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The Saturday Summer Solstice Celebration Singles for the Surbiton Silver Salver

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picturePrehistoric A-Class & Beginner hoops (Photo: Adrian Coles)

by Adrian Coles at Surbiton Croquet Club
25th June (Club News)

Have you ever thought of the links between Stonehenge and Croquet? Look at the stones at that famous historic site - many are arranged in the form of two uprights with a large stone across, surely the venue for some prehistoric croquet match played with mammoth mallets and huge, carefully rounded, boulders?

Surbiton tournament organiser extraordinaire Max Holland says that her youthful mid-year visits to Stonehenge were the inspiration for her idea of organising an early-morning croquet celebration of the solstice at Surbiton, although she denies that she had dreamily imagined some mythical match taking place between previously unrecorded giants.

The first event was held in 2020 on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice - the longest day of the year - and the occasion has now become a regular and much-loved feature of the Surbiton calendar. This year we gathered on 22 June, a couple of days after the solstice, but close enough. The tournament is first advertised within the club in March and at that stage, mid-June seems ages away. However, in the week before the tournament it slowly dawns* on everyone just how early a 5 am start is! "Why did I enter?" is the common theme of everyone's silent and somewhat sleepy thoughts.

The sun rose at 4:43, with many players already there for the scheduled start time. Coffee is eagerly gulped down as the day gets under way. Sadly, the hoops at Surbiton do not align with the rising sun's rays, so instead of organising some early morning sun-worshiping rituals, Max gave a brief rundown on how the tournament would run. Players were divided into two blocks: the Sun and the Rise. Each player had five GC matches, level play. (No one can work out Advantage at that time of day!) At the end of the leagues the winner of one group plays the winner of the other for the Surbiton Silver Salver. There is also a third-place match for the two second placed competitors.

We come now to a major disincentive to playing winning croquet at the event! The final and third-place play-off are played in front of an appreciative audience - all of those who failed to achieve such heights. But the audience is not only cheering on the excellent shots one would expect to see in a final but are also tucking into the magnificent breakfast cooked by Max and her husband Barry. By now it's about 9:30 in the morning and after over four hours of croquet, muesli, yoghurt and roasted nectarines are much appreciated. The cooked breakfast of sausages, bacon, eggs and bread rolls that follows is even more eagerly consumed. There's even a choice of ketchups. Quite how the finalists concentrated on their games with the aroma of bacon and egg drifting across the lawn is beyond the understanding of the author (who has never reached the final!). But the two competitors did the occasion proud with Angus McFarlane emerging as a worthy winner - fully deserving the trophy and his 10:30 breakfast.

Are we thinking of any changes for next year? Not really, but one wag suggested adding a trophy for the player who can say - faster than anyone else - "Saturday Summer Solstice Celebration Singles for the Surbiton Silver Salver", without hesitation, deviation or repetition!


*I'm grateful to Edward Patel for pointing out the opportunity to use this pun. Edward played in the tournament, showing much more dedication to early morning croquet than his Dad, Croquet England Chair, Samir Patel! (In fairness, Samir tells me that he had been hoping to play but a combination of air traffic control and BA ensured he didn't arrive home until after midnight the night before. Samir makes a fair point when he says that "a 4 am alarm would have left me even more bleary-eyed than the others!")


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