Anyone for croquet? I came across the game quite by chance. It was about two in the morning and I couldn't sleep. I slipped out of our cottage on Lake Huron and got into the car to drive to the all-night gas station that is about five miles away on the outskirts of a sleepy little town mainly populated by expat Scots. I was going to get a coffee and then try to do some work in lieu of sleep. I was just turning into a residential street when a red ball whizzed across the road in front of me. I braked sharply and looked around to see where it had come from. Eventually, three young guys stepped out of a nearby bush. They were all carrying what looked like sledgehammers.
For a moment I thought that this might be it. This might be my untimely demise – bludgeoned to death by angry ex-Scots far, far, away from home. I wondered what the headline might be? "Minor comedian battered to death with hammers in Canada in curious roadside incident."
I was soon a little more relaxed as the youths seemed to be very apologetic and approached my window sheepishly. On closer inspection I realised that they were carrying croquet mallets. I wound my window down (actually that's a lie – who still has manual window winders?). I pressed the button and my window opened smoothly. "Hello," I said. "Hello," they replied. There was an awkward silence and then a tall ginger youth spoke: "Sorry about the ball, eh? We didn't see you coming, we don,t normally get much traffic at this time of night."
They were giggling a little and had clearly had a couple of beers or 20. I asked them what they were up to. "We're playing street croquet," they answered as though this was a daft question.
I'd heard of street hockey where Canadians don Rollerblades in the summer months and play ice hockey without the ice. I'd also heard of urban golf. This is where you carry a small piece of Astroturf and play a round of golf through a city using it as the tee. I've played a game of urban golf. Well, it was two "holes" one drunken night in New York City. We only managed two before the police spotted us and put an end to the round pretty sharpish. It was not long after 9/11 and we were lucky that they didn't charge us with carrying offensive, terrorist weapons (a seven iron).
Back in Kincardine I looked stunned: "Street croquet... that's brilliant. How did this start?" The youths looked slightly disturbed that I was interested, but alcohol made them boastful. "Rob's dad had a croquet set – he's from England." The ginger and clearly Scottish youth nearly spat this last bit of information out. "Anyhows, we were playing a game and one of the balls went on to the road so we played it from there and we ended up going all round town. Now lots of us play it, but the police don't like it so we do it at night, which is more fun."
This was my sort of sport. I asked them whether I could have a go and they were all for it. I parked the car and spent the next hour whacking a ball down streets and using parked cars as hoops. It was a tight match that ended with "Rob the Englishman" taking the win with a direct hit on a lamp post near the harbour. I'd forgotten just what fun croquet is. I have an unopened set back home in the Cotswolds. I've never managed to get a single game together, despite having bought it about five years ago.
Things, however, are going to change. I intend to launch the sport of "Country Cotswold Croquet." There are endless wonderful courses (or villages as they're known) around me and it will give me something to do in those long winter nights.
I need to get the rules clear. The Scots disapproved of the practice of putting your foot on your opponent's ball when dispatching him (this gives you far more distance). "English Rob" thought it was fine. I'm also considering painting some balls with fluorescent paint as the street lighting around me is not as good as in Ontario. Liz Hurley lives in the next village – I wonder whether she might be up for a game. I'll pop round and see her with my mallet.
Little Leaguer slugs it out to be a big hit
My five-year old son took part in his first ever game of baseball yesterday. He hit a home run and now has the nickname "little slugger". I was grooming him for a place in the England cricket team, but who knows?Reuse content