In the dim and distant recesses of recollection Margaret and I cherish playing lawn bowls with student-friends, captured by the photographic record, at The Windmill pub in Wigan Road, Ormskirk. Here we have Rob Anderson, Steve Gross, Paul Gaging and Angus on the crown-green, pints in hand. Rob is seen stepping-out a measure. Check out the seventies style!
I checked for recent information to find that the pub has closed and in 2015 was reported as subject to a planning application to convert it to student accommodation. The bowling green had been in use on-and-off for 100 years. (Incidentally, it seems the same fate awaits the fabulously named town centre pub Buck ‘ith’ Vine and The Plough.)
Roll forward to 2004 and Ashford Borough Council was instrumental in establishing the Ashford Indoor Bowls Centre (AIBC) in Victoria Park. Margaret and I spotted this at the time and said, “Good wood, Jack!” We thought we should take up bowls as an activity we could do together when we retired. (Because it wasn’t going to be golf.)
In September 2015, in response to a recruitment initiative in the town centre by AIBC, we joined three introductory sessions for new-bowlers without charge. We subsequently signed up for membership, after a while bought our own brightly-coloured woods and white-bowls shoes. In buying the flat shoes I fell into a classic foot-in-mouth moment. Walking into the specialist bowls shop in Hythe I saw rows of shoes on the wall and said I didn’t think I was ready for a pair of shoes with velcro-straps. I looked down at the shop-owner and saw his velcro-shoes. Reader, I bought some – and they are very comfortable, too.
We have played twice a week with other enthusiastic new members. The format is casual roll-ups which means playing with different people in any of the team positions. It means you get to meet those with the same purpose in starting a new activity.
Marg wasn’t keen on taking on the competitive element of sport but was soon christened a ninja-bowler. We were both knocked out in the first round of a new-bowlers singles competition. We even played in our first friendly match, in triples, against another club – and I was mentioned in two local papers for the highest rink score. I didn’t even know at the time was something I was trying to do.
In the summer many people transfer to outdoor lawn bowls but we have decided to stick with one session indoors and try to keep the garden in order. New bowlers keep their status for two-years and we may start with the club leagues in the autumn. We are looking forward to it.
We had a visit from Steve (who was our best man) recently and showed him the photographs to which his response was, “Good wood, Jack!”
Update April 2023
We did start with a league in the autumn. Invited to join a team in the Pub League. It was called “No One Inn”. We were interrupted by the pandemic, of course, and chose to delay our return to being indoors with others. I kept out of the 2021/22 season due to pain from arthritic knees but made a tentative return for 2022/23. We started well with a few wins and then took a dip in form before rallying towards the end of the season. It’s a squad of six including David and Heather, Darron and John. Three play in a game each time, hence triples. Unrestrictured simply means it can be men or women in any combination.
We have committed to the 2023/24 season.