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Rated: E · Non-fiction · Personal · #1208930
One of my experiences as an American traveler in England.
As we pulled into the parking lot of the bowls club in Handsworth Wood, my first view was white on green. White hats, white hair, white clothes, white shoes, green grass.

This was my first encounter with bowls--a popular neighborhood sport in England, particularly among the elderly. Bowls (descriptively, lawn bowling) is taken very seriously by its aged participants. Most individuals who join become members for life.

My father-in-law was a member at this bowls club, and we were visiting that day to attend the annual dinner. After exchanging 'hello's' and shaking a few of the athletes' hands, I sat with my husband and his parents on a bench to watch the action.

I quickly realized that bowls was a very quiet sport. Not tame by any stretch of the imagination, since competition could be fierce, but quiet. The only sounds I heard were the click of the balls as they struck each other and the occasional words exchanged by the members as they played.

We hadn't been sitting there watching for long before everyone was called in to the supper. Bowling balls were gathered up and zipped into bags and the lawn was cleared in less than five minutes.

Upon entering the clubhouse, I was quickly ushered to a seat at a long table covered in a white cloth. My husband sat on one side of me and my mother-in-law sat on the other. I took a look around.

Tables stacked high with homemade food stood on one side of the room. The walls sported plaques, trophies, and banners. Both sides of the long table were filled up quickly by the white-clad bowlers.

Before the festivities could begin, the bowls club president stood at the head of the table to say a few words. I began to fear that I would be introduced as the American guest of honor. I felt as though I was standing out like a sore thumb. Happily, no one said anything about me or to me, and the president finished his speech amid good-natured British heckling.

In my travels through Britain I have noticed that the English often have a hard time curbing their staring at the unusual and strange. However, while I was at the bowls club dinner no one stared at me at all. I would soon find out that this didn't mean that they all weren't acutely aware of my presence.

The hungry sportsmen (and women) began to line up at the food table. I stayed sitting, wanting to be respectful and let the others get their food first. When it appeared that most of them had gotten in line, my husband and I joined the back of the queue.

I hadn't been standing there for long when a snow-white clad plump lady materialized next to me and seized my arm.

"Come on, love," she said, pulling my arm and jerking me out of the line with surprising force. "We need to get you some food."

She dragged me up towards the front of the line and forced me in between two gents who were carefully selecting cheeses and breads from a platter. My protests fell on deaf ears. I began to realize that no one else was reacting at all, and within a matter of seconds it was painfully clear that I was the only one who was causing a commotion.

I meekly took the plate that was handed to me, cut in line, and tried my best to select food that I recognized. Safely back at the table, I began to eat with the rest of them. I was starting to relax.

They weren't done with me. Someone (perhaps my mother-in-law, or perhaps the plump manhandler) noticed that I didn't have any "trifle" on my plate. For reasons that to this day I can't fathom, there were at least four or five people there who were horrified that I wasn't eating "trifle."

I tried not to make a scene. I politely and unsuccessfully declined on the offer of "trifle," and before I knew what was happening, a large bowl was passed down the length of the table, and my mother-in-law was spooning a colorful, gelatinous mass onto my plate. "How much would you like?" she asked, pausing between spoonfuls.

How tempted I was to say, "None, thank you!" but I bit my lip and surrendered. "That's fine, thanks."

Trifle is a horrifying refrigerated concoction of saturated vanilla cookies in strawberry jell-o, yellow custard, and fake whipped cream from a mix. English people love it. You can buy it there in grocery stores, already made, layered, and chilled; it even comes in different portion sizes--personal snack size and family size.

I managed to eat some trifle and pretended that I liked it. Once I had swallowed a few spoonfuls under my mother-in-law's watchful and expectant gaze, the bowlers were satisfied and went back to their meals.

When it was time to leave I breathed a sigh of relief, and I only suffered one last indignity when a sweet-looking grandfatherly type approached me, put his hands all over me, got right into my face and kissed me on the cheek. He didn't let me get away without enduring a few choice dirty-old-man innuendos.

I haven't been to a bowls club event since, dinner or no dinner. But I know that they're all still out there on the brilliant green grass in their blinding white outfits, hearing the sound of the bowling balls clicking into one another.
© Copyright 2007 Marilynn C. (marilynn76 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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