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What is a "Vice-Regal"?

Posted November 7 1997

In a country where sport is taken most seriously, the Ozzie hosts of the 1997 WCF World Croquet Championship are mounting daily ceremonies and celebrations leading up to the start of play on Sunday. On Saturday, there will be a demonstration of Egyptian Golf Croquet; then the Official Opening Ceremonies, officiated by Mr. Norman Moore, the West Austrailain Minister of Sport, followed by a barbecue at the Bunbury Race Course.

What is a "Vice-Regal"? A tool for removing large exhaust pipes? A very junior member of the Royal Family? Or cucumber sandwiches and a cuppa with the lads at Government House? Well, yes, it's the third possibility, although my description does injustice to the pomp and circumstance of the occasion.

Government House in Perth was built between 1859 and 1864 in a neo-gothic style, and its charm is complimented by the wonderful gardens surrounding it.
Blackboy blooms August through November
The site fittingly has historical links to croquet, since the first recorded game played in Western Australia took place on the very spot where we were entertained by the Governor, Major-General Michael Jeffery and Mrs. Jeffery.

The coach trip up from Bunbury along the coast road (almost 200 kms) was most scenic, with several trees and shrubs coming into flower at this time of year. The Grasstrees, or "Blackboys", were particularly interesting, only being found in Australia. Xanthorrhoea, to give them their latin name, have strange black coloured stems, almost trunks, topped with bushy rosettes of long and linear leaves. The stems are sometimes underground, but can also grow (albeit very slowly) to several metres in height. They too are coming into flower now, with impressively long spikes reaching straight out of the top of the leafy tuft.

The gates of Government House appeared to have been set to championship width, leaving the coach 1/16th of an inch clearance, but these were negotiated with considerable expertise by our coach driver and we met up with the many players and officials who had arrived in Perth the night before. Everybody who should have been there, was, so those of you who haven't heard from your loved ones yet; don't worry, they are safe and sound!

After introductions and a speech from the Governor's wife - who proclaimed that she would seriously consider taking up croquet if her golf handicap didn't improve soon - we were allowed to tuck in to the cucumber sandwiches and tea or coffee. Unfortunately, it was deemed to be too early in the morning for beer and wine! The reception was followed by a trip up to Kings Park, a vast area of collected natural habitat overlooking the city centre, and our siteseeing culminated with a short stop in "Freo" (Fremantle), a charming port at the mouth of the Swan River, which appears to have resisted the skyscrapers and modern developments which so dominate Perth.

Just two days to go before the start of the World Championship. Most players are now here, although I do know of one who is apparently arriving at Perth Airport at 1am on Sunday morning. I hope that he doesn't have to play at 8:00 AM!

[Peter Payne is a player in the World Championship representing Switzerland. Click here to read the first installment of his journal, along with his profile.]

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