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In Good Company: It Won't Be Long Now

Enid Blackburn hailed the start of a new bowling season.

'It won't be long now,’ a strange face whispered at me as I sat in our car a fortnight ago in town. At least I thought she was a stranger until she explained: ‘The bowling season, you dope!’

Then I remembered straight away, she was a ‘round-pegger’ from Almondbury or was it Golcar? That’s the way we lady bowlers remember each other from season to season, by our shape and form.

We become ‘that big corner-bowler’ or ‘her with the voice and teeth,’ or even ‘that flat-footed, big-chested, thin-faced woman who can’t bowl.’

And so with the frost nibbling hungrily on our double-wrapped dimensions, we ladies are treading the turf once again. It’s goodbye to the mid-day snoring trio in my kitchen, where dog, hamster and me usually put our feet up for half an hour after lunch. Now the games have started every spare minute will be spent on the bowling green.

How did I first enter this cunning craft, I often ask myself. It was flattery that bowled me over, really.

‘I bet you’d make a bowler if you practised,’ smiled an opponent once after she’d wiped the green with me during an open-for-all club competition. Not realising winners often waffle on like this when flushed with success, I believed her, and felt my first stirrings of green fever.

Sometimes I believe her words even now, several unsuccessful seasons later. Bowling victories rush to the brain like champagne; no one in their right senses takes any notice of the bluffing that accompanies a win.

‘Ooh, I’ve bowled terrible, I don’t know how I did it,’ victors lie through their teeth to the defeated.

Losers have then to make ‘well bowled’ sound convincing, whereas some of us simply take pleasure in ordering our drink, a compensation for which the victor has to pay. Not compulsory, but in my numerous defeats, I have only been left low and dry twice.

In early season when the east wind is gnawing at our vitals, the liquor bill is pretty high; whisky and rum are excellent blood and spirit levellers.

Beneath the wool caps and chapped lips we are a matey little band, which appears to aggravate our male counterparts. ‘Gerron wi’ yer bowling,’ they shout when females wander across the green together, jaws ticking over furiously as we discuss current affairs.

‘Have you heard about Jack and Elsie?’ Men are silent on the turf, all their shouting is done when they are out of reach, with a pint in their hands. What they fail to realise is there is an art in drifting across a green in serious discussion with a mate, when woods are bombing in from all directions, and one day we hope to master it.

Husbands do not make good bowling supporters – they do their best. They stand around the green pointing out our mistakes before we make them. ‘Nowt for this anyway, rubbish, run away bowl, I said put some in’ all this advice before the wood is halfway across the green.

A friend of mine once asked an elderly character’s advice on bringing up children ‘Lad, if tha’ wants to know t’ best way, ask them that’s niver ‘ad any, they know all abaht it’.

In the same way all the perfect bowlers are the ones standing around watching you lose. But you learn to smile and repeat useless platitudes like ‘It’s only a game,’ while inside you’re doing your ‘Please God act.’ Just give me one at this end God and I promise I’ll behave. And when you’ve sweated and struggled to a victory and you can’t wipe the smile off your face, you then wax philosophical ‘No honestly – it was just luck,’ you lie!


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