Lawn bowls: Gav


Gav Spence is an artist, podcaster and all-round good guy.  He blesses our ears with joypad-based chatter as part of the world’s greatest gaming podcast, Geshcast.  He has a hefty penchant for Pepsi Max and the odd ginger slice, and does not like compliments – so don’t even bother.

Sport is a dangerous business.

I’ve lent a sympathetic ear to many a friend or family member as they regaled me with tales of their lost teeth (Rugby), broken legs (Field Hockey), sprained ankles (Running) and whiplash (minor car-crash en-route to the swimming baths) that were the result of an ill advised foray into sports.

I’d usually pat them on the back (or unaffected area), wishing them a speedy recovery with the smug grin reserved only for us holier-than-thou types who couldn’t run for the bus without a lung collapsing. My teeth are bad enough without having some 26-stone Mountain Man bearing down on me on a weekly basis over a funny-shaped ball. I’ve got enough on my plate, thank you (usually things like key-lime pie or the odd yum-yum).

So when Paula was looking for someone to accompany her in her latest recreational endeavour, I tried as best I could to blend into the background. I sat perfectly still, hoping that perhaps the Eye of Paulon would ignore my lumbering frame and some other poor soul would be subjected to a hellish 90 minutes in a Glaswegian Squash Dungeon.

Like a fool, curiosity got the better of me and I asked which sport she was subjecting herself to next.

“Lawn Bowls” – she replied.

Synapses began to fire as i saw a chance for sporting immortality that required very little physical effort on my own part. This was perfect. I could help Paula, be seen to be exercising and put those years of practice on Wii Bowling to the test.

The perfect crime.

We arrived at Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club and immediately the standard preconceptions of the stuffy, wood-panelled 1960’s bowling club washed away. It’s a modern, bright and inviting place and we were welcomed immediately with open arms by several members of the club.

After the introductions, we ventured out to the green where the coaches took us through the basics of bowling. From finding the right bowl for our hands to releasing the bowl smoothly onto the green, the coaches patiently took us through each step of the process until we were confidently playing a friendly game with our hosts. They explained the importance of the ‘bias’; the weight inside each bowl that allows it to curve once bowled. That’s some bowling terminology there, write that down. Wink!

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the laid-back nature of the game, the friendly competitive spirit between players, as well as the skill and tactics involved in playing a full game of bowls. Playing a few ‘ends’ (wink) with the club champion really opened my eyes to how much practice and skill it takes to master a game like this.

After a few ends, I found myself getting the hang of it – maybe not enough to consider it my calling in life, but I was performing a little better than I’d expected, no doubt due to my fine coaching from earlier. I experienced something I’d never had before – a moderate-to-adept level of skill in a game that didn’t involve a Playstation. A small swelling of pride stirred in my chest, I’m not too big to admit it.

It was also really great to see Paula throw herself into the experience too, chatting with everyone and being open to trying all of the activities on offer at the Woodend open day. She also had to use these little powder-pink bowls at one point too, which was pretty funny.

Our day at Woodend was a resounding success. I actually ventured outside, I got to aid Paula in her Commonwealth Quest and found out that I actively enjoy bowling. I found that engaging in a Commonwealth sport didn’t result in severe injury. What else am I missing out on?

Our hosts couldn’t have been more accommodating and we will definitely be back at one of Woodend’s open evenings on a Monday night, or maybe even a cheeky Sunday.

It was a lot of fun, and I’d like to thank Paula for giving me the opportunity to try this out. Without the inspiration of her ‘give-it-a-go’ attitude, I wouldn’t have experienced something that I genuinely enjoyed. I’m sure that her project will inspire people to try something they wouldn’t have considered before, sporting or otherwise. We could all benefit from adopting a little of that spirit.

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