The rain whips horizontally across from the south west, blattering us in its raininess, threatening to sneak its wet fingers inside my anorak like a drunk girl at a bus stop. I grit my teeth and search the horizon for some blue.
My opponent’s wood skids across the green, water spraying up behind it as it goes. She is a very pleasant elderly lady, with whom I have already enjoyed a laugh and a joke. Her wood comes to a halt several yards short of the jack. Again.
Bowls is a very tactical game, and one of the key skills is knowing where to put the jack. Sometimes, you will find your opponent is very good when the jack is a long way away – in which case you will try to roll it short. Conversely, some prefer the shorter game – in which case you will try to bring it to rest right at the end of the green.
“It’s no use,” she turns to me. “I just can’t get it that far. I’m not strong enough.”
I return her a weak, guilty, smile.
It is one of those accepted things that is not exactly gamesmanship or unsporting or cheating, but is just a bit awkward, especially when you are playing a nice old lady who is just a bit weak in the arms. I avoid her for the rest of the end.
“Put in another long one,” hisses Nigel as we cross over for the next go.
I make mumbling noises. I do not want to be unkind. I am not Robert Mugabe. But nor am I Nelson Mandela. I am somebody in the middle, like Kenneth Kaunda.
I throw the jack quite long; long enough to be a bit difficult for somebody with a bad arm, but not as long as I could so that she might think that it was an accident. She gives me a reproachful look. Nigel gives me a reproachful look. I have tried to please everybody and now they all hate me. It is typical.
The rain eases off after a while, and the green speeds up. My dilemma vanishes with the drying grass. This is the thing about bowls. It is a microcosm of life, but with unfashionable shoes.