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Artwork by Patrick DolanMore Information

Phoenicopterus roseus & Croquet!

Sophie McGlen in play at Nottingham
Pink Flamingo Illustration by Ryan Ehlers

Pink Flamingo, Ryan Ehlers

I hope that ostentatious Latin headline grabbed you? We’re always open to new experiences here at Creative Towers not always involving Latin genus names* (though my fondness for animal Biology as a teenager has to be expressed sometimes).

We don’t often feature sports and games (there are exceptions, see Hellfire Harlots) so perhaps it was an in utero memory based on Manfred Mann’s hit that made me pay attention to ‘Pink Flamingo Day’? (I was delighted to read that it is claimed Paul Jones stood on one leg whilst performing Pretty Flamingo on Top of The Pops!)

Whatever the trigger I was intrigued and wanted to find out more so I asked David Brydon a member of Nottingham Croquet Club to tell me more (just so you know, he didn’t have to drink a potion or fall down a rabbit hole)

CN        So what’s Pink Flamingo Day all about?

David:   It’s a fun day of croquet on Sunday 14 June to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.  We’re asking teams of four to wear pink and enjoy a few hours of play between 10 am and 5pm using proper croquet gear.  Our experts will be on hand to show how it’s done and shepherd you around even if you’re a complete novice.  All we ask is that you bring a picnic and a rug and wear some pink – do creatives do that? (CN Diana’s response: not all creatives are colourful David but I am personally partial to a bit of pink) And it’s trainers or flat-soled shoes only, as you’ll be on the same fine turf as the world’s top 36 sportswomen seeking to become Croquet World Champion in July.

Each year we put on a couple of Open Days at our lawns on Highfield Park next to Nottingham University and Learn to Play courses for anyone looking to try the sport – 23 novices on the current course are keeping our coaches really busy! The next course starts on 7 July.We also want to promote the game in a fun way and raise cash for Cancer Research UK. On Pink Flamingo Day we’ll be serving a nice summery Raspberry Lemonade courtesy of Belvoir Fruit Farms. We’ve heard that you creatives like to drink responsibly?

CN        Why Pink Flamingo?

David:   Well, it’s exactly 150 years ago that Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.  If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that many weird things happen to Alice.  Some people claim Carroll must have been on something at the time….  Alice plays in a fantastic game of Croquet where playing cards form the hoops, the balls are hedgehogs, and the mallets are live flamingos.  Alice’s flamingo understandably refuses to keep its head still whenever she tries to strike the ball… I mean hedgehog.

CN        Will any real flamingos and hedgehogs be used on the day?

David:   Certainly not.  Hedgehogs are becoming an endangered species, and we love all animals dearly.  OK I admit we’re not best friends with the squirrel who buried acorns all over Lawn 7 last year and don’t get me started on moles….

Sophie McGlen in play at Nottingham

Sophie McGlen in play at Nottingham

CN        Is Croquet just a game or is it a serious sport?

David:   It’s both.  You use your mallet to hit balls though hoops in order and then hit the winning peg to finish.  As a game it gets played for fun in gardens or on any piece of flattish grass, with cheap equipment or old sets inherited from granny, to rules laid down by whichever player speaks most authoritatively.  But it’s also a serious sport with a proper law book and referees. We have ten international players at Nottingham and we are one of the UK’s leading clubs (CN Diana notes: I didn’t know that! So not just Hockey and Ice Hockey then?)  Our lawns in Highfields Park (adjoining Nottingham University Campus) are flatter than flat, and in July we’re hosting the Women’s World Championship.

CN        Croquet seem so quintessentially English, it’s usually the stuff of flowing skirted costume drama isn’t it??

David:   Croquet came over from Ireland back in the 1850s and was originally played mainly by the leisured classes on good sized lawns at country houses with teams of gardeners using the recently invented “lawnmower”.  Men and women played together on equal terms, and as it was out in the open, no chaperones were needed.

CN        Why do people sometimes say it’s a “vicious game”?

David:   We don’t know why. It’s not true: ask Carl Froch or Nottingham Panthers. I suspect it started as an excuse to justify hitting your rather attractive partner’s ball into some handy shrubbery, so that the pair of you could spend an undisturbed five minutes pretending to look for the ball away from Mama’s gaze.  Today Nottingham’s eight lawns are surrounded by wonderful trees and mature rhododendron bushes, a beautiful setting where anyone can play (CN Diana I hope you’re still talking croquet?) But don’t forget those flat shoes!

CN        So what do I have to do to take part in Pink Flamingo Day?

David    Enrol your team of four here, http://www.wacwc2015.org/PFDetails

Make sure to pack your flat shoes and join us (in pink if you like) on Sunday 14 June on our lawns on University Boulevard, we’ll show you the ropes (or rather the hoops, mallets and balls) but if you want to do a bit of homework you can always swot up with Pippa Middleton‘s guide. She writes for Vanity Fair’s US preppy readership so some of the terms are different. In the UK we say peg (stake in USA) and hoop (wicket in USA).

CN        So whether or not your name is Alice you’re welcome to sign up and join in on Pink Flamingo Day!

 David    Absolutely! Croquet has always been a game played on equal terms by men and women, the old and the young so when we say anyone can take part we really mean it!

CN *If you hadn’t already guessed Phoenicopterus roseus is the Latin name for the pink flamingo and Diana wasn’t born until late 1966