Newsletter 2021/2 (February)

Dear Everyone
With the courts closed, this has to be a time for planning ahead for when we are set free again. Maybe around Easter for competitive play? Your guesses will be as good as mine – I dare say even better. But with great optimism, we have now put together a complete programme for season 2021. We just need to check a few points, then hopefully we can give you the outline in the next Newsletter. As I reported last month, we’d like to kick off on Saturday 24th April with the Charity One-Ball in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

Our principal open tournaments are shown in the Croquet Association’s online Fixtures Calendar, and you can find them at the foot of our club details page which gives their short titles, dates, and key dates for entering (allocation dates and closing dates), though entries aren’t open yet. The tournaments flagged with a knife and fork are those where we offer simple lunches, and you’ll have seen June’s appeal yesterday for volunteers to join the catering team – please don’t be shy!

One last thing I want to report in this newsletter is the funeral of Jolyon Kay, the first cause and founder of this club, without whom it would never have come into being, two days ago [Note: 15th February] at St Michael’s in Blewbury, with the limited and distanced attendance demanded these days. Fellow club members and friends of Jolyon who able to be there were Deirdre and Malcom Cochrane and Avril Rangoni-Machiavelli, as well as myself, representing all of the club.

Finally, I want to include the obituary of Jolyon that Minty Clinch has written, which should appear in the next Croquet Gazette after I’ve added one more item, which is that in 2003, the year our new courts were opened, he was awarded a CA Diploma for outstanding services to croquet. Minty was fortunate to have been able to interview Jolyon early last month while researching the history of this club for our web site.

Jolyon Kay, September 1930-January 2021

Croquet said goodbye to one of its most endearing globe trotters when Jolyon Kay died on 27th January, 2021. He is buried in the cemetery alongside Blewbury Croquet Club (BCC), his passion since he founded it in 1992. He was at school at Charterhouse, then graduated with honours in chemical engineering from St John’s College, Cambridge. Shirley, his wife of 64 years, was a modern languages student at the same time.

Jolyon spent a decade in the UK chemical engineering industry. In 1958, he started working at the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment (Harwell Science and Innovation Campus from 2006), a job that introduced him to neighbouring Blewbury; the Kays bought Treble House, the first of five homes they owned in the village, and settled down to raise their four children. With his colleague, the late Mike Duck, he established the Harwell Croquet Club.

In the early 1960s, he joined the Foreign Office. His first assignment was at MECAS (Middle East Centre for Arab Studies) in Lebanon where he learned Arabic and studied regional affairs. One of his early postings in a 30-year ‘striped trouser’ career was Economic Counsellor in Saudi Arabia (1974-1977). He enjoyed the variety of his new life: a visit to the King one day, helping a British tourist with a lost passport the next, prepping a businessman for a big contract, telling him who and how much he’d need to bribe to win it. Wherever he went, the genial diplomat with the mallet established impromptu croquet courts: colleagues and locals loved the games he devised in Jeddah, Casablanca and Dubai.

In England for summer breaks, he revisited Blewbury, competing in croquet tournaments until he became ‘one of the better players in the region’. Why not a club of his own? Once committed, Jolyon was not a man to be denied. From small beginnings in 1993, when he announced his project in the Blewbury Bulletin, to the grand opening of two expertly laid courts and a clubhouse on Tickers Folly Field on 31st May, 2003, he worked tirelessly to raise funds and sustain momentum. By using professionals to pitch to Sport England, BCC received £42,000 under the Capital Grant Scheme, the largest award to any croquet organisation in recognition of a start up’s value to the community. ‘Not bad for a Victorian pastime with a somewhat crusty image’, he mused.

With BCC up and running, Jolyon promoted the game on the Croquet Association (CA) Council from 2001-2006, serving as Chairman of the CA International Committee from 2003-2004. After time as Chairman of the Southern Croquet Federation (SCF), he became Coaching Officer and SCF Regional Representative on the CA Council, using his Grade 1 coaching qualification to run courses for club members and juniors.

Over the last 30 years, he spent much of his time in Anogyra near Limassol in Cyprus. Shirley was a Middle Eastern archaeologist and a prolific writer: the latest of 16 books, Olives and Lemons, analysed the changes in the village over those decades. In September, Jolyon enjoyed his 90th birthday celebrations with his wife and their granddaughter, Saffron, but returned to Blewbury after Shirley was buried under Cypriot skies two months later.

Perhaps remembering his production of T.S.Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral for the Blewbury Players in St Michael’s Church, he rented the house across the road. On warmer December days, the nonagenarian sat outside at noon, mulled wine in hand, to catch up with old friends.

Now, in the words of his daughter, Gigi, ‘we are all pleased to think of him buried beside the Blewbury Croquet Club, smiling benignly whenever he sees the residents enjoying the club into which he put so much love and passion and energy’.

Thanks, Minty. And now best wishes to you all –

Paul Wolff

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

Playing Croquet in Tier 4

With all of Oxfordshire going into Tier 4, we are still allowed to keep our lawns open, but now they may only be used:

  • by members of a single household (or support bubble)
  • for solo practice
  • for singles games (or coaching sessions) between two individuals from separate households, exercising together while ensuring 2m social distancing.

Currently a booking is required for any use of the facilities. Available slots can be seen on the calendar . To make a booking you must log in first. Access to the courts is subject to government guidance – which is currently here.

Additionally, while we leave individuals to interpret this for themselves, we note that Tier 4 Guidance advises people only to travel a short distance from their home for exercise.

No more than 2 individuals are allowed on the same court at any time (unless part of the same household/bubble), so all club sessions have been cancelled pending further notice.

There are no longer any restrictions on when courts can be booked by individuals/couples/households, apart from the scheduled lawn maintenance windows. Please continue to book the courts before turning up ad-hoc (and to cancel any bookings you have, should they no longer be needed), not least to support “track and trace”.

All other sanitising / distancing measures continue as before.

The Committee are keen to continue to provide members with the opportunity to play croquet as much as allowed, particularly recognising the benefit to people living alone through this almost-lockdown. Please don’t abuse these restrictions, or the Committee will have no choice but to close the courts altogether.

A summary of the relevant club rules has been updated.

David Long, BCC Secretary (07484 360169)

Courts Reopening

Following the recent lockdown, and a pitch inspection today, I can now confirm that our courts are reopening tomorrow (Dec 2nd) within the constraints of being in a Tier 2 area.

Arrangements will be the same as before the lockdown, with a max of 10 people booked to use the lawns at any time (and a max of 5 on either court). The same precautions must also still be followed with regards to social distancing and sanitising of equipment (as per the Issue 7 rules posted on this site and on the clubhouse windows).

Additionally:

  • The yellow swisher should be used to clear the bulk of any worm casts off the court before play (any residual casts can be trodden into the lawn).
  • No Jump shots are permitted.
  • Hoop carrots should be left partly exposed, to preserve the longevity of the latest hoop holes.

The lawns are currently quite soft, though playable. If they get much wetter, however, we will have to close them again to preserve the turf and to stop the creation of new undulations. I’ll write out further (and post again here) should that be necessary.

2020 AGM Output

16 members attended our AGM Zoom call on Tuesday evening, 17th November. The full minutes have been e-mailed to all members, but a summary of the proceedings is as follows:

  1. The Minutes of the 2019 AGM were approved and adopted.
  2. The Club’s Accounts for 2019 were approved.
  3. Stuart Parks was reappointed, as Accounts Examiner for 2020.
  4. The Club’s Annual Report for 2020 was received and briefly discussed.
  5. It was agreed to maintain 2021 subscriptions at current levels.
  6. The existing Committee was re-appointed, bar David Seed (who had chosen to step down from that responsibility this year). Minty Clinch was appointed in his place, and welcomed into the Committee: her prime role will be keeping this website’s content refreshed.

David Long, BCC Secretary

Winners in 2020

After a short and bumpy season, we end it almost as we began it – in another lockdown. Here are the personal successes in our competitions and trophies of 2020.

Club trophies

Founder’s Cup: Robin Brown
Blewbury Golf Croquet Championship: David Vincent
The Blewbury Prebendal Manor Trophy: Peter Allan
The Icknield Trophy: John Garnett
The Roger Cambray Memorial Shield: David Long

Club open tournaments

One-day GC B-level, 17 June: Peter Adams (Caversham)
One-day GC C-level, 4 July: Peter Allan (Harwell and Blewbury)
AC Advanced Weekend, 18-19 July: Robin Brown (Blewbury)
One-day Short Croquet, 8 August: Tim Lacey-Hulbert (Kington Langley)
AC C-level Advanced Weekend, 29-30 August: Aston Wade (Hamptworth)

Semi-open tournaments

All-England Handicap (GC): National finalists David Vincent, John Garnett
Berkshire Handicap (AC): Anthony Hardwicke

Club Player of the Year Shield: John Garnett

Lockdown 2.0 – Courts Closure

On behalf of the Committee, while we are still awaiting final confirmation from the CA, we interpret HM Government’s guidance to mean that we will regrettably have to close our courts to all forms of play from Thursday, November 5th, at least for the duration of England’s formal lockdown.

We will, of course, continue to follow national guidance as it evolves. I will post a further news item here, and e-mail all our members, as soon as we become aware of any change.

David Long – Secretary

BCC 2020 AGM

This year’s AGM will be held on Tuesday, 17th November, starting at 7.30pm.

Unfortunately it will not be possible to hold this meeting face-to-face, given the pandemic. So we will be conducting the meeting over a video conference, using Zoom.

All members should have received an e-mail showing the provisional agenda. This also included notice that David Seed will be stepping down from the Committee at the AGM, after his many years of excellent service to the club. We therefore now have at least one vacancy to be filled (and can recruit up to 3 further members under our constitution).

Please let me know, by close of play next Tuesday (28th October):

  1. if you wish to attend (I’ll then ensure you’re sent dial-in details)
  2. if you wish to stand for election to the Committee
  3. if you have any items beyond the standard agenda that you’ld like to table to the meeting

David Long, Secretary – Blewbury Croquet Club.

Use of the website

All our members are registered for the website. Some make heavy use of it some very little as is to be expected. I thought that rather than writing a long report for the AGM I would post a news item with most of what I wanted to say.

Joe King, David Long, Paul Wolff and I have written most “posts”. Posts are typically news items.

Nick Butler and Peter Allan are the only two non-committee members who have written anything – though any member is able to submit a news item (after logging in of course).

Twelve of our members have logged in at least once during the last week and a further nine members have logged in over the last month.

Eight of our members have never logged in – and therefore never made a court booking. They have also been unable to see the information that is only available to members – such as the results page.

About a month ago I set up monitoring for the website to see how it is used. I have done some grouping to give the following table.

Page or Group of PagesCountComments
Home page186Most people’s way in
Login82It would appear that around half the users tried to login
Members’ Area77… and most were succesful
GC Championship Cup, Icknield Cup, Berkshire Handicap, Prebendal34Specific events
Results33General page before looking for a specific event
Calendar25Some would be logged in and some wouldn’t

List of Members
21This is surprisingly well used to get people’s contact details
Covid restrictions20This is the total for the various Covid news items
News & News Archives18
Membership16It would seem that a number are considering joining us
Contacts15
Sessions14
Profile11People updating their personal information
Open Days and Introductory Courses8
Taking Part8
Register8
Keeping personal information up to date6People preparing to update their personal information.
Using the calendar
6
Association Croquet
5
Mailing lists and aliases
5
GC Ladder
4
Golf Croquet
4
About Us4