Croquet – Day 10
After my rather emotional yoga experience, I was glad that my next challenge gave me the chance to hit a ball; something I’m far more comfortable with. Off I went to the Cornwall Croquet Club in Porthpean and I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful afternoon. I was introduced to a multitude of friendly -if not - perplexed faces. I did stand out slightly in my black tracky bottoms and black T-Shirt, contrasting with the Wimbledon whites everybody else was sporting. The initial confusion as to my attendance was replaced with warm enthusiasm and questions about why I was doing what I was doing. Good question and my answer tends to change on different days and how I progress. I decided to think on it later.
Croquet is played in two teams with two players on each side. The aim is to hit the ball through the hoops and unlike golf, you do not finish a hole and pick up the ball, you carry on the last shot to the next hoop. First to 7 hoops wins. This all seemed quite straightforward. After my baseball challenge and the discovery that I possess hand- eye- ball coordination, my confidence was running high. This was just hitting the ball. I had no catching or bowling to worry about, so bring it on and where was my Pimms?
Preconceptions over, I was paired with Ron, the team coach. Poor Ron probably made the journey that day looking forward to improving his own game. Instead, he was paired with a complete novice. I was given my own mallet and the basic instruction of holding and hitting the ball. I took a few swings and on the third or fourth attempt, I worked out that you had to swing the mallet through your legs to get the required welly to move the ball more than a metre.
While the game continued, I carried on practicing my shots. For no particularly good reason and thankfully out of sight, I forgot the main principle of having your legs apart when taking the shot and proceeded to swing the heavy mallet into my own leg. You may not have swung a mallet into your own leg before, but let me tell you, it hurts! In order to maintain dignity, I covered my grimace with a smile and corrected the hobbling gait that my body wanted to adopt. In hockey, we have shin pads on, so I’m not used to shin ache. I found the game very reminiscent of snooker, where you can almost snooker an opponent. It was chess-like in its strategy, with Ron obviously thinking 3 or 4 shots ahead, while I focused on not inflicting further damage on myself. When I started to get the hang of it, I played a few half decent shot, with the ball going roughly where I wanted it to go. Ron and I progressed to a 3 hoop lead, with the end clearly in sight. With this knowledge, my very rudimentary progress ground to a sudden halt when I essentially missed an open goal. With all of 20 centimetres between my ball and the unopposed hoop, I missed it. It was harder to miss than to put the damn thing through the hoop! I am the Torres of croquet.
I then effortlessly moved from one embarrassment to another. Ron coached me on where the ball should go. I then overshot it and usually in the wrong direction. I believe I have invented a new type of shot – the banana shot. At 6 all and with one hoop to get, Ron pretty much abandoned me and took matters into his hands. He would never get a cup of tea with me cocking it up the whole time. With a few deft swings, he single-handily won the last hoop and I unashamedly celebrated for being on the winning team.
I can see the game is one of skill and strategy and again very enjoyable on a beautiful day. It seems ironic to me that I have boxed and played baseball and I get an injury playing croquet. I went home to ice my injury and used half of the ice cubes in a tea towel for my swelling, and the other half for my glass of Pimms!
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