Today I did something I should have been doing at least once a week, starting a few weeks ago. That ‘something’ is to take my lawn bowls to my bowling club and doing some practice. I’m a member of the Mallala Bowling Club, as are my husband and son. Before I was diagnosed with MS, I used to play ‘ladies pennants’ which is a competition run once a week throughout the law bowls season. Lawn Bowls is a summer game, played on greens – grass or artificial turf. The Mallala Club is the only club in our lawn bowls league with artificial grass. Putting artificial grass in to replace natural grass is an expensive endeavour, but the benefits were worth it. Artificial greens can be played on in rainy weather, as long as there’s not too much rain – if the rainwater completely covers the turf then the jack wouldn’t be seen!
Because the artificial turf was expensive, the club are doing things to make more money. This money comes from dinners that are put on and fundraisers, catering done for other organisations (clubs etc), and other things. One of these ‘other things’ is Winter Bowls. This has been going on in Mallala since the artificial turf was put in, several years ago. I played one Winter Bowls season, but I can’t remember now whether that was before MS came along and hit me, or after… I suspect it was probably before.
At the time I was diagnosed with MS, in February 2011, I was in one of the summer pennants teams that played on Thursday mornings. I’d played for a few seasons, and enjoyed playing a game that had many happy memories from my childhood. My maternal grandparents were both club champions, back when they played for their local bowling club. The love of lawn bowls skipped a generation in my mother’s case, but at least one of my uncles played lawn bowls competitively for a while. I’d never been interested in playing any sport, but after my husband started playing lawn bowls, I began to get interested in the game. I could remember the fun times (and yummy food), that used to happen at my grandparents bowls club. This was the catalyst for me biting the bullet and joining the club too. I began going along to practice, and then got a spot on one of the teams and began playing during the week too, as well as going along to watch my husband and then son play with Saturday pennants (mostly men playing). That went well, and when Mallala began holding a Winter Bowls competition, I was happy to take part.
Winter Bowls is competitive to some extent, but mostly fun, without with the pressure that pennants competition sometimes. With the winter Bowls competition, it’s only who does what on the day that matters, and there’s no leaders board that continues from week to week. If you do badly one week, it doesn’t matter, the next week is a whole new situation. So, a bowls game without too much stress was something I feel I can manage. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to embarrass myself too much if and when I went along to play. With the Winter Bowls season beginning on Wednesday this week (30 April 2014), I may have left it a little late to be totally up to speed for the first game, but I want to give it a go.
So, earlier today I took my own lawn bowls along to the club to see how I could go. I’ve had a tiny bit of play with lawn bowls since I was diagnosed with MS. I’ve certainly got strength back to some extent since then. When I had my first relapse I was so weak that I couldn’t even pick up one of my bowls, let alone bowl one. I was very happy on the day I went to the club with Graham (my husband), and had a bit of a roll up. I didn’t bowl well, not up to my former standard, but at least I could send the bowls off toward the kitty/jack. The Mallala Club has had a few things happening that gave me another chance for a bit of a roll up, but not much. If I want to be a contender, I needed more.
Today I had all four bowls in my bag, which I carried from my car to the club. They seemed quite heavy, but I made it there, and I managed to take them back to the car after, too. I managed to do six ends today, and the more I bowled, the better I got. For my first end, I didn’t even manage to keep any of my bowls on my rink. At least one ended up in the ditch, several rinks along from me, and taking the jack some of the way with it. I moved my bowls along to the rink the jack was on and took the mat with me, and started bowling there. By the end of that end, the only bowl on my rink was the wild one I bowled at the start, and two of my bowls were in the ditch a rink away.
My second end wasn’t much better, some in the ditch, and none on my rink. My third end was an improvement, with one bowl in the ditch but one bowl on my rink at the end, about three metres from the jack. My fourth end I was even better, one bowl in the ditch, but with two of my bowls on my rink, the closest to the jack two metres away. The fifth end I almost felt I was getting closer to what I needed, three bowls on my rink, one in the ditch. I sat down then and contemplated my lawn bowls situation. I’m not sure how many ends are played in the Winter Bowls competition, but I’d done five ends, with four bowls, with no rest at every end, just the one. If Winter Bowls isn’t too many ends, with more practice, maybe I could do it… Then my mobile phone rang. I took the call, and got news that I had to go home to sort out. Only one more end then…
I bowled that last end, hoping, but not really expecting much. The bowling felt better, more like I was ‘getting’ the green. When I picked up my mat, and the spare jack, I was reasonably happy with what I saw when I got back to see what the head looked like. All of my bowls were on my rink, with none of them more than two metres away, and the closest about a metre. Hmm, with maybe more practice tomorrow, this Winter Bowls thing could work!
I know one person who plays Saturday pennants through the season, and unless the weather is too hot, she goes along fine. I know she enjoys her lawn bowls, and I was very disappointed for her when I learned she’d had a relapse, and wasn’t able to play in the finals. She’d played throughout the year though, so when her team won the grand final, I hope she feels she won the grand final too! I think there’s another person I know in South Australia with MS who plays pennants, and I strongly suspect there are more who play in informal situations. Lawn bowls is a summer sport, hot weather is bad for most, but not all people with MS. I certainly know hot weather and humidity affect me, and I can’t imagine being able to play if the temperature was over 29, especially if it was humid with it. Today was probably getting close to my weather limit. The temperature was probably around 28, with a lot of humidity. I managed six ends today though, and if the weather is better tomorrow, I want to go to the club again to practice.
When Wednesday comes along, I really hope I’ll be there on the green at the Mallala Bowls Club, taking my part in the Winter Bowls season!