22 - Croquet with cannonballs
On this sleepy summer’s day I set forth from my front door with low expectations of any unusual encounters. But to set foot outside is to set forth into the unknown, no matter how familiar the streets. My walk was a circular one today, in more ways than one and wherever I went, I encountered people enjoying the simple pleasures of the ballgame. One of the first sounds I noticed was that of football in the recreation ground, and one of the young players who seemed to have escaped the match bounced a ball along nonchalantly as he passed me on the pavement. I walked across the rec, noticing an abandoned tennis ball lying in the grass, and was soon to encounter more sounds of people at play though less recognisable than the rough and tumble of the soccer match behind me. There was the familiar sound of ball hitting racquet, interspersed by some sharp clacks. The tennis courts were in full swing, and so were the grass croquet courts where several couples, dressed in neat whites, were swinging their mallets. I watched in amazement – I’d never seen the game played seriously before and was fascinated by this build-up to the strike – a meditative rhythmic pendulum movement that in some cases went on for a mesmerising amount of time before that wonderful hiatus and satisfying crack of ball shot through hoop. How fabulous. I walked happily on by, coming back into town, the view from the hilltop across the roofs and a band of blue sky with – hey! The Red Arrows aerobatic team, speeding in formation – no doubt hurrying down to Cornwall to entertain the Queen and her international guests. As I carried on down the hill I was just in time to hear the booming cannon fire of a 21-gun salute in honour of her Majesty’s birthday. Here again, on the esplanade, there were neat green squares of mown grass peopled with players dressed crisply in whites and sun visors. The bowling club were out in force. They too had their own special movements, swinging hips, pointing and measuring, striding and bending, weighing and swinging those heavy bowls in their own choreographed dance of delivery. Back along the esplanade I cut through the amusements, past crazy golf and that old merry-go-round with its colourful horses creaking and squeaking up and down their twisted carousel poles.
I had been out for an hour and had walked only three and a half miles, but it had been a cheerful walk, and full of possibilities, not just of quirky vintage pass times. That glimpse of the red arrows on the brow of the hill had reminded me that the G7 summit was just a five-minute flight in a red Hawk jet from my own odd little corner. Down there in Cornwall, the orb of Earth and its future is being weighted, weighed and swung between those crisply dressed people of power.