DAY 186: Doing the hokey croaky

5 Mar


ALL the clocks have stopped in the clubhouse. The fabrics are chaotically patterned and sun-faded, the air is pleasingly musty. The alumni plaques date back to 1926. We pull up chairs to the trestle table and Walter runs through the lengthy niceties (and double-crossings) of croquet. “Croaky,” he calls it.

Waiting in here with the sun spotlighting the dust through the curtains reminds me of going to visit Nana and Granddad one Sunday a month; of sitting in their ticking front room, mechanically eating stale cheese and onion crisps and drinking flat lemonade, getting slowly gassed by the faulty four-bar fire. Eventually we’d become docile, the allure of the outside world carbon monoxided out of us.

But I digress.  Rules, regulations and safety-checks administered, Bec, Anna and I are allowed out onto the lawn. We’re playing golf croquet, as opposed to association croquet. It’s the equivalent of playing snap in comparison to bridge. There’s no one on our green, but next door the bowls club is a-bustle with pensioners in soft shoes.

“Bowls is… elementary,” huffs Walter when I ask if the games are similar. “They don’t use mallets.”

Our mission today is to form two teams of two and smack our ball through six hoops. As with pool and bowls, you can also use your ball to catapult someone else’s out of the way, or block their shot. Walter teaches us to ‘stalk’ the ball – walking bandy-legged up to it with a surprisingly heavy mallet dangling down, and then sending it on its way.

My favourite part is the clack of mallet on ball. As far as satisfying sounds go, it’s up there with snap-lid phones, cowbells, the thump of a package through the letterbox, the whisper of the lid of a virgin vodka bottle being ripped from its moorings, heavy curtains being drawn back with a cord, the wet hiss of cold soda in a glass, pool balls dropping, matches shaken in their box, a needle dropping onto vinyl, being called for dinner, and the opening chord of ‘Here Comes Your Man’… yep, I think that’s everything.

Keeper? We’ll come back for a few games before it becomes too nippy. If it’s good enough for Harpo Marx and Bogart…

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