Purple Circle.

The brass bell, hanging by the door, is still rung for gaining members’ attention. It is not really needed now with so few bowlers in the room. Old habits as they say are hard to put aside. “FiQueen Elizabeth 1st and Drakeve minutes, ladies! Slip, slop, slap,” jingles the captain with a somewhat embarrassed smile.

Sweaty bottoms slide off plastic chairs. Inflated feet regret their owners actions of relinquishing shoes, as they struggle to put them back on. No Cinderellas here! Cool pink sandals stay on feet, ready to ignore, with daggered eyes, anyone who dares to object. Still flushed faces with wet hair dampened by bottled water, trail back to the rinks. Someone will have forgotten to take their pain killers; sunglasses will have been mislaid; and scarves soaked with ice cold water will have been placed around necks. There will be an overall useless hope of gaining a little comfort before the days sun-drenched and soul destroying activities end. Scores will have been checked. Some will have an added advantage of knowing that more money could be in their purse by the close of play. Play indeed!

Such a wonderful game, bowls.


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