It seems a bit strange to say but as we hit the peak of the curling playing season, which for me is always late October to mid-December, there is a lot of actual stone throwing taking place and there is not a lot to report on the ECA front (unless I am missing most of it in the far north).
There has, however, been a lot of curling action in the last month. First, the European Senior Invitation at Greenacres saw both a senior English men’s team (myself, Phil Barton, Alastair Fyfe and John Brown) and senior ladies (Jean Robinson, Debbie Higgins, Judith Dixon, Susan Young and Jackie Orr), all playing and honing their skills against some of the best senior teams from both home countries and Europe.
One weekend later and Preston Curling Club hosted their I’Anson trophy competition at Stranraer’s North West Castle. There was a full turnout of teams, supporters, and a superb weekend of what curling is all about – great playing conditions, great hospitality and chat, and a great standard of play by the top teams (and a lot of help and advice to those teams taking part that played in the low road competition on the Sunday). It was a great Bonspiel weekend with something for everybody – even those not throwing stones. My congratulations to all involved in the organisation on doing a wonderful job.
As I write this, I am in the middle of the National Masters, not actually on the ice you will understand. I am soon going straight off to Murrayfield to the Edinburgh International seniors for the weekend and then the ECA Senior playdowns at Dumfries early December, plus a few club games thrown in for good measure.
Now that is why I am always inclined to a smile when I am continuously asked by curlers, especially from the deep south – ‘are you getting many games’? Can you ever get enough? I shall ask my knees which seem to bearing the brunt of all this on ice activity.
Two points come out of this that it is important to make. It is very much appreciated by the ECA committee how much effort is made by our members driving and easyjetting to Scottish venues to participate in all of these competitions throughout the season, and keeping alive the notion that curling does exist in the UK without Scotland.
The other point is that we need more curling facilities in England to improve our playing numbers and standards. With this we are getting little assistance from the planning authorities in Bracknell, with Stephen Hinds’ proposed rink now completely bogged down in red tape and looking like it will not be available until the start of next season, or ever if the political classes get their way. Why are they so frightened of something they don’t understand?
But some good news as there is a proposal for a four sheet curling facility at Barton Grange Garden and Leisure centre just north of Preston, which the local planning authority is looking as though they might think it will be a good idea! Fylde Ice Arena in Blackpool is also getting the last pieces of their jigsaw in place for coaching to commence sometime soon – hopefully our players located south of the Border will soon be able to have as many games as me, knees permitting.
If you are looking to increase your opportunities for a game get your name in for the 4 Nations at Fenton’s in January, details here. This is a great weekend of sport and entertainment, guaranteed by our hardworking organising committee, headed up by Allison Arthur, and if you can’t play, please just come along and support. Well must dash now, on the ice soon at Greenacres. Wish me luck, but win or lose, I will enjoy it, and that is the important thing!
Take care on the Ice, have a great Christmas and New Year, and look forward to meeting up soon.