The Godfather: Peter Corris on lawn bowls
I’ve never played lawn bowls. I’ve tended to think of it as a game for mature people who could no longer play golf for one reason or another. When I could no longer play golf I had such poor vision I wouldn’t have been able to see from one end of the green to another. I was thus deprived of the pleasure given to two of my uncles who, notably good golfers, took up bowls with equal success. Research shows that physical activity and socialising extend life and provide a shield against dementia, and playing bowls offers both.
Bad luck for me then, but I’ve had a passing interest in bowling clubs for other reasons. At one time there were a number of armed robberies at these clubs. They were targeted, presumably, on account of low security and the likely age of most of the patrons. I incorporated this into one of my books but I can’t remember which.
When living at Bellambi in the Illawarra I used to do a longish walk for fitness and sometimes end up at the bowling club for a restorative drink. I was a member but never played; as for many others it was simply a drinking hole where the only pressure applied was to buy a ticket in a raffle. The food was indifferent and the trivia night unexciting but the drinks were cheap, which mattered at the time. It was pleasant to stand at a window with the dramatic Illawarra Escarpment in the background, the greens in the foreground, and watch the matches with little understanding of what was going on. Restful. The once strict dress code for players had partly broken down and there were times when casual clothes were permitted. I approved.
So when, after our move to Earlwood, Jean discovered that the local bowling club laid on a decent lunch, I resolved to go there. I went with Michael Wilding for one of our semi-regular get-togethers. The first agreeable sign was that, instead of him having to find a park at a distance from the café or pub in Newtown or some equally busy precinct, the bowling club had a vast parking space where you could take your pick. Furthermore, getting about with my stick, I was pleased that one approach to the clubhouse was by a long, gently sloping ramp. The dining area had good artificial and strong natural light through large windows, which meant I’d be able to see what I was eating, and, although reasonably well patronised, the tables were well spaced so that it was quiet and I’d be able to hear what was said to me and marshal my own thoughts and opinions. You have to have thoughts and opinions when with Wilding. As a blessed bonus there was no music playing.
We took our seats by a window and while Michael went off for drinks and the menu I tuned in to the conversation at the nearest table. They were talking about golf. Sergio Garcia had just won the Masters and they were expressing approval. I agreed. One of the party gave his opinion that it was breaking up with his wife that had damaged Tiger Woods’s career. I was inclined to think it was his wrecked back.
Michael returned with mineral water for himself, wine for me and the menu. He’s a vegetarian and I’m more of a fish eater than a meat man and there was plenty of scope for both preferences. The food arrived not too soon or too late and was hot, which is how I like it. We settled down to our usual conversation about books, agreeing that Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy was good (see my recent column) and that other writers who shall remain nameless were less good or even bad. We enjoyed the meal and the talk and the coffee was excellent.
It all went off very pleasantly and relatively inexpensively. As we left I glanced out of the window and saw people playing bowls in casual dress. Full marks to the Earlwood Bowlo.