Len Clarke points out that if you remove two "t"s and one "l" from "croquet mallet", you are left with a croque male (or croque monsieur) "then it is surely obvious that a croquet mallet is what Sian Cole offers her Monsieur friends, after having stripped it of three French letters."
More practically, John and Renee Dolan (who are now married and thus take up less space than when they sported two surnames, unless you include this explanation which makes them far longer than ever) suggest using a croquet mallet to knock dangling participles back into place. They also have the idea of suspending half-a-dozen mallets in a line by their handles, then lifting the end one and dropping it against the others for a giant sized executive toy. They abandoned the idea of using them as pistons in wooden cars because "maybe they wooden work".
"An ideal gavel for a judge with sensitive ears," says Peter Bernard. "Burn one and keep the ashes as an international croquet prize," suggests Nicholas E Gough. "As the ultimate feminist symbol - all head and no balls," says Geoffrey Langley. "For thumping the television to make it go, without having to leave the comfort of your armchair," Lindsay Warden recommends. Or, she says, use four mallets as an inexpensive prosthesis kit for legless cows. "To split infinitives," says Judith Holmes, but she warns against using them offensively, lest you be charged with mallets aforethought.
The creatively fecund Bruce Birchall sees them as crutches for Long John Silver, or for testing reflexes for giants, or used with a tent-peg as a handy anti-vampire kit, or for tenderising dinosaur steaks, or to cheat at polo, or an emergency anaesthetic, or for dealing with lumpy custard, or as an editor's spike for boring Creativity contributions.
"Before using them or anything else," says Phil Worth with the week's worst pun, "get them to gargle - then they will cease to be croaky mallets." Mary Flavin introduces us to the delights of table croquet to be played at the family Christmas dinner: "Ideally pommes croquettes should be used for balls, but leftover sprouts are a good substitute. Hoops may be improvised from turkey wishbones, toast racks or a bow-legged granny."
Kris Hansen points out that "croquet mallets can be fitted with a simple hook which converts it into a crochet mallet."
Maguy Higgs burst again into verse:
The male is seen in summer,
The female's rather shy:
When winter comes the pair of them
Disguise themselves and fly.
The male revamps his spelling
From croquet to croquette,
And hides in mashed potato
Till the weather gets less wet.
"Honi soit qui mallet pense," she warns, but says that the burning question is: "What is a Shepton Mallet?"
Steve Warner uses his to flatten molehills. "If you're quick enough, there's a satisfying little `ouch' as you hit the mark." His own mallets are colour-coded to match the balls, which he finds very useful for remembering what colours the lost balls are.
"Stick the handle in the ground," says Giles Bowman, "for a post-modern scarecrow." If you're even quicker than Steve Warner, the mallet may also be used to knock itself into the ground.
Prizes to the Dolans, Mary Flavin and Maguy Higgs. Next week, the warm waters of El Nino. Meanwhile, we shall soon be looking for things to do with the detritus of Christmas. Any fresh ideas?
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