NOT FOR THE ANXIOUS…BUT THERE ARE SOME GLAD TIDINGS

Jon Carrington on Saturday afternoon, cutting lawns three and two.

There’s a little bit of good news regarding our club lawns, which may give rise to some hope of croquet in the not too distant future.

Following a break in the rain, Jon Carrington managed to complete a first cut of all five lawns at the weekend.  He managed an initial cut on Saturday and a much lower cut on Sunday, producing four trailer’s worth of cuttings. This cut paves the way for the lawns to receive essential moss sand treatment in the next few days. The next stage will be a light scarify, followed by a low grass cut.

John Steel feels that within a few days of this, the mowing teams (weather permitting) will be able to take the cut down to 6mm.

After Jon’s work, the lawns looked not far off being croquet lawns again.

Much of the outfield has also been taken down, though some repair needs to be completed on the outer edges of the field before the rest of the outfield can be cut further. In parts though, there was quite a squelchy feel to the outfield and lawns.

Also during the week, Jon and John Guy cleared the storage shed of about half an inch of thick mud that had accumulated during the winter, after running off the playing areas.

TURN YOUR HEAD AWAY NOW IF YOU ARE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION:

Jon narrowly avoided being crushed by the green tractor when the idiot driving it put it into reverse instead of whatever the opposite of reverse is. AMATEUR!

Didn’t We Have A Lovely Time, The Day We Went To Budleigh?

Just a couple of the Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club lawns

Earlier this year, I decided to take the bull by the horns and do it.

After being buoyed by the success stories of Broadwas players such as Jon Carrington, Fran Wall, Jeff Faulkner, Stuart Smith and John Guy, to name but a few, I decided to take the plunge and apply for entry into the C-Level competitions.

Anyway, long story short, I reached the final!

So early on Sunday morning, I woke at 4.00am in order to get to the hallowed lawns of Budleigh Salterton, for the club’s 2024 C-Level tournament. Now you may be asking, why 4.00am?  The simple answer is, it’s me. I am a VERY cautious individual. I always add on an hour to the estimated time Apple Maps tells me my journeys are going to take. I felt compelled to consider the probability of having to find an alternative route to the Devon club should a meteorite hit the M5 somewhere near Weston-Super-Mare. There was no way that I was  going to be late for the 8.45am registration and 9.00am kick off. My travel caution quirk also stretches to telling Hazel that films at the cinema are starting 30 minutes before they actually are, and routinely telling her that check-in for our flights is three hours, rather than two.

So, at 8.08am on Sunday morning, I was sitting in the Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club car park (I was the only person there other than two people putting the hoops out) and taking a text from Jon Carrington. Jon was also taking part in a tournament at the weekend – a stamina-sapping two day event at the Cheltenham Croquet Club’s Golf Croquet Open Series Tournament. I was touched that Jon remembered my competition. The fact that he was facing incredibly stiff opposition at the same time, had passed me by, though I had every confidence that Jon would do well.

I was impressed by the energy of our hosts  as I approached the Budleigh  grounds, because I came across a number of posters on my route through the town, which advertised a forthcoming Open Day at the club.  Budleigh proudly boasts eleven international class  lawns and standing on them, you can almost smell the sea. I confess that I was so exhausted before I even began the day’s play, that I couldn’t muster the energy to go and look at the view, though I saw the Severn Estuary near Bristol on my way. That’s nearly the sea, isn’t it?

I was thrilled when Budleigh Salterton, a few weeks ago, expanded the number of entrants to the competition to 24, but was then a little daunted when I saw that some of the entrants looked as if they REALLY meant business – I mean – one of them was from Cheltenham and many of the entrants had those metal-headed mallets that look and sound like Smith and Wesson manufactured them.  

The competition – which was run under level-play rules –  started with a round of blocks  of six players each in four blocks. I was in D-block, which sounded a little like a prison wing for offenders who are of no particular physical threat to society. Either that, or ‘D’ simply stood for ‘dunces.’  All the lawns were double-banked all day.

Let’s go to our reporter at the court side…

Anyway, I was quite uplifted by my first encounter with a nice lady from Bath – a 10 handicap player. I managed, despite my self-inflicted insomnia-induced lethargy, to take her to the thirteenth hoop. John Guy would have been appalled. During the competition I heard the 13th being referred to as the ‘Golden Hoop’ by players around the clubhouse many times – like it was normal. My opponent took her first shot after I hooped at the 12th and put her ball about two feet bang in front of the hoop. I had no chance.

My next game was against an eight handicap player from the home club. At the end of it, I felt pretty much how gravy must feel when it’s being mopped up by hungry bread. She showed no mercy as she trounced me 7-0. I would like to have put it down to home advantage – she was a Budleigh member (I don’t know how people play on flat, silky smooth lawns) – but no, I was clearly out of my depth.  By the end of that game, I felt like a Croft sponge cake that’s been dipped in coffee. The tiredness, chronic hay fever (I’m pretty sure I dropped tissues during every game I played) and the fact that I’d just had all of my fighting spirit sucked out of me, left me feeling decidedly limp. I thought Jon might lift my spirits.

My next encounter was with a lady from Eynsham in Oxfordshire. Also, an 11 handicapper, who even had exactly the same index as me. I thought I MIGHT stand a chance.  Again, not so. I managed to take three hoops off her, but she won 7-3. Have you ever noticed that winners almost invariably get seven hoops?

I then took a quick coffee in the magnificent clubhouse, while forlornly waiting for a text from Jon C. But nothing. He had abandoned me, as had my ability to consistently remember the order in which secondary balls are played. In my head, I had to keep reciting a slightly dubious, but memorable mnemonic that Jeff Faulkner had taught me during one of his coaching mornings last year. Ask him about it. It works 80% of the time, even if you ARE terminally confused due to a lack of sleep.

Although I still lost, I was quite chuffed when in the next game I took a Budleigh player to the thirteenth hoop. He was an eight handicap and much younger, more energetic AND had more hair. The only thing he didn’t have, was a Gruffalo sticker on the shaft of his mallet. Only ‘killers’ have those. Again, he played a superb first shot to the 13th and I could only dribble in admiration at his approach play.

Just in case…

After taking lunch – a vanilla Huel and a packet of Walkers – I played the last group game against another eight handicapper, this time from Cheam. He didn’t mess around either, beating me 7-4, with dispatch.

Triumph

So imagine my surprise when I went back to the clubhouse and on the noticeboard, found myself in the semi-final!

I say ‘the’ semi-final. It was actually the semi-final of the playoffs to decide the 21st to 24th places in the competition. But still, it’s the first time I’d ever reached the semi’s in anything. I suddenly woke up. Here was my opportunity to salvage  some vestige of croquet self-respect and prevent myself from being the flimsy lining at the bottom-of-the-barrel.

We moved on to a different lawn for the semi-final and this time we were overlooked by spectators watching from the clubhouse.

I’m proud to say that I broke my duck in the semi, beating a lady from Dowlish Wake (no, I’d not heard of it either), 7-3.  At this point, I was tempted to not insert her handicap, but in the spirit of transparency I have to. She was a 14.  But STILL, it was 7-3! Not a fluke!

I had a quick look at my text messages from Jon. I wanted to see how the other half live.

So there I was. In the FINAL! Unbelievable. I was convinced after the blocks that I was going to be holding up the rest of the finishing table, but I had at least preserved SOME dignity.

The other finalist was an eight handicapper from Guildford. I thought I recognised her and discovered that she had previously played in a C-Level competition on the hallowed lawns of Broadwas. During the day, I found that I was either having to explain where Broadwas is located, or arguing against the notion that in tournaments, Broadwas players DEFINITELY have a home advantage. Pah! As it happened, the nice lady I was playing against loved playing at our club and was actually a pal of Jon Carrington’s. It was amazing how many people knew of Jon and his reputation.

By the time we started playing, I was totally spent. A combination of the early start together with the ridiculous idea of playing a ‘calming’ music playlist in the car on the way down to the venue, turned me into a mallet-wielding zombie. Again, we were playing with secondaries and I kept on playing my opponents ball.  For the first time ever, I had to replace and replay.  She was very  understanding about it, but I sensed that her patience might be wearing thin when despite telling me which hoop we were going for after the eighth hoop, I still went for the wrong one although I was CONVINCED I was right. But by that point, up was down and I didn’t really know where I was. Anyway, I lost 4-7. Jon told me early on Monday morning that I actually ended up 22nd in the tournament. As Stuart Smith encouragingly said to me on Monday evening, “Onwards and upwards, I’m sure.”

Well, I do hope so.  Being a glutton for punishment – my motto is ‘Once bitten, twice bitten’ – I am playing in another C-Level in Watford in  a couple of weeks. Hopefully after my Budleigh practise session, I might manage 21st place next time?

So what did I get out of my first foray into competitive croquet?  Well, it was lovely. All of the competitors were super friendly and supportive. Somehow they managed to highlight the positives in my play and I did take encouragement from what they said. They were also quite caring. The lady who beat me in the final emailed me on Monday to check that I got home safely – I must have been a real psychological mess during that game. I bet you don’t get that in other sports. I would highly recommend giving the C-Levels a try. The only advice I would strongly give, is listen to what Apple Maps is telling you and DON’T, under any circumstances play soporific Ibiza Chillout playlists on the way to the tournament.

And as for Jon’s tournament?  I’ll leave the last word with him.

As I say. How the other half live.

Paul Felton (Unwittingly aided by Jon Carrington)

Grass Doesn’t Grow On Trees, You Know

(Broadwas, The Lidl and Aldi Of Croquet Clubs)  

I feel that the season is coming

Now the subscription is set

Though to guess the exact date is mind-numbing

So don’t go to Betfred just yet

But why do I think it’s good value?

Why is it such a fair price?

Well there aren’t many good yearly meetings

Where the Chair jokes ‘bout lawns and some rice

So why do our fees outshine Asda?

We don’t do bargains, or discounts or pasta

It’s the excitement and thrills – anticipation!

As Whizzbang Billy’s hoop shots fly right past ya’

There’s not much you can buy for one twenty

A couple of meals of posh squid?

An afternoon for two at the Albion?

For that? Wouldn’t give you a quid!

So what does your fee actually give you?

For a start it will open the door

To hoops, muddy balls and good banter

And repairs, stopping holes in the floor

So it’s well worth a visit to Bank Piggy

If you don’t, you might miss Friday cake,

Or Norris jokes…(second thoughts that’s no biggy)

Send your dosh to S.Smith, or he’ll quake

Clink clink, Asda Price!

Paul Felton

Member Profile – John Steel

Club President, John Steel

His quiet and modest demeanour very much belies the whirlwind that is Club President John Steel.

Now 85 years-old, as Lawns Manager,  John (or Steely, as John Guy calls him) is still the primary go-to guy when things go awry with anything occurring on the club grounds. 

John’s services to croquet were recognised last year, when the Croquet Association (now Croquet England), awarded him with a Diploma for Services To Croquet.

It was only when I discovered more about John’s adventurous life and engineering background, that I fully appreciated exactly why Steely is seen as Broadwas Croquet Club’s ‘Mr Fixit.’ 

John lives in Lower Broadheath, where he has resided for 19 years, with wife Valerie. The couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2023, marked by a card from the King.

Early Club Beginnings 

John’s introduction to the club came when he saw a handwritten poster made by club founder John Barber, some 19 years ago, placed on the counter at the Royal Oak pub. John and Valerie went up to the club and found John Barber playing croquet on the lawns. John and wife Janet both asked if John and Valerie would like to join, and so began Steely’s association with the club. 

The couple had moved to the area from North West London. John and Valerie both joined U3A (The University of the Third Age) John’s semi-retirement, but his only experience of croquet was playing Association Croquet with U3A for one summer while still living near London. 

After six months or so with the club, John Barber realised that the newcomer had engineering skills and promoted John on to the Broadwas Sports Association in order to give him back up on the committee since the other members weren’t croquet club members, but were associated with the cricket and football clubs. John joked “They didn’t like John getting away with all his  mad schemes like ‘we’ll buy this tractor and we’ll sell that tractor.’ So I was brought in as John’s number two. At the time, John was chairman. John would tell me before a meeting  what I had to say!” 

John Steel’s engineering skills were astounding. 

Early Life

John was born in Stockport in 1939, but his parents moved to Southampton at the outbreak of World War 2. The family stayed in Southamptom for five years and witnessed the Normandy invasion build-up of equipment in the road where they lived.  John recalled going to air-raid shelters with his parents and watching bombs being dropped on Southampton docks. John was raised in a Methodist family and both he and Valerie were Sunday School teachers. When they became engaged, in order to earn money for the wedding, John took up beekeeping and had five hives. When he entered a local honey show, he won best in show with an automatic entry to the international honey show in Westminster hall London. John described getting married as the “best thing in my life.”

Both he and Valerie were used to moving around the country with their parents, which is just as well, since John’s career took them both all over the world. 

John is a graduate from Brunel Polytechnic (now Brunel University), gaining a degree in Plastics Engineering and Polymer Science, while working for Smiths Industries.  It was after completing his degree that a tutor rang John up and asked if he wanted to work in Brazil. The tutor had developed a biodegradable plastic and a company in Brazil were interested in making sacks for planting coffee beans in. Five weeks later, John, Valerie and their three children, all flew off to live in Brazil for four years, where John initially oversaw the building of a biodegradable plastics manufacturing plant. “I had to learn Portuguese fast,” he told me.  The family lived in Copacabana for a year, before settling in São Paulo for the remainder of their stay.

At one point, John was  Chairman of the London section of the Institute of Materials and was  involved with setting up group meetings to introduce new materials and he was also involved with organising the annual ball at the Royal Lancaster in London for 1000 members, partners and special guests. Prince Philip was the Institute’s patron. John was once invited as group chairman to lunch at the Royal Yacht Club in Pall Mall and afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace.

It was while John was working in China  19 years ago that Valerie Faxed him to say that she and daughter Paula, who lives in Droitwich, had seen a house in the area. The couple had decided some time beforehand, to move out of London. When John agreed, Valerie arranged the purchase of their Lower Broadheath home over one weekend. 

John and Valerie have two other children. Sally lives in Guildford, while their son Chris lives in Bournemouth.  The couple have four grandchildren and one great grandchild, with another expected in May. 

Engineering Skills

One of the last major engineering jobs that John participated in was based in China, although that eventually took him to the North Sea and involved the installation of offshore wind farms. John was tasked with enabling the safe sea transport and installation of the upright bases of wind turbines.  John explained that the 48 metres-long, ten foot diameter turbine bases weighed two-and-a-half thousand tons. The problem that John was faced with, was designing  bearings that these massive structures could sit on during transport by ship, that would provide maximum friction to withstand movement at sea, but would facilitate easy removal from ships by cranes when they were ready for being driven into the seabed. John said “I’ve been involved in projects most of my life, which could go horribly wrong.” John remained a consultant with the company Fluorocarbons until he turned 80 years-of-age. 

So, it’s probably no surprise to learn that the idea of protecting our lawns with an effective rabbit-proof fence, didn’t scare John.  He explained that when he first joined the club, he got fed up with going up to the club before a match to fill in rabbit holes. In the early days of the club, in an effort to save money, John Barber’s idea was to avoid white-lining – which took a lot of time and money – instead  marking out the playing areas by using  a mixture of creosote and diesel. The mixture killed the grass where it was lined and stayed black for the whole of the season. Although effectively, the grass roots were also killed in the process, thus opening up the soil.  As a result, rabbits homed in on the areas in order to take advantage of the easy digging opportunities. 

John received a special award from John Barber in recognition of his work on the club’s lawns. Inset: The medal John won for reaching the final of the Grass Roots competition in 2008

Money Raising Prowess

Fortunately for the club, John is particularly adept nowadays at securing grants – a skill he honed when he sourced the  contractor who was able to provide truly rabbit-proof fencing. John, with number-crunching help from Stuart Smith, managed to obtain the £7,000 required to complete the work, from Malvern District Council. Having secured his first grant successfully, a few years later, the team of Steel and Smith applied for funding to buy an invaluable tractor-mower to carry out heavy duty work on the lawns. The application was successful yet again,  securing £8,500 from Sport England. 

John even took a hand in building the ‘new’ toilet block next to the pavilion, with Geoff Winkworth and John Barber. The new block became essential when the membership of the club outgrew the old Portaloo ‘acquired’ by ‘big-time wheeler-dealer’ John Barber. John recalled that in the early days the club only played friendly matches, so the existing facilities were adequate. Once Federation matches came along, it was decided that the club needed to build a new toilet block. The three members put the foundations down and built part of the walls, only enlisting a bricklayer for part of the construction. The three put the roof on and  Geoff Winkworth carried out the plumbing work.

Around that time, John Steel had acquired £3,500 in sponsorship for the club, from Broadheath and Broadwas Parish Council’s and so it was decided to spruce up the pavilion’s kitchen area. Led by John, a party of volunteer members which included the late John Evans, Stuart Smith and John Guy stripped the existing facilities and acquired flatpack kitchen cupboards. John recalled John Guy declaring “I’m not practical in any way, but I CAN read a drawing, so I’ll assemble the cabinets!” Working two days a week, the work party finished the job in three weeks. “And, we didn’t kill anybody by overworking them,” John joked. 

John’s fund-raising abilities know no bounds. He even managed a few years ago, to raise £3,500 to almost completely finance the provision of new PVC windows in the clubhouse.

Life-Saving Equipment

One of John’s latest fund-raisers was to provide the club’s newly installed Automated External Defibrillator. But John recalled that it all started as a joke. Members suggested that an AED should be provided since ‘everyone is getting older.’  John set to work, researching defibrillators online. In view of the average age of members at the club, John made a case for the provision of an AED and  approached the London Heart Foundation. The Foundation found John’s argument compelling and offered the club a defibrillator at half price – they normally cost £1,500. John set about raising the £750 to buy the AED, securing £250 each, from Lower Broadheath and Broadwas Parish Councils, and Malvern Hills District Council. The AED is now installed and will soon be fully functioning, with public access available to Broadwas villagers  and visitors, once it has been formally registered.  

John feels that what enables the club to secure finance is the club’s due diligence in balancing the books in order to meet unexpected and necessary expenses – such as the new drive built in 2023.  He credits committee management and treasurer Stuart Smith for that. John believes that institutions that give grants and fund projects are more likely to give assistance to well-managed clubs.  

Since he joined, John has overseen the introduction of three lawns at the club. Steely said that before he died, John Barber set him the task of taking the club to six lawns and the membership to one hundred. As a result, John said that he has spent more time looking after the grass, than playing croquet. He said that he found it difficult to ignore the state of the lawns rather than concentrate on playing.  During our chat, John told me that ideally, he would like to cut a half-lawn next to lawn five, and make it into a coaching and practice lawn. 

John is vehement in his determination to promote the club and would like to see the club flag and Broadwas Sports Association flag displayed on the flagpoles on match days against visiting opponents. “We are a big club now. They look nice. We just need someone to automatically put them up on match days.”

I asked John what grabbed him about croquet. “I couldn’t play golf,” he joked. “I spent a good deal of time in the rough.” He said “Croquet is good fun and a challenge. It appealed to me because I could control it.” 

John feels that the greatest accolade for Broadwas Croquet Club so far, is being chosen as one of the clubs representing England in the forthcoming World Croquet Federation’s 2024 European GC Club League. “We are a very sound, well-organised club,” he said. 

John’s long-term ambition for the club would be the provision of a new pavilion in order to provide more facilities, such as a changing area, although he sees funding as a  stumbling block. 

Horticultural Skills

Perhaps not surprising since he spends a lot of time tending our lawns, John is a keen horticulturalist, inheriting his interest from his accountant father who was a show secretary for a local garden society. John’s wife Valerie has also been involved in arranging flower in Worcester Cathedral and his daughter Paula also has an interest in entering flower shows, particularly at Malvern. His other daughter Sally studied garden design and had her own garden design business.  As a Parish Councillor in Lower Broadheath, John’s main role is overseeing the village’s allotments and public trees. As if he has time to fill, John is also involved with the organisation  of the Royal Horticultural Society Shows at Malvern. He shows giant vegetables as well as entering the general horticultural classes. He has won best in show on two occasions.

Just some of the horticultural awards won by John

As many will know, John has also run the popular close season Breakfast Club, which has run for the past five years, at The Bell pub in Lower Broadheath. This year, we also enjoyed an afternoon tea, to conclude the close season get-togethers. 

Once a five handicap, John now plays off seven. He used to play all over the country, on one occasion being runner-up to John Edwards in the Grass Roots tournament at Northampton in 2008. He was also runner-up in the West Midlands GC tournament at Edgbaston, only being beaten by a four handicap player. 

John also won the  Men’s Open GC cup in 2011 and the club’s Veteran’s Trophy in 2019.

John said he very much enjoyed travelling to  other clubs for tournaments, but his participation in competitive matches reduced a few years ago with the onset of various illnesses, including open-heart surgery. Nowadays, he makes it a rule to play at least every Friday, and Tuesdays if possible.

To anyone who knows him, John appears to be able to turn his hand to most things. While at Smiths Industries in his research and development role early on in his career, he was involved in the manufacture of the world’s first plastic alarm clock, making the mechanism for ten shillings. The whole clock sold for £1.  Even as a youngster, John was runner-up (with colleagues) in the Young Automation Engineer Great of Britain competition, setting up a fully automated plastic moulding machine. 

After a couple of hours of chatting to John, I couldn’t quite fathom where he gets his energy from. Even now, he’s thinking up ways of raising funds towards the club’s bid to reach the finals of the forthcoming European GC competition and has already secured a promise of a donation to the cause.  

Apart from imbibing his enthusiasm, the other thing I learned from John was this: 

“Opportunities only pass by once. Grab it, or miss it and moan “If only I had taken the opportunity.”

Paul Felton

Ground Status

Never has a sign been so apt

The picture above says it all really.  The opening of the 2024 season looks to be a little while off yet, after what feels like continual, relentless rain.

As Club Captain John Guy said in an email to members on Good Friday  “It looks like it will be some time before play may be possible.”

A plan by Lawn Supremo* Jon Carrington  to carry out the first cut of the lawns had to be abandoned a couple of weeks ago because of torrential rain.  Jon told the Broadwas Croquet Club Committee this week that carrying out the first cut while the ground is still soft would cause the lawns a great deal of damage through the creation of troughs caused by the wheels of the  heavy tractor normally used to carry out the first preparatory cut. Jon regularly inspects the lawns and will commence work as soon as he feels the lawns won’t suffer any damage from the first lawn preparation.

I visited the club this morning and all the lawns had pools of water on them. The squelch of soggy ground in the outfield as I walked represented something like that emitted from the globular alien in the Steve McQueen movie The Blob – either that or the noises I make when I’m hungrily downing a Croft Cake on a rollup Friday afternoon. Fingers crossed for a dry spell. Please note – you can always check on the state of the lawns by clicking on the ‘Ground Status’ link on the opening page of the website.

*I don’t know what to call him – he doesn’t know his title either!

Life Saving Equipment Installed

When you next visit the club, you won’t miss the club’s newest equipment arrival. After a long period of hard work carried out by Club President John Steel to raise funds for the medical device, the club now sports an essential piece of life-saving equipment in the form of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). The AED has recently been wired in and is now operational.

AED’s  are  lightweight, portable devices which deliver an electric shock through the chest to the heart when it detects an abnormal rhythm and changes the rhythm back to normal. AEDs help people who have a sudden cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating regularly. This happens when the heart’s natural electrical system doesn’t work correctly. If not treated within minutes, cardiac arrest can quickly lead to death.

The AED has been mounted on the external walls so that it can also be accessed by Broadwas villagers and anyone in need. More details on John’s efforts will be published in the next few days.

Royal Recognition For Club Member

Jennifer pictured during the Veteran’s trophy competition in 2023

And congratulations to club member Jennifer Whittaker.  Jennifer received Maundy Money from Queen Camilla at Worcester Cathedral on Maundy Thursday.

Jennifer was among forty people from across Worcestershire and Dudley to receive the ‘Maundy Money’ from the Queen in recognition of their exemplary Christian service to their church and community over many years.

Jennifer received the Maundy Money (newly minted coins) in recognition of her  many years of faithful service in parish ministry and her ‘passionate commitment to the pastoral care of the elderly, the bereaved and the vulnerable.’

The special service at Worcester Cathedral was the first one held since 1980.

Paul Felton

Big Bertha – Few Of Us Knew Her Well

(An Ode To The Dearly Departed Mower Few Hardened Mowing Team Members

Dared To Get To Know Intimately)

Big Bertha is a monster

Big Bertha is a beast

No one ever drives Big Bertha

Even when she’s fully greased

So we said goodbye to Bertha

Earlier in the week

Loaded in a horse box

By men with strong physique

Who knows where lies her future

What adventures she’s yet to tell

But would we have Big Bertha back

Would we? Would we, Hell!

Next, The World! Broadwas Enters European Croquet

The Broadwas GC European squad. From left, Billy Nicholson, Captain Stuart Smith, Ian Dampney, Jon Carrington and Billy Cooke

Not content with excelling in regional and national Golf Croquet competitions, Broadwas Croquet Club is now on a quest to conquer Europe!

The club has recently been chosen to be one of a handful of teams from England who will be participating in the World Croquet Federation’s 2024 European GC Club League.

A five-man squad led by team captain Stuart Smith, will commence their campaign at Telč in Czechia (the former Czech republic) in June.

The squad, which includes Ian Dampney, Billy Nicholson, Jon Carrington and Billy Cooke, will play their weekend heat on the 22nd and 23rd  of June.  

Other heats are being held across Europe between April and July and will be played in Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Latvia and Germany.  Ealing Croquet Club will be the host for the English heat, which will be held in May.

In all, 28 teams will compete for a place at the grand final, to be held in Madrid in October. In the tournament’s inaugural year in 2023, Dulwich Croquet Club were crowned champions. Dulwich begin their 2024 campaign in Hamburg in July.  Other English teams in the competition include Sussex County Croquet Club, Bromley Croquet Club, Reigate Croquet Club and Roehampton Croquet Club.

The Broadwas squad will be hosted by Croquet Club Dynamo Telč and our players are currently planning the trip to the picturesque town.  The town centre of Telč is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Telč Image © Jiří Komárek, JiriKomarek.net, CC BY-SA 4.0. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

Perhaps one of the more prepared members of the Broadwas squad is Jon Carrington. Not for him, are worries of transport arrangements for his mallet. Optimistically and wisely thinking ahead, Jon purchased a ‘collapsible’ mallet in only his second season at the club – long before Broadwas even thought of competing in Europe – which makes it ideal for travel and will fit snugly inside his suitcase. He showed fellow squad members his mallet during the team’s first meeting to discuss the forthcoming tournament. I was put in mind of Edward Fox’s collapsible rifle in the ‘The Day Of The Jackal.’ I picture Jon preparing for Czechia, alone in a forest, smashing melons to ensure he has his aim perfected. I’m not rambling by the way – see the film!

The general feeling from members of the squad is that that they are really excited at the prospect of European croquet and  are not daunted in the least by the prospect of competing in their first competitive game abroad.

Billy Nicholson told me “With regard to your question about feeling daunted – you’ve probably got the sense that we’re feeling we’ve won already!”

Paul Felton

Confessions of A Failed Referee

“Are you all sitty comftybold two-square on your botty? Then I’ll begin.”

Professor Stanley Unwin

The roof could have caved in, but I wouldn’t have noticed.

In fact, the roof DID start leaking a few weeks ago but I only became aware of the catastrophe when my wife relayed the news to me via a megaphone held approximately 0.3mm from my ear.  

Such was my determination to pass my resit of the Golf Croquet Referee’s examination at Bath recently, most national news has passed me by since Christmas. My only reading matter from the autumn of 2023 – till now really – has been the World Croquet Federation’s little red book – ‘Rules Of Golf Croquet’ – a tome I KNOW deep in my soul, that every member of Broadwas Croquet Club knows off by heart.

So, to cut a long story short, but making it longer anyway, sometime in the summer of 2023, Club Captain John Guy sent around an email to all members asking if anyone was interested in studying to be a GC referee. I jumped at the opportunity – my reasoning being that having another qualified ref at the club might take some pressure off our qualified referees Jeff Faulkner and John Guy, who often, on top of refereeing duties, also help organise competitions and tournaments during our busy seasons.

After somehow convincing Ian Shore, a GC Rules Committee member who runs the course, that I was up to the task, bearing in mind I was then treading water in the murky 14-handicap stream, I joined the CA Referee’s Training Course early in October 2023 after being provided with extensive pre-course material written by Ian.

The course was a delight. It was held at Bath Croquet Club, over a weekend during which Bath Rugby Club played Exeter. The Recreation Ground – Bath’s home – is a couple of hundred yards away from the croquet club’s lawns and every time the crowd roared, I pretended they were cheering my answers to the course organisers’ questions.

Ian was joined in teaching duties by GC coach and referee Paul Francis, who recently helped set up croquet at the new club at Bradford-on-Avon as well as being the Chair of the (then) Croquet Association Development Committee.

On the second day of the course, candidates take an on-court test, lasting about 40 minutes, as well as sitting a written examination. Anyway, long-story short, I failed the on-court examination. After realising that I’d thrice forgotten to mark balls when asked to come on court to judge short clearances, I quickly became a gibbering wreck and took way too long in coming to decisions. When I did finally come to a conclusion, it was wrong anyway.  Ian gently took me aside after the written exam and told me that my indecisiveness and lack of assertiveness had also let me down, but that I would be able to re-sit the practical test in 2024.

A couple of days after the exam, while I was playing Brian Humphreys in the blocks, I took a call from Ian on the lawns. Ian told me that I had done pretty well in the written exam and that I would be welcome to retake just the practical test in February. 

So while my roof leaked, I went away to Bath again at the weekend, to re-sit the practical test. I was spared having to retake the written exam or pay a retake fee.  Ian had also kindly arranged for Dr Ron Carter – a GC coach and referee to give me some one-to-one guidance before the exam, which was invaluable.

My first three judgements on whether balls had scored hoops in order were just dandy, but it all began to fall apart when I forgot – AGAIN – to mark a couple of balls and my inveterate Porky Pig stammer made an unwelcome entrance as I dithered around subsequent decisions in much the same way that I procrastinate when I’m trying to decide which of Glenys Croft’s cakes to have at a Rollup Friday.

The death knell clanged loudly when my inveterate dyscalculia (the numerical equivalent of dyslexia) made an equally unwelcome return when, although I knew the answer, I couldn’t work out at what angle a ball had been hit during a forceful front-of-hoop clearance. When I finally came up with an answer, it felt like an hour had passed.  The heavy rain did little to lift my mood.

When the other candidates were taking the written exam, Ian and Paul took me into the adjoining lecture room. Ian diplomatically and gently told me that I hadn’t cut the mustard yet again. He didn’t express it quite this way, but he said that he didn’t want me to darken his doorstep again, for at least two years. Both examiners expressed the opinion that on-court, though I knew the rules, I wasn’t assertive enough with my presentation of decisions. Fair enough.

Although it was a huge disappointment, I really enjoyed the experience of  getting an in-depth grasp of the rules of Golf Croquet. Wrong balls hold no fear for me from now on.

But I WILL issue a warning. If you meet me in the blocks in the future and you have made a crush error, I WILL call it, though it may be whispered and delivered three weeks later.

Paul Felton

Member Profile – Jon Carrington

This suddenly felt like it was not going to be the interview I was intending.

I’d arranged to meet Jon Carrington for our chat in the café at Laylocks Garden Centre. I noted that as he approached me, there was a subtle change in his gait.  We ordered our early morning drinks and took our seats, but then Jon revealed that he has been recently experiencing a recurrence of gout.  He put the latest episode of gout down to having “a glass of wine.”  Jon said he believed that the first ever episode of gout he experienced was down to a ‘heavy weekend’ in the past. He then, rather unnervingly, went on to tell me about all the types of alcohol that exacerbate gout and how he has had to change from drinking bitter to cider in order to avoid sparking off the condition. He’d obviously done his research because it appeared that Jon really knows his onions when it comes to the metabolic processes at work in the development of gout and he reeled off the fact that the condition is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood and that bitter already contains uric acid. “That’s why I switched to cider,” said Jon, matter-of-factly.

“That’s your battle with alcoholism dealt with,” I said. “Now let’s talk about croquet!”

Jon eyed my small notebook as the waitress arrived at our table and then modestly expressed surprise that I even wanted to write an article about him. “Good job it’s a small notebook. I’ve only been playing for two years, what is there for me to say?” This from a man who for the forthcoming season is 2nd in England in the Golf Croquet Ranking List for 2024 and is ranked 13th in the world! 😉

I had to point out to Jon that he is most certainly of much interest since in that short time as a newcomer, he has not only reduced his handicap to one, but has also won many games in national competitions. Jon had to reluctantly concede that his success in Golf Croquet so far, has been ‘well above average.’

Jon’s progress in the game in such a short space of time seems to me and many others within the club to have been quite phenomenal. Again, Jon reluctantly agreed that he may have been perceived to be the player that had ‘improved quickest’ but said “I think Billy (Cooke) is going to do that as well.”

Jon says that ‘hand-eye coordination’ is the most  important attribute for players in croquet but that his own, while being ‘reasonable,’ “Isn’t phenomenal.”  He said that he played golf in the past  but he admitted to being ‘no good’ and had never entered a golf competition in his life.

When Jon lived down in High Wycombe, a year before moving back to Worcestershire in 2018, he tried his hand at croquet with his wife Elizabeth, just for one session at a local club which was offering what we would call at Broadwas, a ‘taster session.’ His instructor at the time said that for someone who had never swung a mallet before, Jon was ‘quite good.’ Because he was working at that time, Jon never followed the session up despite giving his instructor what he felt was ‘a good run for his money.’ At that time, Jon was working as a manager over a team of sales representatives for a pharmaceutical company.

Jon was born in Birmingham and lived in Halesowen until the family moved to Bromsgrove when he was three. He was educated at South Bromsgrove High School and then went on to obtain a degree in Environmental Biology from Sunderland University. After university, he moved into pharmaceuticals, working as a sales representative before moving into managing teams before ending his career and ultimately retiring in 2018 after the company he worked for restructured. Jon subsequently moved to Worcester with wife Elizabeth, a podiatrist, and daughter Xanthe, who is now 13 years old.

It was after finishing working as a volunteer in the community shop in Lower Broadheath after his move back to the county, that Jon decided to respond to a flyer for Broadwas Croquet Club which had been posted inside the shop, probably by John Steel.  

Jon remembers his first game at Broadwas was on Lawn 1, in August 2021. It was a mere one year later that Jon entered a national C-Level GC competition, following it up with participation  in the  national B-Level competition in 2023.

Jon during a competition in 2023

I asked Jon what drew him into Golf Croquet so completely. He said “The tactics are fascinating. The first few games that he was involved in when he joined the club he described as a ‘joyous learning curve.’ Jon compares the tactics of the game to chess – he actually played for Bromsgrove Chess Club’s third team when he was only nine and was also school champion.  He enjoys the strategy of croquet. Jon said “There’s an element of a puzzle to croquet. It’s not just a matter of trying to hit a ball through a hoop. You might not get a chance if you end up putting a ball in a stupid place – you’re just going to be knocked away. It’s also not a matter of – can you play the shot you’re aiming for? More important is, have you chosen the right shot in the first place? It doesn’t matter how well you can execute shots, if you haven’t chosen the right shot to take, and that will quite often depend on your opponent.”

Soon after Jon joined the club, he had frequent coaching sessions with Jeff Faulkner. “Jeff has been my coach and I STILL class him as my coach. The player I am today is down to Jeff entirely.” Whenever Jon is away on competitions, he even emails his results to Jeff headed “Hi Coach.” It was only in 2022 that Jon started practising by himself – once he knew WHAT he should be practising. By that time, he had stopped playing golf altogether because he preferred the superior game, Golf Croquet.

Amazingly, Jon’s first external competition was a B-Level tournament held at Camerton and Peasedown Croquet Club, near Bath.  Jon applied for admission into that competition to enable him to  earn a ‘dynamic ranking’ (dynamic grading) in order to be able to qualify for the often oversubscribed C-Level competition. Once he had earned his grading, Jon was then able to enter several C-Level competitions. Incredibly, up to that point, Jon hadn’t even played in external competitions for Broadwas, other than a friendly at Cheltenham. Jon didn’t appear to be fazed by entering such a high-profile B-Level competition. He said “It was only playing a load of people I had never played before. At that time, I hadn’t played most people in our club. I’m very competitive, but ultimately, if I lose, it’s just a game of croquet.”

When I asked Jon where he finished in that first competition, he limped off to his car in order to fetch his old handicap cards. On his return he was able to confirm that although he won one of his group games – beating someone who was a six handicap – he didn’t qualify. However,  Jon went on to meet ‘Coach’ Faulkner in the knockout round and beat him 7-6. The recall of that victory raised a chuckle from him.  Jon eventually finished 12th out of 16 players, which at B-Level in only his first full season in GC, is no mean feat.

Jon receives his first B-Level winners trophy at Guildford

Jon joined the Broadwas blocks competition in May of 2022 and the handicap card showed that he even beat Fran Wall 7-4, 7-1 in one blocks match – again – no mean feat.  Later, when Jon  played his very first C-Level tournament held at Ealing in June of that year, he reached the final in the competition,  narrowly losing top spot the  on the 13th hoop. 

Almost unbelievably, despite his success in the C-Level, Jon didn’t play for Broadwas regularly during 2022, playing only once for the club’s  GC Handicap Team in the last match of the season away at Glamorgan, winning all four of the games he played in.  In the forthcoming season,  Jon will be captaining the Broadwas GC Level Play Team in the West Midlands Federation, having been a member of Eileen Holt’s Handicap GC Team in 2023. Jon also played in a couple of matches for  John Guy’s West Midlands GC team. In one match, he played opponents with  two, three, four and five handicaps, and thrashing them all.

In all, Jon has entered around 16 national C and B-Level competitions in the past two years.  In 2022, his first season of entering external competitions, Jon won the C-Level tournament at Guildford. In 2023, Jon won B-Level competitions at Guildford, Ashby, Nailsea and Bath. Jon sounded slightly resentful that at Bath, he wasn’t given a trophy! By winning four regional heats – a feat no other player had achieved before – Jon went on to take part in the  national B-Level finals held at Eastbourne and took third place in the competition overall. In the same Eastbourne tournament, Fran Wall took 12th place.  Jon has also reached C-Level finals, reaching 6th place in that competition.

And another trophy for winning the Ashby B-Level competition

Jon’s handicap over two years has reduced to one, mainly as a result of his participation in B and C-Level competitions although he says the club’s blocks competition “has helped.” The four wins in the B-Level regional competitions helped Jon reduce his handicap from three down to one. I doubt I will ever be in Jon’s handicap sphere, so I won’t have to get my head around the concept of winning a match 2-1 against a higher handicap player, but ending up 17 index points down on the deal. “What a great game that was” said Jon.

I asked Jon how he felt when he first went to play in national competitions. I wanted to know if he felt anxious at all, bearing in mind at the time he first played a B-Level, he had been playing less than a year.  He told me “I was very nervous in my first competitions, especially the first one, a B-Level, because I knew I was playing a level that I shouldn’t have been in. I only did that so I could obtain a dynamic ranking to enable me to enter the C-Level. I was very nervous at that. I still get a sense of anticipation, rather than nervousness – even for the national finals.” Jon hasn’t yet decided which A-Level tournaments he will enter in the new season, especially since the A-Level competitions are run over two days.

And AGAIN, this time receiving his winner’s trophy at Nailsea

When talking about competitions, Jon firmly believes that club members should take the opportunity to join the blocks. “It’s a chance to practice” said Jon. In preparing for tournaments Jon isn’t a fan of practising shots by himself – he would much rather play an opponent.  During the winter, he occasionally plays at Cheltenham and had a practise game recently – his first game since 17th October. He was pleased with his performance after a long lay-off.

Having such a wide experience of croquet courts around the country, Jon feels that playing at Broadwas has prepared him when encountering small lawn deviations in competitions. He said he’s met a number of tournament players who are fazed  by even small deviations in playing surfaces, but because of his experience at the club, such discrepancies don’t bother him at all.

In competitions, Jon admits to occasionally indulging in a much milder form of what cricketers would term ‘sledging’ – where they verbally intimidate opposing players. He only uses in when there has been banter going on during B and C-Level games. “My favourite thing is, when the opponent knocks you away a bit, say four yards, I say ‘doesn’t matter, I’ll run it from there anyway!’” Jon says that nowadays, opponents won’t beat him mentally. “I won’t give up. I won’t be negative. You see it when some B and C-Level players come to Broadwas and look at the lawns. Some of them say ‘I don’t know how you can judge shots’ – those players are beaten before they even go on to the courts. That mindset won’t help you win a game.” He added “We are so lucky to have learned at Broadwas because it makes you mentally stronger.”

Jon is also a great believer in visualisation. He visualises the consequences of every shot he takes before he aims his mallet and feels it is an important part of his game, as is a positive mental attitude.   

In June a Broadwas GC team captained by Stuart Smith is travelling  to Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic) to compete in the European Club League 2024. Other than my smile when I hear the tea bell clang out on a roll up Friday and I know that Glenys Croft’s cakes will soon be distributed by Chris, I haven’t seen a bigger smile than Jon’s when I said “So, Europe then.”  “Can’t wait for that” he beamed. “Am so excited.”  Jon said that when he ordered his mallet in preparation for the 2022 season, he selected a mallet that unscrewed halfway up the shaft to enable it to be transported more easily when travelling abroad. So he’s well-prepared. Broadwas will be in a group with club teams from Czechia, Spain and Germany. Seven groups in all will compete, with a final being held in Spain in October.

For Jon, level play games are his preference, rather than the Advantage or marbles based system. He WILL participate in competitions where Advantage or marbles are used but would prefer to avoid them if possible. Jon says “You learn more by being beaten by players better than you. Always. Getting beaten on a level playing field is the ultimate lesson, although it feels harsh when its being done to you.”

You might call it lounging. Jon calls it ‘visualising.’

Jon’s aim is merely to get as good as he can get, and at the start of each season he sets goals for himself.  A current aim is to get better than Stuart Smith.  Amongst previous goals were success in B and C-Levels – which he achieved – and to reduce his handicap to two, although he reduced it to one.

Jon would like to see more players from the club taking part in competitions. “Players need to see that competitions aren’t a big scary thing. You aren’t getting paid for it, so you aren’t going to be sacked,”  he joked.

I asked Jon how he survives the winter without croquet. “Elizabeth would tell you ‘In a depressed manner.’ I struggle to remember how I got through winter’s previously. I miss the game so much now – this winter I’ve been just counting the days. I can’t wait to get outside and play.” Having said that, when, at the end of the chat we walked out to the car park and Jon deposited his handicap cards in the boot of his car, there were two sets of hoops lying in the base of the boot which he is going to repaint for the new season. I’d quite forgotten to ask him about all the work he does on maintaining the lawns and equipment. Will save that for another time.

We both live in the same village and as he drove off, I thought “Wrong way Jon. The cider shop is the other way.”

Paul Felton

Member Profile – John Guy Club Captain

Club Captain, John Guy

I read recently that the development of modern theories of thermodynamics have shown that perpetual motion devices are impossible. 

And yet here I am, sitting in front of the embodiment and living-breathing definition of perpetual motion, our very own croquet club captain, John Keith Guy.

My impression of John is that he never seems to stop, so I was really pleased to pin him down and keep him reasonably still for a couple of hours early in January, whilst we chatted about his love of croquet and Broadwas Croquet Club in particular, over coffee at the St Johns home he shares with wife Jackie.

Because of his seeming omnipotence in all things croquet-related, it’s difficult to imagine a time before John picked up his first mallet. But he reassures there WAS such a time, and John places all the blame for his introduction to croquet and his growing obsession with the sport, on club president John Steel.

John recalls vividly that it was 2008 when his ‘ex’ rang him to pick something up from the shops on his way back home. John called in at the Co-op in St John’s and while he was in the supermarket, he spotted a flyer amongst the many that the now defunct Co-op branch often displayed on its numerous notice boards. He later found out that the notice had been placed by John Steel.

The flyer read ‘Do you want to try something new? Come and play croquet with us on a Friday evening and have a glass of wine!’  Said John of the invitation, “Well, you can’t resist, can you?”

John thoroughly enjoyed his introductory session in Golf Croquet and began playing regularly. In those days, the club  day was Tuesday and John swiftly arranged to take Tuesdays off, after negotiations with his then employer, Smiths News. “I got hooked very quickly” John admitted. After a year – as the grip of croquet got tighter – John asked Smiths News for a further day off.  Initially, the management at the Worcester branch refused, until John threatened to resign. They relented and John was then able to play in the Association Croquet afternoons held at Broadwas on Wednesdays.

Early GC success for John when the Worcester News covered the club’s success in the GC Inter Club Shield. From left, Stuart Smith, John Barber, John Evans and John Guy

John played a lot of sport early in his life – playing ‘parks football’ for a team in Birmingham  and occasionally playing cricket, table-tennis and latterly, badminton. In his younger days, John even qualified as a Class 3 football referee, enabling him to referee parks football matches.

At the time, John had been working in what he described as ‘odds and ends jobs for a few years,’ having left the job he held for 30 years as a computer program analyst at Kays Catalogues in Worcester.

I asked John about his early life. He was born in Old Hill in the Black Country. “Black Country born, Black Country bred, Strong in the arm, And weak in the head” said John cheerily. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that as a Brummie, who went to college in Wednesbury. Although accurate, it was too close for comfort!

A grammar school pupil, John took his 11-plus exam a year early and consequently sat his A-levels at just sixteen.  Deemed by his headmaster to be too young to go to university, John sought work in the then-fledgling world of computers after a neighbour spotted his aptitude and encouraged him to work with computers.

So, in 1963, John  wrote on spec to every firm within ten miles of Birmingham likely to have a computer and eventually secured his first job as a trainee programmer, working for an insurance company. John described the original computers as huge – being seven feet high with a broad base, but they only possessed a memory of just four kilobytes. He later moved to the former engineering firm Archdales in Worcester because he felt that the insurance company wasn’t keeping pace with the advancement in computing. He moved to Kays around 1972 until the millennium, when Kays began to make people redundant. Immediately after John was made redundant, he did what John described as odds and ends – a series of jobs including working in a day care centre, working for a Malvern inventor who developed and marketed reusable toaster bags and two spells in the civil service.

I, for one, had always viewed John’s command of all things administrative in the club to be impeccable, but there was once a chink in his infallibility. One of his civil service roles was related to agriculture and he was responsible for re-mapping farms with regard to their eligibility for farm subsidies. One day, John discovered that two neighbouring farms were claiming subsidies for the same piece of land. John asked both farm owners to submit a response to his findings.  One farmer immediately responded, while there was a long delay from the other. The latter blamed his tardy response for a flood caused by burst pipes. The famer said his paperwork had been ruined. John remapped the farms from aerial photographs and wrote to the farmer expressing his sympathy for the flood, adding that to help the farmer respond to his request he was enclosing a new mop. Give John a break though. Maybe typing just isn’t his forte.

In 2013, John won the Winter Dash trophy – only ever competed for once! Later, John and Jackie won the Summer Stroll trophy

After his introduction to GC in 2008, John practiced as much as he possibly could – even playing with other members through the winter. On 30th June, 2009, John ceased work altogether, enabling him to improve in Association Croquet, which was held at the club on Wednesday afternoons. Just one year later, John joined a team of six which included Janet Bedford and Josie Watson for a three-day AC event at Cheltenham – and won it.

John also recalled that he was in a Broadwas team which won the South West Federation’s Golf Croquet tournament in 2009. I’m often impressed by John’s recall of places and dates, which, during my conversation with him, he was instantly able to confirm by referring to his collection of diaries and notebooks dedicated to croquet and Broadwas Croquet Club.   

When I put it to John that he is the one of the most organised people  I have ever met, he dismissed it with an “I just love croquet so much.” Pointing to one of his many books he said “I just have to fill them in.” John  even keeps score cards from past matches, as well as every handicap card he’s ever had.

I asked John how long it took him “to get good” at croquet. In my previous chat to Janet Barber, she had remarked at how enthusiastic John was when he first joined the club. John said that he did get some coaching from John Barber when he joined the club but recalled “In those years, the winters were different and quite a lot of the winters we would play through. Most Tuesdays between 2008 and 2009 during the winter I would be at the club all the time it was light.” He often played then-members of the club, John Edwards, an experienced player and John Evans, who joined the club roughly the same time as John. John said “Because we could play over winter, I got a lot of one-on-one coaching throughout the year. “Once the frost had gone you could play.” There  was even once a winter tournament set up a the club called the Winter Dash, based on the same rules as the Ryland Trophy.  It was intended to be played for on the first Tuesday in January. “We haven’t been able to play for the cup since 8th Jan 2013.  We managed to play it once.”

In 2009 and 2010, Broadwas only played in the South West Federation at GC and AC. GC was handicapped, while the AC league was split into three sections depending on handicap. John started in the B-level team which then progressed to the intermediate level. In 2014 the club won the South West Intermediate League at AC and then progressed to the top league, known as the Federation League.

In 2011, Broadwas joined the West Midlands league because the club then wanted to play in level play Golf Croquet tournaments. Although the South West had just started a level play competition, there were only six teams in it and some were as far afield as Cornwall. John reckoned John Barber ‘chatted someone up’ who he knew in the West Midlands league that he met through friendly games and they let us join it. John said that even today “Very few clubs are in two Federations.” 

From John’s collection of newspaper cuttings. Worcester News story when Broadwas won the West Midlands Federation Level Play Golf Croquet League in 2016. From left, Stuart Smith, Janet Bedford, John Guy. (Not pictured, Roger Wood)

John suspects that the West Midlands league possibly wished they hadn’t let us in, “Because from the first eight years we entered, we won it seven times.” We won and won and won.” At that point, Stuart Smith, who joined the club just a month after John, was club captain.

When Stuart became chairman, around 2012-2013,  John took over the role of club captain. The only thing that John hadn’t remarked on in his extensive diaries was when he took over as club captain, although he had noted that in 2010 and 2011, the club first won the national Murphy Shield for Golf Croquet.

“As a club we’ve expanded hugely since I started,” said John. We had about fifty members then. “Once people come in  and try  croquet, they love it. The problem is  getting them there. I think we’re a very friendly club. We don’t have any cliques – and a lot of the shuffling around that goes on in rollups on Tuesdays and Fridays helps tremendously.” John recalled that in the early days, members would turn up in a group of four on a Tuesday and play together all afternoon without mixing. He feels that the mixing up of players on rollup days has helped develop the friendly atmosphere the club has today.  

Early success for John as a winner in the High Bisque Tournament held at Cheltenham in 2010

John recalled that he played his first league match in 2009 against Dyffryn, at home.  John had been playing off a nine but a week before the match, John Barber  changed him to a seven. The match was  at home. John asked the captain John Barber who he was playing first. He pointed to the player – Kevin Ham – “He’s a Welsh international!” Noting the look on John’s face, his captain said “It’s alright, play off your marbles.” Kevin Ham was playing off a one handicap. “I beat him,” said John. 

When John came off the lawns and told his non-playing captain  “I won and I’ve still got a marble in my pocket.”  John Barber replied “You can come in here with a marble left and tell me you’ve won, but come in here with a marble left and tell me you’ve lost and I’ll chop your @$*% off.”

In the early days of the club there wasn’t a booking system and through the summer John recalled “On a Tuesday we’d be at the club from 10.00am till about seven, playing singles in the morning.” 

John attributed his early rapid progress to practice and said “To get better, you’ve GOT to play singles.” “You have to do your thinking yourself.”

In the early days of the club, not every member had a handicap card, only those who played in competitive matches against other clubs. John still has all of his handicap cards from the beginning of his competitive career. The handicapping system wasn’t as rigid and there were no blocks, but there were a lot of knockout competitions at the club, including a handicap singles open men’s handicap, ladies handicap and level play. “People would keep an eye on handicapping – a little bit.”

In the news again – John pictured in the Worcester News when he won the Ryland Trophy for the fifth time in seven years, in 2019

The club’s current official handicappers are Jeff Faulkner, Stuart and John. The cards are taken in regularly to check people are filling them in properly and Croquet England strongly recommend that the procedure is done annually at the very least.  In the early days, John was TOLD by John Barber that his handicap was nine and had dropped to seven in June 2009, but within 12 months John had gone down to three.

John currently has a handicap of one at GC and five at AC. John explained that the index system for handicapping has changed over time. When John started, the highest handicap possible was 12 while the lowest handicap was zero. Nowadays the highest handicap is 20. 

I asked John if he felt he was a croquet ‘natural.’  John said “There are people who don’t look idiotic straight away – I think I’m one of them. John said he used to play ‘a fair amount’ of golf when he was younger. John felt that initially, his golf experience helped a lot – in particular with keeping his head down during a stroke. In golf that’s the first thing you are taught. ‘Keep your head still.’ It’s all about hand-eye coordination.”  If people aren’t playing well, John said that he will stand behind them and watch and often picks up that they aren’t aiming where they think they are. In the past, I have been a victim of John’s beady eye. “Some have an innate ability to see the line – you can’t teach that,” said John.

The technique of ‘casting’ is something that John doesn’t get on with. He doesn’t like it. “It either suits or doesn’t,” he said.” John admits that he  will vary his grip, depending on whether he is taking short or long shots.

Broadwas were West Midlands AC League winners in 2015. From left, John Evans, Janet Bedford, John Guy, Ian Dampney
Broadwas were West Midlands AC League winners in 2015. From left, John Evans, Janet Bedford, John Guy, Ian Dampney

John said that he was pleased when he  qualified as a GC referee in 2015. He was one of only two of the twelve candidates who passed at that sitting. He qualified as a GC coach later. Jeff Faulkner is the club’s other qualified coach.

John said “Jeff does more coaching, but if you’re captain and have to look at handicapping, coaching helps.”  John takes a look at  all  new club members in order to assess their coaching requirements. “Some other clubs insist on new members undergoing a course of coaching when they join.”

Knowing John is keen to see Association Croquet expand at the Broadwas I asked him “Which do you prefer – AC or GC.” There was no hesitation. “AC,” John replied. “In AC there is so much more to think about. “It’s like chess to draughts.” “Some people like draughts, others prefer to play chess. “Some people prefer to be involved every second – if you want that, play GC.”

One thing that John would like to see at Broadwas is an increase in the rate of play at rollups.  Perhaps that’s the computer program analyst side in him coming out.

John says he prefers to play singles. “You need to play at your rate.” John says the average time he takes for a GC  singles game is 25 minutes.

Nowadays,  the only GC tournaments he plays in is the blocks.  John believes it is important for players with higher handicaps to play better players, so they can learn from them. As a result, John admits he isn’t a fan of the handicap system and ‘extra turns’ and refuses to play in games that use the system. He feels that the system  teaches players a totally different game. He believes that if you have, say, eight extra turns, you SHOULD really win every time. John said “That’s why We joined the West Midlands Federation because there’s one GC league and no handicap restrictions.”

Since John’s passion is for Association Croquet, he pointed out that Broadwas has won the AC West Midlands league a couple of times. “We’ve won the top league in the South West once, the middle league once, he said.

Second time winners of the Murphy Shield (GC), Broadwas team members Janet Bedford, John Guy, Stuart Smith, John Edwards

The Broadwas AC team  generally has  Stuart, John , Roger Wood, Ian Dampney, Ian Lambert and Janet Bedford to call on as its base squad, with Gill Brooks joining the West Midlands side. John said “The club’s  only got seven to eight AC players, so finding a team can sometimes become a struggle.”

John says that although he likes to play games quickly, he’s much more laid-back than people think. He’s prepared to sit and wait – on an AC lawn. “I love AC.”

John said, somewhat ruefully, that he plays fewer AC games per season “Because we don’t have competitive AC games at the club.”

John would really like to encourage more people to take up AC. Having had a couple of introductory AC sessions, I would agree with John that there’s much more to think about in AC. I confess that I’d forgotten quite a lot between the two sessions. John said that he and John Evans were in the same boat. He said “It must have been five or six sessions ‘before the light went on’ and we realised what you are trying to do.”  As a result, John has dropped the GC captaincy in the West Midlands Federation GC league and now Jon Carrington will take over the  level-play golf croquet captaincy.  John will only play in  the league if Jon is short of players.

John received a diploma from the Croquet Association for Services to Croquet, in 2020

John keeps ALL the Broadwas results in a series of books, heavily illustrated with photographs and newspaper cuttings from over a decade. As he pored over one of the books, John said he now feels  he wants to “slow down a bit.” He went on “Because I prefer AC, the thing I’ll chop is the GC.”  John feels that he’s found many players don’t have the patience or tenacity to stick long enough to learn what’s going on.

Perhaps it’s understandable that John feels he may need to cut down a little. Besides the work involved in being club captain, John was captain of both of the West Midlands Teams last year – the level play GC and the AC. He is also the league organiser for the West Midlands Association and is on the West Midlands Federation Committee. On top of that, John and Jackie have seven grandchildren between them, spread all over the country – AND he has a strange and obsessive desire to visit the Hawthorns every home game to watch The Baggies – a ritual he has followed for 69 years.

John’s prized brick, declaring his love for Albion, in his back garden

I felt slightly uneasy when John said he wanted to slow down. I’ve heard it said from almost everyone I’ve spoken to about him, that John is indispensable.

I asked John “Where do you get your energy from and keep on top of everything?”

John replied “It’s down to organisation.” As a career computer program analyst, he was once in a team that had to write six million lines of code. He feels that the work you do does influence you. The job moulds you in a certain way. You HAVE to be accurate (in computing). “It’s made me logical. All the things you have got to do – write them down.” He went on “Go to the list every day, then drop them out of your head.”  John said he does one thing at a time. “Focus is important,’ he said. It’s why he hates mobile phones as a source of distraction. Most people who have ever emailed John will have been impressed at the rate he replies and acts on them.

I asked John, “Would you say you are inherently competitive?” His reply was an instantaneous “Yes.” He added “Not at work because I joined an industry which was fledgling. People get promoted to their level of incompetence.” Of the club captaincy, he said “When I accepted the  job, I wanted to do the best  I could.”

Although John is trying to reduce some of his workload (he used to be club secretary), he’s happy to greet new members who want to apply for membership as well as assess  their handicapping and coaching needs. John admits that some of his captaincy responsibilities keep him out of Jackie’s hair.

I asked John if  there was anything he would like to improve at Broadwas Croquet club.

John replied “Speed of play, and more people to get involved.  I would like to see more younger people play.  We need to get young blood in and people who will do jobs.”

“To paraphrase JFK,” John said, “Think not of what Broadwas Croquet Club can do for you, think of what you can do for Broadwas Croquet Club.”

Paul Felton