"THE LIGHTER SIDE
OF SERIOUS CROQUET"
A new anthology by David Appleton,
cartoons by Jack Shotton
Book review by Bob Alman
David Appleton is a medical statistician who also happens to be chairman of
the Scottish Croquet Association. Soon after taking up croquet in the early
eighties, he conceived the idea of writing this book, organized around the
cartoons of Jack Shotton. As a well-educated man, Appleton has mined the
richest veins of our common Anglo-Saxon heritage to produce numerous gems
glittering with parody and set firmly into the world of croquet.
It is not just the game which Appleton loves, but everything that surrounds
it. As he comments in his Foreword, "I may not have played at the very top
level, but I have played in the very best company.....Competition is all very
well, but my real enjoyment comes from the occasions (in and out of matches)
when the balls really obey me, and from my interaction with other players."
In the most social of sports, it is not surprising, then, that a player of
Appleton's diverse interests would people it, in his imagination, with the
likes of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and the Jeeves and Wooster of
Wodehouse. These sometimes exquisitely fashioned parodies are creations of
a number of authors. (One of the best and most prolific is "Dorothy Rush,"
the non de plume, reputedly, of a Welshman whose true identity Appleton will
By now, the reader will have guessed that this is not a book of knee-slapping
one-liners. The wit and wisdom of this volume, precisely as the author
declares, is a LIGHT view of serious croquet. In the Preface, Rod Williams,
himself a former president of the Scottish Croquet Association, issues just
such a disclaimer: "Be warned," he says, "We are talking about the editor of
the Scottish Croquet Association BULLETIN whose caption to a picture of
himself in national dress at the world championships was 'The Kilt of the
In this book, there are croquet quizzes, croquet poems, croquet crosswords,
croquet puzzles, designs for croquet gadgets, "A Croquet Player's Lament"
for three parts in an "early music" setting (sonore ma con dolore), and even
a section of croquet epitaphs:
A CRUSH SHOT
American players, of course, do not often interrupt their time-bound games
for tea, but at least the reference is understandable. Many other references
in this book will be mysterious to Americans, and others can be figured out
with difficulty. This, I think, is the best reason of all for Americans to
enjoy - and even study - this unique book. It is a kind of "rosetta stone"
revealing the ways of our antecedents in our favorite sport. Though this
might not have been Appleton's intention, he offers us hundreds of intimate
glimpses into the croquet culture of Britain (and by extension, the
Commonwealth) which has evolved in all its complexity for more than 100 years
before croquet was organized as a serious sport in the United States.
Add to that the quite serious (but lightly presented) articles on tactics and
coaching throughout the book, and you have an engaging collection of croquet
lore which will reside happily on the croquet shelf of your library beside
your Prichard, your Solomon, your Lamb, your Wylie, your Sloan, and bound
volumes of the GAZETTE.
As for the Shotton cartoons which started the whole project, I estimate that
about a quarter of them will be totally mysterious to American readers,
referenced to obscure British idioms or locally-known icons. For the rest,
however, more than 70 in all, they bind together the volume and reflect
all-too-human attitudes and values common to fanatics of all sports,
Cartoonist Jack Shotton is a designer in plastics and a dedicated bridge
player who is still producing cartoons for THE CROQUET GAZETTE and other
Dolly Rush, alas, is dead
A mallet struck her on the head.
She acted as a referee
When all the others were at tea.
They should have told her not to view
so carefully the follow-through.