Seeing as there’s no croquet to be played at the moment, it means there’s some time for reflection on how some members got into croquet in the first place. First up is club Secretary Simon Ling, and his story (or at least some of it!) is below.
If you have a croquet story you’d like to share (not just Reigate members!) then get in contact!
I first came across croquet in my grandfather’s garden. I am not sure at what age I was, but he died when I was 12 so it must have been before then. I can’t ever remember him playing either so I must have played with my siblings, cousins or aunts and uncles.
Anyway I had enough knowledge of the game to take it up again at University – Queens’ College, Cambridge to be exact. In my second and third years I lived in the Fisher Building in the college, a 1930’s red brick construction built along a quarter circle with rooms facing the street outside and a curved lawn on the inside. The diagram (below) shows it as it is now with the modern Cripps Court inside it, but at the time the “Fellows’ Garden” occupied the site marked as 2 and 3 in the diagram.
This was a beautiful square walled space exclusively for the use of senior members of the college and containing a full-sized croquet lawn. Undergraduates were required to use the curved lawn following the line of the Fisher Building in the intervening space. The mallets were kept in the college squash courts which were at the point marked 4 in the diagram and which was just outside my room at that end of the building.
I played squash also then, so knew where the mallets were and could keep an eye on lawn use. My friends and I had great fun learning the game. I still have the “Teach yourself Croquet” book I bought at the time. AC only in those days of course. I had scarcely heard of GC until I joined RPCC.
We played at all hours, often after dinner wearing academic gowns and even at night by the light emanating from the rooms in the Fisher Building. It is very difficult to tell the ball colours apart in those circumstances.
The banana-shaped lawn was kind to erratic play and is probably why I have trouble hitting straight now! In my third year they put me in charge of the sport in the College and I rejoiced in one of the best titles it has ever been my privilege to use – Master of the Queens’ Mallets.
We only ever played internally. Perhaps a pity, but we did not take it seriously enough to challenge other colleges or to consider University representation. It is a “blue” sport now. After University I very rarely had an opportunity to play until retirement and U3A and RPCC, but the early enjoyment has stayed with me.