Recollections of the 2017 tour by John Clare

The annual bowls club extravaganza took place from the 8th to the 11th of September, when around 40 tourists descended on the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire area. Playing Fairford, Cheltenham and Hayden Wick bowling clubs, we excelled in our mediocrity, losing all three matches.  We do come into our own in our socialising, however, in which we are top rate.

We stayed at the Blunstone Park Hotel in Cricklade, which was an excellent location for getting to the bowling clubs or visiting the Swindon outlet shopping centre, which conveniently sold a range of maps to assist those who got lost in this vast metropolis!

Over dinner on the first evening, one of our members, who shall remain nameless, noticed that one of the waiters was winking at him. On mentioning this John Clymo said “don’t get too excited, he probably has a stigmatism to his eye”.  The member in question replied “is he winking at anyone else?”  Alas he was not.  In the early hours of the following morning, the nameless member locked himself out of his room and ventured to the reception, clad only in his underpants, and was horrified to see the winking waiter behind the reception desk. Fortunately, there was another receptionist on duty so he avoided a potentially dangerous situation and gained access to his room.

Although all three clubs we visited were most welcoming and enjoyable, the highlight for me was Cheltenham and I will concentrate on that particular venue.  I had only visited the area once before, to be frozen on the famous racecourse and this was my first visit to the town centre.  I was enchanted – what a beautiful place and the bowls club was in keeping; a small park with two greens, flanked by Regency, terraced housing, with wrought iron balconies and a Norman church in the corner.

The bowling commenced and halfway through play the heavens opened.  In next to no time the greens were underwater.  Two gulls swam on one of the greens mistaking it for the sea! We all retired to the clubhouse and on TV watched the finish of the penultimate stage of the round-Britain cycle race, which was finishing in Cheltenham centre. When the race was over, I looked at the greens and was astonished to see there was no standing water in evidence. Both gulls had departed, thinking that the tide had gone out.  Cheltenham is obviously a wealthy area, judging by the considerable sums invested in the drainage scheme!

Bowling had recommenced and, as a non-playing tourist, I amused myself inspecting the honours boards.  Tony Allcock MBE was much in evidence, as he held a number of world titles, both alone and in partnership with his colleague, the pipe smoking David Bryant. There were many other members of the club on the world and international honours board but, as a relatively new bowler, they were not instantly recognisable to me, but they certainly were to Brian Jefferies, to whom I must concede experience and knowledge of the game.

We retired to our hotel for dinner and so concluded a fascinating and varied day, which confirmed why I thoroughly recommend touring with the bowls club and will certainly do so again.  It is a wonderful way to get to know fellow members both on and off the green, as well as learning how to lose gracefully!