Yesterday I became a bowler. Of the short mat variety. Not a particularly good bowler but, as always, I did my best. Armed with the sound, if confusing, advice of Ron Collingridge (author of that
handy little pocket-book "Short Mat Bowling") and with two of my friend Val's size 0 woods, I presented myself at the Keystone Club with some trepidation.
Mr B came too. Initially it
was simply to provide support and encouragement but you can't take Mr B anywhere near a bowling green (of any description) and expect him to stay sitting on a fold-up chair twiddling his thumbs and spectating. Instead, he was straight
into the action.
Ron says I mustn't get confused by the name "short mat". It is not anything like "mini bowls" played in your living room or "carpet bowls" played with small woods. Oh dear
me no - in our game (note the possessive pronoun, I really am turning into a bowler) in OUR game we use the full size bowls the same as Sir Francis Drake did. I hope you are impressed that I can mention myself in the same sentence as Sir Francis
Drake. He it was who was apparently playing lawn bowls when someone saw the Spanish Armada approaching. Sir Francis refused to leave off playing until he'd won the game: "Ships? I see no ships!" he is supposed to have muttered, as he sized up the
state of play. He reminds me so much of Mr B when faced with anything he doesn't want to do.
Short mat bowls would be a great deal easier if they didn't insist on having a plank of wood placed
right in the middle of the playing area. OK, it's not a plank of wood, it's a "block" - it's fifteen inches long and painted white, presumably so that you can't miss it. Which was half the problem - wherever and however I bowled, I couldn't seem
to miss hitting the block. When you hit the block, you have to take the "walk of shame" and put the block back in position. All the people I was playing with (and against!) were just so lovely that they took it in turns to do the "walk of shame"
on my behalf. They kept consoling me that, if I could just keep it "low and slow" sooner or later I'd crack it. I think they meant the game, not the block.
I played Number 1
- the Lead for the Silver Team. This doesn't mean I was in charge - that job falls to the "Skip". One day I may be a "Skip" - it's a jolly sort of title, one that I feel would well befit me. But perhaps I had better not run before
I can walk. Or, even more importantly, skip before I can bowl. My job as Lead (according to Ron, the Short Mat Guru) was to deliver my bowls with a drawing weight (whatever on earth that might be), so that my bowls came to rest as near to the jack
as possible, ideally one bowl in front of the jack and the other just behind. Luckily, and I quote: "It is not the lead's job to play with so much weight that it moves the head around". Phew! That's alright then...
My team won by a massive margin. This was absolutely nothing at all to do with me but was extremely comforting in that I didn't have to worry that I had Let The Team Down. In my family, there are few things worse than Letting
The Team Down.
Mr B has signed us up for the whole term. I am to be registered as a bona fide member of the England Short Mat Bowling Association. There are over 26,000 members of the ESMBA
and one of them is me - how's that? (Oh, sorry, wrong game...)
Next week, apparently, we need to bring along our own mugs for our half-time cup of coffee. Then we will REALLY feel we belong...