Hibiscus at the seaside

Twelve hoops, one turn: the goal is on going and ready for a bit of a test. The East Dorset Croquet Club  holds an annual tournament for those with handicaps up to  -22. This is a relatively rare chance for a high bisquer to get serious mileage under the belt.  Tucked away in Poole, the EDCC has five courts and a clubhouse with catering and a bar. After three days and three huge slices of Victoria cream sponge, it felt like home.

The format is simple: 8 entries, 7 games of 3 hours each. The competitors included a judge, a firefighter and a stand up comic in an England shirt and shocking pink crocs. Not a fan’s football shirt, but an official croquet one for international players.

Brian Fisk, the high octane tournament manager, was my  first opponent. Handicap 0, counting down to +0.5 by day 3. A forest of bisques in my corner, none in his. Tentative is an under statement for my early strokes as bisques haemorrhaged. .’Blewbury?’, exclaimed one of the oppos enviously. ‘Grass like glass’. Even without the comparison, East Dorset’s  damp  surfaces were treacle until the courts were mown on day 2. The hoops were set at 1/32, as used for an earlier county match.  For the uninitiated, that’s  ball clearance in fractions of inches. It’s also too narrow. Some Fisk balls got stuck; on the second day, he used a screwdriver to widen them to 1/16, as is appropriate for this level of competition. 

Using lots of bisques to set up 4 ball breaks, then seeing them ruined by  balls stuck in the  jaws is the high bisquer’s curse, but over the hours – nearly 10 of them on  day 2 – there was  cautious improvement.  Generous rivals, most of them experienced over a quarter of a century, offered  advice. Acting on it  as much as possible yielded a lone win at the last time of asking. So the dream  lives on….

The South Rising Guest House,  less than a mile away with free parking,  an outstanding breakfast, and a 5 minute walk to the Isan Thai restaurant, is a regular croquet player’s billet. MC