Tuesday, 16 August 2011

What the Dickens! Learning bowls with Great Expectations.

Well dear reader, I am exhausted after a Sunday spent playing lawn bowls.  Now I am rather hesitant to tell my Australian rellies about this activity because no-one under the age of about 75 would be seen dead partaking in such an activity!  However this was for a special charity – Westmeria Counselling Service where I do my placement clinical hours.  We had to arrive at 9am –very early– for training, with strict instructions to wear a red top to distinguish us from the blues, and white soled shoes to avoid damaging the green.  I thought that bowls was quite a sedate game for oldies looking for a relaxing way to occupy their time.  I was mistaken.  It is very serious, with lots of etiquette involved and fiercely competitive!

I first heard about the game while studying British history at my Australian school.  In 1588 as the Spanish Armada was proceeding up the English Channel ready to invade, he was supposedly playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe and remarked to his commanders that ‘there was still time to complete his game and beat the Spanish’, which he duly did.
When I remarked on the competitive nature of the game, one senior gentleman told me in no uncertain terms that ‘you might think we are all old gits but many of us have been serious sportsmen in our time’. The balls are not balls at all.  They were originally made of wood and hence the name ‘woods’.

Antique bowling woods made of wood with ivory inserts

A modern 'wood' made of resin. The marks on the sides indicate which way to hold it to direct the curve - all very scientific!

They have to be held in a special way so they roll in the right direction.  They are weighted so that you can make it curve either left or right depending how you hold it.  The aim is to for your team to get their woods as close to the little white ball, called the Jack, as possible.  You must stand with one foot on a special rubber mat and bowl the wood underarm.  You can employ all sorts of shifty tactics including blocking the jack, knocking the other team’s woods out of the way, or knocking the jack away from the opposition’s woods to be closer to yours.  If there is any dispute about whose wood is closest to the jack out omes the specially designed tape measure from a specially designed little pouch worn on the waistband. 
Checking the distances while everyone waits with baited breath!

Fellow newbies Sue and Gemma thought, as I did, that the special little pouch was for holding your lipstick and sun cream but we were quickly corrected!  By the end of the day we had figured out many of the rules and I was beginning to really enjoy myself – especially when the afternoon tea and cakes came out!  There was a bar open to obtain stronger beverages but I didn’t dare indulge as my wood s were going crookedly enough already! We finished the day at 5pm, with the event having raised £2000 – fantastic!
We were joining a very British tradition!
I started my working week quite shattered after all that exertion bending down, rolling woods, walking from one end of the ‘rink’ to the other!
Us oldies on the early clearing team have now been invaded by all the newbies  swelling our ranks ready for Thursday’s A level results day.  We are in our new teams and have changed out team colour from pink to lilac.  We have to colour co ordinate our bay and I am having great difficulty locating lilac coloured glitter.  I have found a lilac glitter pen and purple sparkles so those will have to do.  Watch this space for the forthcoming photo gallery!
For the last two days the campus has felt like a  bit of a time warp, populated by characters in Dickensian dress,  horse drawn buggies coaches and , and all the modern paraphernalia  required for the filming of scenes for Great Expectations.  My usual lunchtime route was barricaded off and it felt like being in a time warp looking in one direction to the 1800’s and the other to the modern day – weird and quite discombobulating!

...and then there is the 1940’s D-day landing experience outside the library. 

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