A Croquet Carol

It was becoming increasingly eerie.

Strange things had been happening  at Broadwas Croquet Club, for some months.

The spooky forces behind the weird episodes surrounding the clubhouse refrigerator door had still not been identified. The fridge  had been mysteriously and repeatedly opened over the weeks and then left ajar by a so-far unidentified club member. The club had been shaken to its very foundations. The milk had ‘turned’ with annoying, yet spine-chilling frequency.

In addition, croquet balls, both primary and secondary, had continued to be inexplicably found in  their holders smothered in dried brown ‘ectoplasm.’ No amount of diligent scrubbing by members apparently prevented the appearance of the brown ethereal sludge. In other inexplicable instances, unauthorised notices had been put up on John Guy’s AC noticeboard. The club was spooked.

John Guy sat alone in the clubhouse, pen in hand, furiously scribbling ‘DO NOT WRITE ON THE FRONT OF THE HANDICAP CARDS!’ on the front of the handicap cards owned by people who had written on the front of their handicap cards. “I must have a word,” thought John, darkly.

John suddenly stopped writing. He felt uneasy. A chill had rapidly descended on the clubhouse. “I knew shorts were a mistake” he told himself. John’s mutterings were interrupted by an un-Earthly noise coming from the closed door – the sound vaguely resembled a clanking chain or one of those  particularly irritating metal-headed croquet mallets.

Tentatively, John approached the door, muttering to himself “Can’t they see there’s a handle on it?” He was a little confused. Looking through the window, no one appeared to be at the door. John swung it open to be confronted by a grotesque spectacle.

A bedraggled man, about seven foot tall with a heavy beard, dressed in an overcoat and heavy, rusty chains draped around his neck and arms, was leaping back to avoid being hit in the face by the door. The visitor was surrounded by a green glow.

“Have a care!” the visitor shouted. “You could have taken my eye out” – which was probably true had he possessed any eyes. What he had were two orbs coloured in what would probably be best described as ‘secondary pink.’

John slowly looked the stranger up and down. Unlike John, the stranger was overdressed for mid-June. John was impressed by the unusual newcomer’s quick regain of his balance. “Hmmm. New member. Might be a possible AC player?” he thought. The green slime dripping from the prospective member’s eyes didn’t seem to deter John. He REALLY needed a reserve for the Association Croquet teams.  

“Sorry about that. I didn’t see you. Anyway, a taster session might be best for you…”

‘The reason you couldn’t see me through glass is because I’m a spirit, John Keith Guy”  interrupted the stranger. “Which club are you from?” asked John.

“No. You misunderstand,” said the newcomer.”  “I am the Ghost of Goldie Hoop” and I have come to show you  Croquet Past and Croquet Future.

“The Ghost of GOLDIE HOOP?? Are you taking the p…”

The spectre pointed his bony hand towards John, accusingly.

“YOU killed the Golden Hoop,” the ghost whispered.

“It’s the THIRTEENTH HOOP!”

“YOU KILLED THE GOLDEN HOOP and now, you need to see the consequences,” said the ghost.

The spirit continued. “You were supposed to be taken on those journeys to Croquet Past and Future by other spirits, but they’re playing away at Cheltenham and Eardiston today, so you’re stuck with me.”

“Yes, that’s all very well, but I’ve got to do the cards and rearrange my GC board. I haven’t got time to visit Croquet Past. I need to arrange some fixtures for the future, you know?”

The Ghost of Goldie Hoop picked up a mallet propped up against a clubhouse chair. “That is very unwise” said the ghost, menacingly. You MUST come with me.”

Just then, Keith Parsons walked into the clubhouse. On spotting the mallet the Ghost of Goldie Hoop was holding, he smiled widely “THERE IT IS!!!” he exclaimed. “I’ve been looking for that for ages,” Keith said as he grabbed his mallet, a tube of balls, and strode out on to the lawns, triumphantly.

The ghost picked up another mallet with stickers all over the shaft, but exclaimed “YUK,” wiped his hands clean on his filthy coat and picked up another. He swung the mallet menacingly over his head. “Nice weight,” he muttered. “I wonder if they do these at the Cheltenham shop? Anyway, John Guy, come with me to look and reflect upon Croquet Past.”

Just then, Jeff Faulkner walked into the clubhouse, and seeing the ghost’s unusual grasp on the mallet said “Ah, the Irish grip! You might have to bring your left hand down a bit nearer the mallet head for a decent jump shot.”

“I’m not doing a jump shot” said the Ghost of Goldie Hoop, irritably. I was trying to get John Guy to…” but the spirit was interrupted by Fran Wall, who had come in for a cup of tea. “Have you tried casting?” said Fran, demonstrating his theatrical casting technique to the ghost.

“NO I HAVEN’T TRIED CASTING” shouted the ghost. “Nor have I tried that weird technique David Harington uses.”  The ghost cut himself short in embarrassment. “Sorry David. Didn’t see you there.” David cried out “I can’t help it! You don’t understand! IT’S A CURSE, I TELL YOU. IT’S A CURSE!!”

“Come with me, John Guy” said the ghost. “This milk smells a bit funny. Would you have a sniff?” interrupted Gill Richardson, who had  entered the room unnoticed by anyone.

“No…I…would…not like to smell your milk!” said the ghost. “Can we just get on with this visit to Croquet Past?”  The Ghost of Goldie Hoop was interrupted yet again. “Ah, said Barry Kirby, pointing to the ghost. We’ve got Gerry Stevens, Catherine Lane and an incredibly impatient Alan Stevens waiting out there. You can make up the foursome. You don’t want to make Alan angry.”

“I AM NOT HERE FOR A ROLLUP!” exclaimed the ghost. Suddenly he found a plug of dried soil being held under his nose and was looking eye to eye with John Guy’s faithful helper, young Jon Carrington. “Is it you who has trodden these plugs into the lawns? Didn’t you see the email?”

“No, it was not! I saw you’d been tining. Nice job by the way, but will you go away? I’m trying to take John Guy to Croquet Past and I keep getting these interruptions.

Suddenly behind him, the Ghost of Goldie Hoop heard “Did you hear the one about…?”  Without turning, the ghost said chillingly “Go away, Jim Norris. Yes, I HAVE heard it! Everyone has.” “That’s it! I’m done!” thought Jimbo as he slunk off, dejected. “Think I’ll have a go at singing, instead.”

“Now where was I?” said the Ghost of Goldie Hoop. “I can’t think straight with all these interruptions.” “Welcome to my world,” muttered John Guy.

Before the ghost could collect his thoughts, Janet Bedford came into the clubhouse. “John, can I have a word about the Ryland Trophy.” She stopped and eyed the ghost. “Ooh. You look about eighty! New member? We’re looking for competitors in the Veteran’s Trophy. Would you?…” but even Janet had to break off her question when the noise of shattering glass filled the clubhouse.

Everyone took a few seconds to figure out what had just happened, when Billy ‘Whizzbang’ Cooke’s head suddenly appeared through the broken window in apology.

“Sorry Boss.”  I was doing a jump shot on lawn five and overdid it.”

“THAT’S IT!” shouted the Ghost of Goldie Hoop. “I don’t know how you do it, John Keith Guy. I’m off!”  As he lurched towards the door, he bumped into Chris Croft. The ghost grabbed at the plate Chris was holding.

“Nom! Flapjacks!” said the ghost as he disappeared, munching, through the door, briefly sidestepping a clipboard-wielding Paula Armstrong who then rugby-tackled him to the ground and demanded to know if he was coming to the annual pig-roast.

The ghost was never seen again. I say ‘never.’ He was press ganged into turning out at Cheltenham for the South West Federation AC team.

For the record, the Ghost of Goldie Hoop was absolute rubbish at AC. REALLY rubbish, but John and Stuart Smith were pleased. At least he ‘had a go.’

The mystery of the fridge door remains unsolved.

Don’t have nightmares.

Merry Christmas.