Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Croquet in Kent thanks to Al Quaeda

At the consultation evening at Moffat Town Hall, conversation turned to croquet. Not many people know that Moffat was once a standby for Wimbledon. Aha, caught you out there! You thought Wimbledon means tennis but to the purist it means croquet. Lawn tennis was merely what people played while waiting to take to the field for the real blood sport: croquet. My family is big into croquet, or into croquet big time. In summer evenings, my cousin Jimmy used to appear at the gate from the woods - he had walked across from his house in the neighbouring village and endless marathon croquet matches would ensue between Jimmy and my brother, and later my husband who worked as a night editor on the Business section of The Times. He would drive in at dusk and across the grass and the croquet would continue in the light of the moon. We all went our separate ways but after 9/11 my cousin Jackie brought her daughter over from NYC to meet the English side of the family. Thirty or forty of us gathered and my mother put some games and toys out on the lawn in front of the house to amuse the children. Lo! and behold! a cobwebby croquet set was in the scattered collection. The next year we gathered again, this time with a fiercely contested croquet match at the heart of the occasion. Every year the match is held; there is now a cup for the winning team (we play in pairs) a marquee for the tea - custom dictates that we bring our own picnic lunches. Towards the end of the day, before the families with young children drive home we sit on the steps in front of the house for a group photograph. It was on those very steps in 1962 that a smaller group of us held an Easter bonnet competition. which cousin Jimmy easily won with a vast mushroom-shaped concoction made from torn up strips of newspaper. One of the guests, an Irish artist named Joe McGill appeared round the side of the house with a rifle and fired a volley of shots into the air in honour of the Easter Rising. Later at lunchtime he regaled us with an account of how he and a friend had tried to blow up Hammersmith Bridge. All this was before the IRA started its campaign in Ireland, so at the time we thought it was rather funny. Autre temps, autre moeurs.

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