The club is reopening – but with restrictions

Following the mail sent to all club members earlier this week, I’m pleased to announce – on behalf of the Committee – that our lawns are opening for pre-booked singles play (only) from Monday 18th May.

While it’s vitally important that we all stay alert to the continuing virus threat, those members who wish to play may do so; recognising that it’s your own responsibility to keep yourself and others safe: in particular, we ask all members to observe the cleaning and social distancing conditions we have published . These are based on guidance from the Croquet Association and are in compliance with current regulations as published by HM Government. Copies are also posted in the clubhouse.

Up to 4 members can be present on the club grounds at any point in time, playing games of singles, with 1 game per lawn. All games must be booked through the online booking system, with each slot being limited to 90 minutes to ensure lawn availability to as many as want to play.

As equipment-sharing is not allowed, we will also be operating a loan scheme of club mallets to those members without one. Please contact me for more details of that, or for any other queries about our re-opening.

David Long, Club Secretary (07484 360169)

Video Conferencing Software


Introduction


Blewbury Croquet Club set up a group to look at internal communications. With the sudden increase of interest in Video Conferencing during the coronavirus pandemic it seemed useful for the group to see what video conferencing solutions are available and affordable. Three very important factors are video quality, audio quality and pricing all of which could change at any time so this report was only correct on the day it was published. With the recent increased use of these tools the press have picked up on some security concerns. We are not aware of major security problems with any of these tools. In all cases where costs are mentioned these are per month. All the browser based tools worked well on Chrome, and on the latest version of Edge (v79 and later – which has not been generally released in the UK yet but is available for download) and most worked on Firefox.

Solutions considered

The four of us tested: BlueJeans, Google Duo, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Skype, Webex, WhatsApp and Zoom. We will comment on each one and then make recommendations at the end. We did not try MS Teams because we did not find a way to install it and it has a reputation to be hard to install.

Tools with many features

Five tools had many features and seemed to be well suited for desktop devices as well as phones and tablets and all had a rather similar look and feel. They all offered the ability to view everybody side by side or to just show the speaker large and will others as small images. An interesting feature that some products have is the support of breakout rooms. The idea is that all, or some, participants can spend part of the meeting in small groups. These breakout sessions are normally to allow people to talk within a smaller subgroup or to work on problems in parallel and then someone reports back to the main meeting when everybody has returned. One of us has also used them successfully in conjunction with an online bridge program.

Blue Jeans

We found relatively poor video and the audio was so bad that natural conversations were impossible. There is no free version so it appears to be of no interest today. The documentation mentions breakout rooms.

Google Hangouts

This tool might be better in the next classification of simple tools. It supports up to 10 users with good audio and visual quality. It offers screen sharing but it is not convenient to use. It has no benefits over Webex. It does not support breakout rooms.

GoToMeeting

The free version is severely restricted to allowing meetings for up to 40minutes and up to 4 people. The entry level cost of £10 a month is a little less than Zoom and for £13 you can record and generate transcripts which might be useful for secretaries. The audio and video quality are comparable to Zoom. Breakout rooms are supported but in a companion product GoToTraining which is much more expensive.

Webex

The major benefit of Webex is that it is free for up to 100 people for meetings of unlimited duration. The audio, video and screen sharing facilities are almost as good as Zoom. The documentation suggests that it may support breakout rooms but we were unable to discover how to do it in the free product.

Zoom

When tested this did have the best audio and video quality. The only problem is that it is not free unless you are either having a 1:1 meeting or can fit your meeting into a forty minute time slot. For longer meetings or with more people it costs you £12 and for £16 you can generate transcripts of a meeting. This supports breakout rooms – even in the free version.

Simple Tools

Google Duo

Used from a web browser you can, today, only call one person. From a mobile app it works well and groups can be defined of up to twelve people allowing you to call everyone in that group. It claims to offer screen sharing but we did not test it. Audio and visual quality were both good.

Skype

When we tested Skype, we had considerable difficulty in getting all four of the participants connected to the meeting. One person needs to invite others to join the meeting, which is not as convenient as having each participant clicking on a link to join the meeting. We also experienced poor audio and video quality.

WhatsApp

This is limited to four people but if you are already a WhatsApp user it is very easy to use and again has good visual quality. It is however very susceptible to background noise and does not allow you to use web.whatsapp.com to link to a desktop.

Conclusions

  • If someone in the group you wish to communicate with has a Zoom or GoToMeeting licence then as these tools both work well and probably provide a better experience than Webex then use that tool.
  • If you need breakout rooms then the only affordable possibility appears to be Zoom.
  • If your meetings are 1-1 or can be kept down to 40 minutes then use the free Zoom license.
  • For a good free solution for up to 100 people with good audio and video choose Webex.
  • For a small group of up to 12 and not confined to the desktop Google Duo works well.
  • If you are in a small WhatsApp group and again not confined to the desktop then it is easy to make a video call but background noise can be a problem.

Peter Allan, Steve Fisher, Joe King, David Vincent – 13 Apr 2020

Newsletter 2020/1 (January)

Note: The original Newsletter was circulated to Members by email on 31st January. The text now published here has been edited to remove some personal data, as well as the lawns report now published separately on this site.

Here are some short reports and updates from various Committee members.

CLUB SOCIAL – Friday 7th February, East Hagbourne Hall

David Long: (phone : secretary@blewburycroquetclub.org.uk)

A reminder that tickets are still available for our quiz night social. Tickets £10 in advance (£12 on the door) from David Long. Friends & family welcome, but feel free to come on your own and be put onto a table with other club members. Soft drinks and ploughman’s supper included in the entry fee. Wines available. Doors open 6.30; quiz starts 7.15.

Internal Communications working group

Steve Fisher:

Your Committee has asked Steve to convene a working group to make improvements to communication within the club. The first task of the group will be to find out what you, the members, want to send and receive – and how. An email will be going out very soon; please consider it carefully and respond. The group will then identify a practical course of action and report back to the committee.

Clubhouse Cleaning Rota

Andy Robertson:

As you may know, June has stepped down from her numerous duties, one of which was organising the monthly club-house cleaning rota. This arduous duty has been taken up by Sue Tilbrook and me, and we are hoping for two pieces of good fortune – firstly that all those on June’s rota last year will continue in 2020, and secondly that we can recruit a few newcomers. If we could get three or four new names, then this would mean that each pair would only have to do two sessions in the whole of this forthcoming year. Sue and I are planning to meet up at the clubhouse on the afternoon of Tuesday next week, 4th February, for a chat on how to proceed, so please join us there or let either of us know if you want to continue/join.

Andy Robertson (treasurer@blewburycroquetclub.org.uk) , and Susan Tilbrook

GC Friday Lunch Meetings

David Vincent:

As an experiment David invited all GC players to join him in a series of Friday lunch-time meetings at the Blueberry Inn. The idea was that these meetings would be partly social and partly an opportunity to discuss golf croquet in our club. By having several small meetings it was hoped to enable better round table discussions.

Although not all GC players responded, two successful meetings were held and were both enjoyable and produced useful ideas that will be put into practice. The current plan is to repeat the experiment next year.

Heads-up for National Croquet Week 2020

Paul Wolff:

The National Croquet Open Day in 2019 was a success for us. This year we plan two open afternoons, on Sat. 16th and Sun. 17th May. We’ll build on last year’s format. Please tell me (Paul) if you would like to help me with either the planning and reparation, or with being there on one or both days. At least, you could put the weekend in your diaries!

Qualifications as Coach, or as Assistant or Full Referee

Paul Wolff:

Have you thought about learning how to coach others – you don’t have to be an expert player! – or of studying the Laws and Rules of your code? There are short courses coming up this Spring, and subsidies are available. I’d be very happy to run an extended AC Laws course here myself which ought to help you play, win arguments, and prepare you for a possible future referees or assistant referees course. Let me know if you are interested.

New Club Handicappers Appointed

Paul Wolff:

I’m pleased to say that David Vincent has been appointed Club Handicapper (GC) and Joe King has been appointed Club Handicapper (AC). In their respective codes, David and Joe will be responsible for setting initial handicaps, ensuring the automatic handicap system (handicap cards) is working for you, and adjusting handicaps where appropriate outside the automatic system for players with handicaps down to 3 (GC) or 8 (AC). Watch out for improved handicap cards this coming season!

Court Closure – Update

This Newsletter as published in January contained only a summary of Joe King’s complete report, which you can read here on this web site. In short, we don’t know how soon the courts will dry out. Joe plans to inspect them and post again next week.

Best wishes to you all.

Paul Wolff

Chairman

Successful Winter Social

Friday evening’s quiz night went off very enjoyably, generating £164.32 surplus for the club, and raising £60 for Aspire Oxford (a charity, chosen by our quizmaster, that helps the homeless and other disadvantaged individuals to find employment).

With rounds on “Squares, Croquet & Other Major Sports, Music, Kings, UK Railways and Comedy Clips”, the event was won by the Quizacles team comprising Paul Wolff, Deirdre & Malcolm Cochrane, and their guests.

In total, 31 people participated in the quiz, of whom roughly half were club members. Thanks are due to our quizmaster Richard Kirby (of Abingdon Rotary Club), as well as to Sue and Michael Jenkins, Peter Allan, Sarah Bennie, Janet Vincent and – particularly – June Wolff – for their work in organising and running the event.

Communications Working Group

Updated 9th Feb 2020

As part of a development plan for the club, the Committee created a working group with Steve Fisher as convener charged to find out what members want to communicate within BCC and how. The group, which currently has three other members: Peter Allan, Joe King and David Vincent, will then report back to the committee with a practical course of action to give members what they want.

Communication outside the club is not within the scope of the group however it is appreciated that any website, which is expected to be a part of the solution, might also have a marketing role.

At its first meeting the group discussed whether or not it was the right size and had the right membership to be effective. It was felt that if the group were any larger it would become unwieldy. The meeting then considered a list of technologies that we use now and which includes mail lists, the phone, the web site and WhatsApp. In order to make sure that the future system delivers what members want, we are building a set of “Use Cases” that such a system must deliver.

A few words on Use Cases

Wikipedia defines a use case as a list of actions or event steps typically defining the interactions between a role (or actor) and a system to achieve a goal.  A use case is very easy to understand and, if the set of use cases is comprehensive, ensures that one can determine whether or not the proposed system will do what is wanted. The group has produced an initial set of use cases which we would like all members to examine and to see if we have missed off anything that would be useful. Normally a use case shows how specific roles interact with the system. In this case instead of a role the word “I” is used. For example the use case “I want to find players for a match” might better be written as “A team captain finds players for a match” and it is likely that we will identify roles shortly. Of course any one person may assume different roles. If a use case is expanded too much then it is describes a solution rather than the problem – which is of course to be avoided.

Current set of Use Cases

  • I want to schedule a match needing two courts – by looking for a suitable slot and reserving it
  • I want to lookup something in our “Laws” i.e. constitution
  • I want to see if the courts are open
  • I want to tell all members that the courts are currently unfir for play
  • I want to find the minutes of the last committee meeting
  • I want to find the agenda for the next committee meeting
  • I want to send a message to all members of the communication working group
  • I want to share a document with all members of the communication working group
  • I want to find players for a match
  • I want to find out where the last Longman match against Harwell was played
  • I want to volunteer for white lining
  • I want to ask all GC players if they are interested in something
  • I want to find out which matches a group of people could play in
  • I want to remind players that they are due to play in a match
  • I am looking for volunteers to help with repairing crow holes
  • I want to inform everyone of the response to a request for volunteers
  • I want to inform the volunteers of the arrangements to repair crow holes
  • I want to confirm arrangements for repairing crow holes
  • I want to update arrangements for repairing crow holes
  • I need to cancel an event this afternoon – and be sure that the message is received
  • I am looking to make arrangements for the time of an event in the coming week
  • I would like to know the weather at the club
  • I want to know if anyone is intending to play today
  • I want to know how to declare interest in the Prebendal
  • I want to find out what events I can declare an interest in
  • I want to sign up for the Prebendal
  • I and other members of a working group want a temporary email address for the group
  • I want to distribute the agenda for a committee meeting
  • I want to inform all members that our courts are now open
  • I want to gather information from all members and to track their responses
  • I want to remind all members yet to pay their annual fees, of the need to do so
  • I want to see which members want to participate in a club social activity

Feedback needed

What we need from you is not only to look for errors and omissions in the set of Use Cases listed above but also to tell the working group anything else that might help to produce the system that members want. Please send an email to cwg@blewburycroquetclub.org.uk to provide your input.

Courts improving – but still too soft…

I have assessed the state of the lawns again today. The good news is that Tickers Folly Field is the driest I have seen it for several months and the dampness on our lawns is reduced as a consequence. Rainfall has also only been about 7-8mm in the last week.

However, the playing surface itself is still very soft and walking around on the lawns was leaving discernible indentations this morning. As a consequence it is too soon to resume play, as the inevitable footfall around hoops can only have a negative effect on the lawns longer-term.

If the weather remains dry I will assess things again on Wednesday 12th, and if all is well then, I will white-line and re-open the hoop holes ready for Thursday 13th. However Sunday is forecast to be very wet for all of the 24-hour period, so we’ll have to see where we are after that.

I will keep you all pasted. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please drop me a line.

Joe

07768 182 885/jwking.uk@gmail.com

Court closure – update

The lawns have been shut since January 9th to preserve them from compaction damage due to footfall in the very soft conditions. There is a strong suspicion that some damage has occurred to court 2 during the autumn owing to the much wetter and softer than normal conditions. We are keen to reopen court 1 as soon as we can be confident we will not compact/damage the playing surface.

The assessment at the moment is that if drier conditions prevail over the next few days into early February. Then we should be able to resume play around February 6/7. I will let you know firmly one way or the other once we see the rainfall figures for the weekend (February 1/2) and I have inspected the lawns again around the 4/5th.

For information, the rainfall figures show we have had a very wet autumn and have had a wetter than normal January.  They are:

  • For the autumn months (Oct-Dec) in the very wet conditions last year total rainfall was 260mm, compared to 160mm in 2017 and 175mm in 2018. So it was substantially higher and left the ground saturated and unable to absorb the rain that continued to fall on a regular basis.
  • The January rains we had were heavy at the beginning of the month with 22mm falling in week 2 when we shut the lawns and 28mm in week 3. We have had two drier weeks with 14mm falling. We have only had 5 rain free days since the closing the lawns, which has tended to keep things ‘topped up’. January rainfall this year was 69mm, three times that when compared to the 2019 figure of 23mm.

Quiz tickets: don’t miss out

Hi. If you haven’t already reserved a ticket for our Winter Social, please contact me soon.

This is an excellent chance to meet up and socialise with other club members before the lawns reopen again. But, with posters up, tickets are now starting to be sold to the general public, so please don’t risk missing out by leaving it to the last minute.

Friday 7th February; East Hagbourne Village Hall. Doors open 6.30 (quiz starts 7.15 prompt). Aiming to finish around 10pm.

£10 per person, or £60 a table (max 7 people). Ploughman’s supper and soft drinks included. Wines available.

David Long. 07484 360169. secretary@blewburycroquetclub.org.uk

Winter Social – Quiz

Hold the date: Friday 7th February, starting from 7.15 (doors open 6.30pm).

BCC’s winter social will take place in East Hagbourne Village Hall, due to the refurbishment of Blewbury’s own hall. We’re arranging a fun quiz evening, that you’re very welcome to invite your friends and family to.

Tickets will be £10 per person in advance, or £12 on the door. Or you can book exclusive use of a table for your team, at a cost of £60 (up to 7 people). Prices include a ploughman’s supper, cake, and soft drinks; we’ll also have a bar selling wine by the glass or bottle.

Ticketing details will follow after Xmas (once we’ve printed them!), but please get in touch with me asap if you want to reserve a whole table.

David Long (secretary@blewburycroquetclub.org.uk)

2019 Prize-giving

Congratulations to the following, for the prizes they received yesterday – following our AGM – from our President (Coral Richards):

  • Joe King – The Founders Cup
  • Brian Jamieson – The Icknield Trophy
  • Paul Wolff – The Roger Cambray Shield
  • David Vincent – The GC B-Level Open (no trophy, no photo!)
  • Peter Allan – Player of the Year, for winning The Greek Open in Corfu, as well as our own Prebendal Trophy; for winning our local preliminary and almost reaching the national finals of the All-England AC Handicap; and for reducing his handicaps from 16-9 (AC) and 8-7 (GC)
  • David Seed – the CA Diploma for services to Croquet, recognising his long service in maintaining our lawns.

Bottles of wine were also presented to John Garnett, Roger Lowe and (in absentia) Mick Moore, for their huge contributions to maintaining the lawns this year. And a bouquet was presented to Deirdre Cochrane to recognise her previous long tenure as Chair and Secretary of the club.