Newsletter 2021/1 (January)

Dear Everyone
New Year greetings to you all. Here’s to happier times on the courts once the pandemic subsides. As usual in January, we are addressing our Club summer programme. This year, we hope the season will be as near normal as possible. If not, we’ll make adjustments down the line.

For now, the courts are closed, but essential maintenance is proceeding, provided by Chris Bateman and our volunteer mowers. We are very grateful to you all. The courts will be their 6/7 winter size when we’re allowed to re-open them.

Lockdown is the perfect time to bone up on the Laws (AC) and Rules (GC). Players have the responsibility to take them on board before they compete. The 5th edition of the GC Rules has been around for a couple of years so I’m sure you’re all up to speed. No time for complacency though. The current AC Laws are 12 years old, and a re-written 7th edition has been proposed by the World Croquet Federation (WCF) after very lengthy consultation. The Croquet Association plans to adopt these from March 1st this year. There are no major changes, but the devil is in the details which must be assimilated .

Although the new edition is more wordy, I find it easier to read and follow. The hard facts are on the WCF web pages with a downloadable introductory statement, proposed 7th edition, and summary of changes from the 6th edition. An official written commentary is being prepared.

As a referee I’d like to explain the changes to all our AC players before the season begins. A Zoom video session would be a good starting point. Or we could break it down into bite-sized chunks? Unfortunately we can’t gather in the pub to go through it but all suggestions will be gratefully considered. I look forward to hearing from as many of you as possible as soon as possible on this one.

And now for some good news. A warm welcome to the new members who have joined the club since the end of the 2020 season.

  • Sally Batty – already a croquet member at Phyllis Court;
  • Penny Brassell – a central figure in Blewbury Badminton Club;
  • Josh Angers, Max Crome, Cosmo Denny – all Junior members, from Bradfield College;
  • Bo Liddiard – a relative newcomer to croquet.

It’s great to have you on board: some of us have met some of you, though not as many as we’d like in the current crisis. We hope you enjoy your croquet at Blewbury and look forward to playing with you and getting to know you soon.

In sad contrast, I recently learned of the deaths of two people who had key roles in the early years. Shirley, wife of Jolyon Kay, the Club’s founder, died in Cyprus the the autumn of 2020. Mike Duck, Jolyon’s Harwell friend and loyal supporter, died in July. I have happy memories of needle matches with both of them, always so enjoyable especially when I didn’t lose. Jolyon has now rented St Michaels House opposite the church in Blewbury: I’m sure he would like to catch up with old friends as circumstances permit.

As we’re looking back, you can expect an imminent reboot of the Club History page on our web site. I think our 30th birthday must be approaching. Keep your eyes open.

Association of ideas: birthday: birthday suit: no, don’t get excited, but clothing. First, after a very long gap, we are re-sourcing croquet kit carrying our club name and logo. When I say ‘we’, it’s really Carol Jamieson who’s working on it. It would be so nice to see it worn again around the courts and in team matches. More news when it’s close to becoming available. And second, there are clothes that have been hanging in the clubhouse for months, even years. I will recycle them painlessly as soon as I get around to it. Owners of said clothes, you have been warned.

Ball marker jar

Still in the clubhouse, our store of coloured plastic ball-markers has been restored from the darkest recesses of the cupboard to its rightful storage jar. As everybody should know, metal coins can do disastrous damage to a £6000 tournament-grade lawn mower so it is absolutely forbidden and a heinous crime to use them as ball markers. You should carry plastic ones every time you play – and that’s now explicit in the new AC laws! – so take five from the jar and put your 50p for future replacements in the money-box on the counter next to the fridge. Thank you!

Now to our coaching programme for 2021. We’re planning short structured courses for small groups focusing on specific skill sets and regular sessions with club coaches offering informal instruction at regular times each week. It would be really helpful if you, dear reader, could get back to me with specific input: AC or GC? Particular topics? Preferred days, times? Group or individual? We will try to arrange it, but only if we know what you want….

To end on an optimistic note, the domestic club season often begins with our Blewbury heat of the national Charity One-Ball competition organised each year by former Blewbury member, Kevin Carter. This year’s charity is the British Heart Foundation. There will be a donation/entry fee for the local heat, the winner qualifying for the final at Surbiton (well worth playing there – most excellent lawns) on 9th May. We’ve pencilled in Saturday 24th April for our local heat, so get it into your diaries now! And it is important to know that these days the finalists are split about 50-50 between AC players and predominantly GC players – one-ball is for everyone.

When the season is under way, who would like to play in club matches? Excellent opportunities to visit other clubs, play on their lawns, use their facilities, and meet their croquet players. Teams have between 2 and 5 players, depending on the competition. We compete at GC and AC in handicap and level play matches. In AC, handicap includes short croquet on half-courts with just six hoops for each ball; level play is under advanced rules, giving compulsory lifts during (most) games. You don’t have to turn out every time, but we need a pool of available players so we don’t enter competitions, only to find we can’t raise a team. If you’re interested in GC matches, let David Vincent know; if in AC matches, let Joe King know. They will look for opportunities to give you one or more games in team matches during the season.

Best wishes to you all –

Paul Wolff