I honestly intended to start with something more high-energy but sometimes you have to grab what the world throws at you – or, as in my case, rolls gently towards you. Armed with this justification, I set out on Sunday afternoon to an organised event at an indoor bowling venue on the outskirts of Glasgow. Okay, so it wasn’t quite lawn bowls, but I’m sure the skills are transferable. That’s if you learn any skills, of course. After a ten-minute detour as we battled with an oppressive one-way system, the car trundled into a completely abandoned car park and I knew – I wouldn’t be doing any bowling today.
A childish part of me that I didn’t know still existed bubbled to the surface and I cheered (inwardly) that I had escaped sport for another day. I felt that same surge of excitement I used to feel when the reliable Scottish weather rained off another school athletics session. I’m sure I shouldn’t feel the overwhelming relief of exercise avoided anymore, given that I volunteered for this challenge and all its trials. But I do, and there’s no getting away from that.
I tried again the next day – traipsing off, on my own this time, to an actual lawn bowling club in the west end of the city for an advertised trial session for beginners. It sounded like just what I needed to start an illustrious bowling career. Pity then that no-one else had the same idea. The place was empty, the gates ajar but not quite open. I waited for twenty minutes, wondering if perhaps the world of lawn bowls runs by its own clock and not mine.
When I couldn’t kid myself any longer that another beginner might appear around the corner, I tiptoed into the club’s main building to find a handful of members with what I can only describe as bemused expressions on their collective face. They hadn’t heard of an open day or any sort of trial session, and politely questioned my motives for being there.
“So, you want to join a bowling club?” I was asked, with uncloaked sarcasm. I mumbled something about learning to play but knew I wasn’t being welcomed into the fold when I was quickly directed to a nearby club who might be looking for young blood.
Trudging out past the immaculate green, I was surprised to feel a measure of disappointment that I wouldn’t be stepping out in ill-fitting shoes onto that perfectly even lawn. Maybe my teenage mindset is dissolving more quickly that I imagined. (Or maybe not, since I drove past the second bowling club without venturing inside.)
So, where do I go from here? There are certain sports that automatically bring age-related entry barriers to mind: gymnastics, athletics, swimming even. But lawn bowls? I hadn’t even given it a thought. I’m sure not all clubs are so suspicious of under-agers so I guess I’ll try again somewhere else. Failing that, it’s practising with a boulder on a grass verge: Flintstone-style.