Hibiscus takes stock…

Hear it hit, see it miss’. Cliff Jones, a wiry wily octogenarian,  writes his  mantra  on the whiteboard in neat  caps.  His day course at  High Wycombe’s Chiltern Academy is called Perfecting  Stroke Play. Like any self respecting guru, he has a book on hand to  sell to his pupils.  Hold the mallet any way you like, but watch its head strike the ball. An eerie silence as it passes through a hoop without touching the sides?  Or frustration as wood snags on  metal? Cliff demonstrates the full range of strokes, emphasising his  preference for using  natural  drive ratios rather than  rolls to put  balls where they need to be. Practice and be  patient: winter is the time to make it all  work.

A week or so later, Dr Raouf Allim, resident coach at Chiltern, attracts  a similar  gang for Working  Towards a  4-ball Break. His course notes are disarmingly simple, illustrating how to manoeuvre the balls around the box – the central area within the hoops. No pioneers isolated  on  the perimeters. No pivots impeded by the peg. Shorter distances, less extreme angles, the essence of control. Errant balls mean breakdown: a bisque squandered, a turn lost. ‘If you lose them, you can’t use them’ might be the mantra here.

A month or so later, it’s time to put these skills to the test. High Wycombe (hwcroquetclub.com)  and  Hamptworth (07912 608733)  run AC and CG tournaments throughout the winter, but they don’t appear on the  CA website..  M.C.

David Long wins the GC Icknield Cup

The GC Icknield Cup semi-finals and finals took place on Wednesday 27th October. In the semi-finals David Long beat Carol Wadsworth 7-5, 4-7, 7-6 and John Garnett beat Carol Jamieson 7-6, 7-4

In a battle of the Carols for third place, Carol Jamieson beat Carol Wadsworth 7-5, 7-5 reportedly with a miraculous comeback in the second game from 0-4 down.

The final was a re-run of last year’s final but with a different result. David beat John 4-7,7-4, 7-2 in a very competitive match, making some excellent use of the extra turns in the third game. The photo shows last year’s winner passing the cup to this year’s winner.

Congratulations to David as this year’s Icknield Cup winner.

David Vincent

Peter Allan wins the GC Championship Cup

The GC Championship Cup semi-finals and finals took place yesterday in a dry but windy day, far better than the weather forecast suggested it would be. In the semi-finals Peter Allan beat Steve Fisher 7-3, 7-4 and John Garnett beat Paul Wolff 7-2, 7-3.

Paul beat Steve 7-6, 5-7, 7-4 to take third position.

Peter won the final against John 6-7, 7-3, 7-6.. This was an excellent match with many hard fought hoops. A superb long jump by Peter at hoop 7 in the final game was probably the pivotal moment, denying John the hoop and the chance to be first at hoop 8. The game progressed evenly and John had the first shot at hoop 13. He was in a good position in front of the hoop when Peter came in from the back leaving his ball just through the hoop and very close to John’s ball. Neither could do much with the balls close to the hoop and there was much toing and froing to try to gain advantage. Eventually Peter was able to promote John’s ball onto his so winning the hoop and the cup. This was probably the most interesting hoop 13 I have witnessed.

Congratulations to Peter as this year’s Champion Cup winner.

David Vincent

New Committee

On 14th October, our 2021 AGM agreed the following into post – without contention – as the club’s new Committee:

  • Chairman: Joe King
  • Treasurer: Edmund Shirley
  • Secretary: David Long
  • Other members: Carol Jamieson, David Vincent, Minty Clinch, Paul Wolff, Steve Fisher

The first meeting of the new Committee is scheduled to take place on 15th November. I will continue to distribute the minutes to all members as usual.

David Long, BCC Secretary

2022 Subscription Rates

On 14th October, our 2021 AGM agreed the following subscription rates, to take effect from the start of next year’s summer season.

  • £170 for Full (individual) members
  • £305 for Family membership (multiple people living at the same registered address)
  • £85 for Distant members (those living 30 or more miles from Blewbury)
  • £35 for Junior members (aged under 25 on payment date)

Winter Recruits: as last year, anyone joining the Club during the 2021/22 winter season will continue to pay 2021 rates (as still shown on our Membership page and enrolment form), and this will give them membership until the start of the 2023 season.

Waiting List: noting the growth of new members during 2021, the AGM granted the Committee power to introduce a waiting list should a further increase in membership start to cause significant court contention. There are no immediate plans to introduce such a waiting list, but the Committee will be keeping a watching brief through next season.

David Long, BCC Secretary

Champagne moments

in a late season surge, Andy Robertson blitzed the opposition to win the 2021 Prebendal Cup., Did he relax into his game because he’d decided to give up Treasurer’s role after seven long accountable years? At Thursday’s AGM, he received the trophy, the gratitude of his peers and vintage fizz,, presented by Paul Wolff. (above). Despite being ruled out of croquet for the past eight weeks following accidents in his home, Edmund Shirley has stepped up to replace him. Welcome Edmund. – and come back soon.

Paul soon returned to centre stage to receive his laudatory pink champagne after he resigned as chairman . Luckily for Blewbury Croquet Club, he hasn’t let go completely. Where would the committee be without such an inspirational founder member.. No words can do justice to his successor, Joe King. He is tireless in his campaign to make Blewbury’s courts fit for champions – as world class players have confirmed. – and he generously shares his expertise with rapid improvers and wannabes alike., His email overload will now become as tsunami. Best of luck,, Joe.,

Croquet under the Sun

In late September, 24 croquet players, including myself and Steve Fisher, gathered to do battle at the annual Greek Open Croquet Tournament, which is held at Gouvia Marina in sunny Corfu. The players had a wide range of abilities, with handicaps ranging from -1 to 18.

The tournament starts with two days of AC doubles to pick the finalists for that event. This event generated a great talking point, which is described at the end of this new item.

On the following day there was a trip along the coast on a boat to the village of Kassiopi, with most participants enjoying swimming in the sea after lunch. This is always a popular day out for relaxing from the croquet.

Then the main event, the AC handicap singles, started in earnest. Those who lost in the first round go into a ‘repechage event’, where the eventual winner gets a place in one of the semi-final games. Once you are knocked out, there is a 14-point consolation event where you can play as much or as little as you wish. I started the singles well with two wins, but I made the strategic error of losing (-1, on time, on the golden hoop) in the quarter final, which was too early to claim much of a success in the singles, and too late to make much of an impact on the 14-point event. Fortunately, Richard Peperell had organised a level play advanced, one-day mini-tournament on what was notionally our day off. I entered that and I won it with 3 out of 3 wins. Very satisfying!

Interspersed with the AC singles was a day of GC where visitors played with local club members and WAGs/HABs. This is a fun day and is a good opportunity to encourage people to play who have not done so previously.

The last day was finals day where the AC singles and AC doubles events were decided. Both games were well fought and watched by plenty of spectators, most of whom seemed to think that they knew better than the players on the lawns. In the singles, Charles Ostler (2.5) from Pinchbeck beat Ros Pimlott (14) from Bowden, and in the doubles, Gordon Mills (6) and Ken Knock (18) from Pinchbeck, beat the reigning champions Peter Wilson (3) from Fylde and Rich Quilter (9) from Corfu.

There was a very interesting start to one of the early games of AC doubles. The first player shot to the east boundary, as is common. The second player shot at that ball (a less common tactic), missed, and when the ball was placed on the yard line, it was touching the first ball. The third player now had a ‘juicy double’ to shoot at, missed, and again the ball had to be placed touching one of the other two balls. I am sure you can guess what happened next. Yes, the fourth player shot at the ‘super-sized triple’, missed, so again the ball had to be place on the outside of the balls already there. We had a four ball cannon! If this happened to you, would you know how to (a) play your shot legally and (b) play your shot optimally? (All the balls are for hoop 1.) The picture shows Richard Peperell (red) and Andrew Dutton (yellow) discussing what to do next.

Peter Allan

Picture courtesy of Karen Quilter

Autumn maintenance starts Monday 27th

We are heading towards the end of the regular summer season with the finals of the Prebendal Manor Cup being played this Saturday (25th). As we have done in the last few years, we will, be starting the Autumn maintenance immediately thereafter, whilst the turf is warm enough for the grass to thrive through the various treatments.

We have experienced excellent playing conditions on the lawns this year, and our lawns have become widely known in croquet circles as some of the best around. This is the result of careful ‘greens keeping’ by Chris Bateman, tireless mowing and hole filling by John Garnett, Mick Moore and Duncan Sinclair, and the regular annual maintenance programmes. So we want to maintain this quality and our Autumn programme is again designed to do exactly that.

Maintenance

The scope of the Autumn maintenance is slightly broader this year. There will be moss and fertiliser treatments applied alongside the chafer grub spray to keep the lawn in good condition. As in previous years we will be carrying out a thorough scarification to tease out some of the remaining thatch. We anticipate that the lawns will be closed for around 2 weeks, in order for them to recover after the processes have been applied. This will take us into the first half of October.

Levelling

We are all aware that some hills and troughs have begun to develop in certain (and sometimes critical) areas. We want to start to address those and so a new feature is that plan to apply some top dressing selectively. This will begin to address some of the worst troughs identified by the recent lawns survey and in time will even things out. There will be a fuller report on the survey presented at the AGM in October. As this will likely require some time for the treated area to grow through/assimilate the top dressing, we will likely focus on one lawn so that the other can reopen first.

I’ll update the website with information as to the progress and the likely reopening dates for the lawn(s) for play.

Equipment

During the lawns closure the hoops are going to be sand-blasted and resprayed to remove the rust and to return them to a pristine condition.

If you want any more information please contact me.

Joe King

Hibiscus on the rack

One tournament  leaps out of the Croquet Association fixture list: a supervised high bisque event organised by  The Academy at the Sussex County Croquet Club  near Brighton.  As you play, coaches headed by Frances Low and organiser, Morgan Case,  view your progress with critical and constructive eyes. What could be  more useful?  Even better, SCCC has nine courts so they offered the luxury of sole occupancy for each game. No hiding place from setting out a four ball break and making it work.

The field was split into four blocks of six:  four 14  point games  per contestant guaranteed. My first opponent, tall, charming, very accomplished, laid out the first ball of a classic east boundary opening and hit it with his second. As I slunk away many  hours later, he was winning  the final, the only unbeaten player of the day. Well, you can’t get lucky every time. 

My progress was  sporadic, a win, a draw, two losses. Bisques squandered to rescue balls stuck in jaws. Ouch! After three games, Morgan took me aside to break the bad news. ‘You may win the occasional game but you’ll  never be any good playing like that. You must  set up  breaks and use them’.  I tried on my last game and recorded my worst result. ‘I made five hoops in one turn’, my opponent said exultantly, having used my ball placements to maximum advantage. Now  I know   I’ll  get even worse before I get better.

As a bonus end to an excellent day, Morgan coached legal roll shots. Next time six hoops, one turn. You gotta believe it.

The 3 star Castle Inn Hotel in Steyning would be an excellent base for The Academy (6 miles  away) if only they could get the staff. Surly and untrained, the two waiters turned the lights out in the restaurant the moment the kitchen closed at 21.00.  I was still eating my main course…..MC
Sent from my iPad

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