How croquet has seen an unlikely revival in lockdown Scotland
Croquet has seen a revival during the coronavirus pandemic - but rookie players have been warned what used to be a 'genteel sport' is now a 'vicious' game.
The old-fashioned past-time was popular with English aristocrats and was immortalised by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
But in Scotland it has become one of a handful of non-contact sports which are allowed during the lockdown - including golf and tennis.
Shoppers have snapped up garden croquet sets, with sales by John Lewis up by 600 per cent compared to the same period last year.
The sport made the news recently when Conservative MSP Tom Mason raised the sport at the Scottish Parliament when the First Minister was outlining the route map out of lockdown on Thursday May 21.
He said: “Are these specific or are they indicators of sports that can be pursued, as there are a number of other sports such as croquet, of which I have an interest, which are not mentioned there.”
There was some laughter in the chamber at the question, and the First Minister responded that the sports mentioned in her lockdown easing announcement were ‘illustrative’.
This moment made even more headlines after the exchange was parodied by Scottish comedian Janey Godley who made it the subject of one of her famous voice over sketches.
On Wednesday, Edinburgh Croquet Club opened its doors to the public for the first time since March - but only a fifth of players will be allowed on the lawns to use mallets to strike balls through hoops embedded in the grass.
Before the lockdown, 20 players could have meandered around the two lawns - however now, only two will be allowed on each lawn.
The club, in the grounds of Lauriston Castle, is proudly described by treasurer Allan Hawke as 'the most beautiful location' of all the eight clubs in Scotland - with around 300 members.
Mr Hawke, 79, has been playing for 20 years and said it was an ideal game for summer weather.
But he warned newbies that despite the game's reputation for being 'genteel' there was a fiercely competitive aspect to it.
Mr Hawke said: "It used to be a genteel sport but people nowadays call it the 'vicious game'.
"You are trying to spoil your opponent's chances but that's what all games are about.
"There's also social interchange which goes on and makes it very pleasant."
He described it as a 'minority sport' and said neither his three children or anyone else in his family shared his enthusiasm for it.
The grandfather-of-two added: "It tends to attract older people because it's not physically intensive but mentally involves strategy.
"It combines gentle exercise with mental hard work.
Additional reporting by Press Association
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