Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Well, that is Xmas over for another year and life can get back to normal soon. I was down at the curling rink in Kent today and it took me nearly three and a half hours to get home. Normal journey time is one and three quarters – it does not help that my route takes me close to two of the largest shopping centres in England, Bluewater and Lakeside, but what is that drives people mad to spend their money on items that they never even knew they needed until they were going cheap?

Also I hope you have had time to read my last epic. Don’t worry as this one will be considerably shorter as it focuses on just one event – the English Mixed Doubles.

And the title – see the footnote for explanation if you are too young and that might explain!

The ECA Mixed Doubles were held at Murrayfield in mid December – at the same time as the Scottish competition. Thanks to Murrayfield for including us and also for dealing with last minute changes to our programme.

We originally had six entries but injury forced one withdrawal and so the five teams left played a single round robin with no play-offs but tie-breakers would be used if necessary.

On reflection the Championship was decided in the first round of games when reigning champions John Sharp and Jane Clark defeated Sam and Anna Fowler by 7-5, the Fowlers only defeat, though the champions could have been drawn into a tie break if they had not got through 7-6 after an extra end against new entrants this year, Ken Maxwell and Katie Dolan, who eventually finished third with two wins.

The other two teams were Susan Young/James Gibb (one win) and Adam Bermange/Madeleine Tuz (no wins).

So Jane and John will head off to St Paul in April hoping that there will be no ash clouds this year – they got to Chelyabinsk OK last year but John was drafted in to play in the Senior team as well and so had to split his efforts between two very different styles of curling.

But what of the future of Mixed Doubles? The WCF has withdrawn their bid to have it included at the 2014 Olympic Games because it has failed to meet a number of the criteria set by the IOC, one of them being that at least 50% of the Federation’s members should have held a National Championship. Apparently only 18 of the 46 nations reported to the WCF that they had held a Championships though it appeared that some members may not have returned their monitoring form to the WCF to be included in that number!

However, it was agreed at the WCF meetings in Champery to continue to develop the discipline in the absence of any other proposals with the hope of maybe getting it included in the 2018 Olympics.

* ITMA stands for It's That Man Again which was a BBC Radio comedy programme which ran from 1939 to 1949. So why have I used it – well just check out the previous item to see whose picture is included in it and then compare to the above…..

The photo of Jane and John is from last season and is © Skip Cottage

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Across the Generations

Time goes past so quickly and there is so much happening that I have absolutely shed-loads of stuff to write about - but to save your eyes and ensure your brains stay unfried we shall take it in easy doses – if that is OK with you of course.

So this particular blog is all about Seniors and Juniors.

Rewind back to November – yes only 4/5 weeks ago I suppose - and the start of this hectic period ...

I suppose in the 1960s when I started playing curling there were only a very few forward looking ‘older’ curlers who encouraged those much younger than themselves to play for them. I remember a chap called Bill Kean at Crossmyloof who used to ask some of us schoolboys and Glasgow Young Curlers to play with him in the many Inter-City matches that took place in those days – do they still happen by the way?

The latest version of the First English Province I’Anson Trophy took place at Stranraer on November 19-21, and the winning team was very much a mixture of the young and the old. John Sharp and Ross Barr who were about to play in the ECA Senior Championships at the beginning of December (see later), joined forces with Anna Fowler and Harry Mallows, who will be going to Prague in January to represent England in the Euro Junior Challenge, and defeated all comers to take the wonderful old silver trophy.

As usual, the 14 teams played in one Schenkel division and the top 8 after 3 games qualified for the last session on the Sunday. At that point John Sharp led on 6 points from yours truly on 5 points and then 5 teams all on 4 points and one on 2 points. In an amazing final session John Sharp beat me 8-1. I shook hands after 6 ends, clear in my mind that a defeat would not be good enough as other teams would end up on 6 points and I would at best get the 4th prize. However, much to my consternation the two games being played between teams which both had 4 points both ended up as peels and it was the last team with 4 points, skipped by Patrick Brown, who had been in 7th place at the start of the session that came through to win its last game and be the only one on 6 points!

So then with 5 teams now on 5 points the minor positions were decided by ends and third place went to Phil Atherton and 4th to Peter Bowyer. My early handshake did not prove too costly however as I would have needed to win both the last ends to come even 4th.

So a remarkable finish and congratulations to Patrick Brown, David Hills, Donald Haining and Ali Thomson on their second place and winning the magnificent Meggatt Trophy.

Another interesting entry in the competition was the first appearance of the team which will go to St Paul in April to play in the World Senior Women’s Championship for England. Skipped by Sandra Moorcroft, but with Susan Young throwing last stones (plus Jean Robinson and Alison Barr) they had a baptism of fire, but, following some experimentation with positions, they came through to win a morale boosting last game.

To complete the circle, in a roundabout kind of way, I discovered this photograph in a 1980 Scottish Curler which shows the very same John Sharp, this time as a Junior winning a competition with the older generation represented by Bill Allison and a not-quite-as-old Blogger!

Winners of the Open Weekends Final at Greenacres. L-R: Bill Allison, Bob Cowan, Helen Burton, John Sharp.

Moving on from Stranraer the English Men’s Senior Championships took place at Greenacres on a snowy weekend in December.

Since 2003, when the official World Senior Championships began, there has usually been just one and, occasionally (2005, 2007 and 2008), two teams interested in representing England, but this year 4 entries were received by the closing date. Unfortunately, one of the teams had to withdraw owing to an injury and it was left to the other three skipped by me, John Sharp and Michael Sutherland to fight it out for the title.

We played a double round-robin and as luck would have it we all won 2 games – I beat John Sharp twice and he beat Michael Sutherland twice and Michael beat me twice. Cue play-offs. Following a draw shot challenge Michael got the bye to the final and I had to face John Sharp again and, true to the form of the weekend, I won that one as well – by then my team had played three games on the Sunday and time was up and so the final play-off between Michael and myself will take place at Greenacres in early February!

As I said the weekend was snowy and if John Sharp had been drawn in the first game he would have had to start with just 3 players as one of his squad of 5 was stuck in Southampton and one could not leave Gatwick, as the airports were shut, and we would have invoked the 'volcano' rules first applied at the World Seniors in Chelyabinsk – allowing a team to start a competition with just 3 players owing to an 'act of God'.

However by the time of John’s first game at 8.45 pm Doug Andrews had used 3 trains to get from Southampton to Glasgow and hence Greenacres in good time! A typical example of a curler’s great fortitude to make sure they got to their competition – and there would be more later in the month with teams trying to get to the Europeans Championships in Switzerland.

I myself had organised a very demanding travel schedule that weekend which would have been disrupted by the wrong amount of snow in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I think I must have been born lucky. As well as playing in the Championship I was due to attend my niece’s wedding in London on the Saturday at 5 pm.

The draw meant that I played 2 games on Friday and 2 on Sunday with the other two teams playing both their games against each other on the Saturday, but I still needed a bit of luck with the weather.

I flew into Glasgow from Luton on Friday morning and by the time I was collected to go to Greenacres the snow was coming down and the roads were turning white. After arrival at the rink it then snowed for another 3 or 4 hours and things were looking bleak. Fortunately it stopped and by the time we left the rink at 11pm after our second game the roads were passable even down to Mrs Mackey’s bed and breakfast place looking over to Lochwinnoch.

Saturday morning and Robin’s 4WD took me safely to the airport where my flight to Heathrow left just a little late – I eventually got to the club where we were changing for the wedding at 3.45, the taxi left at 4 and we were at the wedding venue at 4.10 in plenty of time!

After a few dances it was time to go back and change out of DJ, grab a train to Gatwick and hope that the 07.00 Sunday flight to Glasgow would be running – my first game was at 10.30! There were twenty of us on that flight – spaced evenly out around the cabin of a BA Airbus. Yet again my luck was in and we landed in Glasgow before 0830 – and the road to the rink was passable.
Three games of curling later and it was back to the airport for flight number 4 – back to Luton and this time it was a bit late – but not because of snow but because of fog at Luton! However we got there safely about 90 minutes late and I got home to my bed before midnight – to be woken up 4 hours later to go to Gatwick to catch my flight to Switzerland – but that is another story.

Moving on from Seniors we come to Juniors. This year there are two English teams going to Prague for the European Junior Curling Challenge, January 3-8. For the girls it is a third trip but for the boys it will be all new. One problem we face is that some of each team are away at University and so it has been difficult to get all 5 together. The first and last chance for some competitive curling came at Lockerbie for the Junior Classic – another journey (by train this time) threatened by the weather, but they all got there and found out for themselves the standard that exists outside of Kent.

Some of the English squad with Eve Muirhead. Back L-R: Naomi Robinson, Hetty Garnier, Eve Muirhead, Angharad Ward. Front: Oliver Kendall, Lauren Pearce, Anna Fowler.

One problem we have is a lack of coaches for the Juniors. Ian Baxter, who coached them last year, has moved to a new demanding job and informed us in good time that he could not help out. I put myself down to go with the teams and we were fortunate to have in London Greg Dunn, a Canadian who has previously worked with the Dutch men’s team and played for the Netherlands in the 2006 European Championships (including beating England 9-3!).

So it is next stop Prague and that will be the subject of a later blog, but look out for Chapters 2, 3 and 4 (maybe..) of this one – I will give you a couple of days to digest this one before imposing another one on you all.

Future topics to whet your appetite – Can one man from the smallest curling nation on the planet really be the instigator of a dangerous split in World curling? How good were this year’s European Championships? Is the 4 Nations weekend important to British curling (or is it just an irrelevant sideshow)? What do we know about the woman who has to manage the £2.3m which British Curling has been awarded to deliver medal winning teams?

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Top photo is from John's Scottish Curler archive, the second photo is © Skip Cottage.

Friday, November 05, 2010

And the Swedes like haggis too

I'm sitting here watching the quarterfinals of the European Seniors at Greenacres and have just seen Finnish skip, Mauno Nummila, already five down after the first end against Pelle Lindeman of Sweden, saving his team from an even bigger loss at the second end. Lying seven against, a heavy take-out turned the tables to give him a score of one.

In the other quarters it is Colin Hamilton v Michael Sutherland of England, Gary MacFarlane v the other Finnish team of Timo Kauste, and an all Scottish clash between David Clydesdale, undefeated and top qualifier, and Keith Prentice, lucky to scrape in with just five points after a surprising loss to Wim Neeleman of Holland by 10-11.

My personal score for the week was 1 win, 1 peel and 3 losses, which converted into fourth out of six in my group, and one place ahead of the holder, Karl Nordlund of Sweden, a minor triumph one could say! The win came in the last session against Wales when a score of six in the fifth end turned things around.

The women go straight to semifinals tomorrow when Alison Reekie will play Ingrid Meldahl from Sweden and Kirsty Letton faces Jacqui Crawford.

More updates later but what is this competition all about – the European Seniors Invitation – not quite a championships but more than a bonspiel, it arose out of the 2005 World Women’s and World Seniors’ Championships held at Paisley and Greenacres. That event made a pretty profit, unusually for a World Championships, and it was decided to use some of the money to fund a new event for Senior curlers. An initial attempt in 2007 fell foul of an overcrowded calendar and the first event took place in 2008. This event featured 18 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams, though only 11 women’s eventually took part. Twelve countries were represented in the men’s event, but only Ireland and Netherlands added a bit of European flavour to the women’s event. Sweden’s Claes Roxin defeated Graeme Adam in the final after an extra end and Kay Gibb had the measure of Kirsty Letton in the women’s.

In 2009 there was a drop off in continental interest and we lost the teams from Estonia, Poland, Iceland and Finland from the men’s event, though there were still 18 men’s teams. The number of women’s teams increased to 17, but with only Sweden joining in from abroad the bulk of them were Scottish and thus the European aspect was a bit lacking. Sweden, in the shape of Karl Nordlund, retained the men’s title by defeating Colin Hamilton, while Isobel Waddell defeated the surprising finalist, Marie O’Kane of Ireland, in the women’s.

And now 2010 and we have new entries from the Czech Republic and Russia and the return of Finland to the men’s event, but we are down to 12 women’s teams again (though five of them are non-Scottish).

And the future – my understanding is that the original funding has one more year to run and then some other source will need to be found while there is also a general concern about the lack of interest from the women, both at home and abroad.

And now back to the action – after four ends. In spite of their skip’s heroics at the second end, the first Finnish team are 1-8 down v Sweden, Colin Hamilton is 3-2 up against Michael Sutherland, after two end saving shots from Michael and Tommy Campbell his third, David Clydesdale and Keith Prentice are locked at 3-3 and Gary Macfarlane leads Timo Kauste by 4-3 – but this latter game is now about one end behind in time terms!

Apologies by the way if this all history by the time you read it, but in my blog infancy I am dependent upon Bob to upload my contributions and if he is not around, then obviously there will be a delay.

And yes the Swedes do like their haggis as was evidenced last night at the Scottish supper here at Greenacres where generous helpings of our national dish disappeared down Scandinavian throats, accompanied, not by whisky but pints of Belhaven Best. The whisky tasting on Wednesday night was also well received and thanks to the organisers for making sure that our inner needs are well met.

And now the first quarterfinal is over after six ends as Pelle Lindeman comfortably beats Mauno Nummila from Finland 10-2.

So returning to an earlier theme, is there a place for a proper European Senior Championships in the curling calendar – we have a European Junior Challenge and a European Mixed as well as the main European Championships? Should we use a European Seniors as a qualifier for the World Seniors and thus give organising committees of WSCCs a reduced but guaranteed number of entries? Is that taking Senior curling too far into the realms of 'serious' curling?

Last year’s WSCC in Russia was a success in spite of the disruptions caused by the Icelandic volcano because of the acceptance of the flexibility introduced by the Event Convenor regarding timetable, team composition and changing availability of players owing to illness. The players all accepted this, but would a more serious approach to the senior curling scene alienate the average senior curler and take away the fun element? Discuss!

And now Colin Hamilton has beaten Michael Sutherland 6-4 in a closely fought game with a lot of busy heads and we wait for the other games to finish or will we have extra ends? Well no is the answer as the third quarter final has Keith Prentice making good use of his qualifying luck to defeat David Clydesdale by 5-4, finishing with two blank ends, and Gary Macfarlane with a 3 at the last end defeats Timo Kauste 8-6.

All the scores are here.

Can you ever have too much curling?

The thought of retirement has been uppermost in my mind recently as my job in the Civil Service comes under threat from Government cutbacks. Mind you many people seem to think I have been retired for years otherwise why am I always up in Scotland curling! And it has been one of those months – after the Duncan Stewart Trophy (see my earlier blog post) – I have now spent ten days north of the border, mainly at Greenacres playing in the Welsh Bonspiel and the European Seniors. In fact I am sitting in Greenacres now in the middle of the latter competition just waiting for my session to begin.

The Glenfarclas Welsh Bonspiel was another successful weekend for the organising committee of John and Ann Stone and Margaret Meikle. Unfortunately a late withdrawal meant that one group was a team short and so one team had to have a bye each session. Bob has mentioned the winners of the main trophy, see here. Adrian Meikle, Andy Tanner and Adrian’s young daughters, helped this time by Kirsty Harrison, became the first players to win three Welsh Bonspiels in a row. What a story for those young girls to tell in the future! In the final they defeated a team from the Borders skipped by Colin Martin with his wife Liz and Glynnice and David Lauder.

Yours truly was fortunate to win the B road especially after being 0-11 down after the first four ends of my first game! Fortunately there was one team worse than us after the first session and they got the bye while we were able to boost our ends and shots totals by winning our next two games quite easily. The fourth session saw us play our old rivals,the Mansons and Paxtons, and, as is always the case between us, this one went to the last stone. In the B final we (myself, Dawn Watson, Donald Forbes and Jean Robinson) defeated Graeme Adam, Jim Jamieson and their wives. See photo above.

In the C final Chris Wells, Michael Yuille and Lesley McKenna (playing as a 3 after their 4th player had to leave early) defeated perennial finalists in the Welsh, Gordon and Jacqui Crawford and Joyce Young, helped this year by Robin Shand.

And so after two days rest, including nine holes at a wonderful little golf course at Anstruther (see here) which includes what has been described as a blind dog-leg par 3 rated as one of the toughest par 3s in the country, it was back to Greenacres for the European Seniors.

A late withdrawal by the Russian men owing to a serious illness taxed the organisers who were able to find a local ‘gather-up’ team skipped by Jim Becket – another reminder of the pleasures of retirement – being able to step in at the last minute to play in a competition. All the scores can be found on the Greenacres website, here, and I will add a few more personal thoughts in a later blog. But it has been good to see such a wide selection of teams here from Finland, Sweden, Norway, England, Wales, Ireland, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Russia.

The withdrawal of the Russian men deprived me of my chance to get my revenge for them beating me in Chelyabinsk in the World Seniors and served me up a tough first game against Jim Becket. I managed a peel at 5-5 and this was one of six such games in the first day – 20% of the total. With no extra ends and ends and shots counting it enabled the programme to stay nearly on track but it has to be said that some of the games have been quite slow going.

Interesting results from Day one were the failure of the holder, Karl Nordlund, to win either of his first two games, losing to Chris Wells of Wales and David Clydesdale. Also the defeat of Scottish Champion, Isobel Waddell by Els Neeleman’s Dutch ladies, and peels for Mauno Nummila of Finland against Gary MacFarlane, and Peter Wilson of Ireland against Colin Hamilton.

The photo of the J & M Trophy winners is by Hugh Stewart. L-R: Andrew Tanner (presenting); Jean Robinson (lead), John Brown (skip), Dawn Watson (third) and Donald Forbes (second).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In Memory of Duncan

When Duncan Stewart (pictured left) died in January of this year he left a void in English curling which will prove hard to fill. In order to keep his memory alive the ECA in discussion with his widow, Mary, proposed that a new trophy be played for and thus was born the idea of the Duncan Stewart Memorial Trophy.

The first running of the event took place at Kelso last weekend and in the spirit of the friendship of curling which Duncan always propounded, the teams were drawn out of a hat. While the aim of 8 teams proved just too ambitious, enough players were found to enable 6 teams to participate.

While 15 of the players were able to play all 4 sessions, the other 9 positions were filled by a variety of members from the local (English) Glendale Club including some who were also playing for their Scottish clubs in the Double Rink Championship in the in-between sessions!

The draw was predetermined and so there was no juggling of position in a Schenkel like system, but even so the whole competition came down to the last session when it just so happened that the top two teams were drawn to play against each other, and the destiny of the whole competition came down to who won the last end!

But that is jumping ahead of ourselves. Games in the first draw were all close, none more so than the one in which Glynnice Lauder beat Michael Sutherland by 4-3. In the other games there were wins for John Brown and John Sharp. After a meal at the Rink, the second session saw a further win for John Brown but the other two first round winners both lost, notably John Sharp who lost 2-12 to Phil Barton, a result which would become very significant the following day.

Play on the Sunday began at 0930 and John Brown won his third straight game, but only after coming from 1-6 down to beat James Dixon. Meanwhile John Sharp recovered to take his second win, against Glynnice Lauder, playing two shots in particular which turned potential big end losses into shots for himself, especially the one that managed to get one of his stones beating 5 opposition stones all in the 4 foot!

And now with just one game left John Brown led on 3 wins from John Sharp on 2 wins and everybody else on 1 win. He also had 2 more ends and 8 more ends than John Sharp and so it must have seemed all over bar the shouting. But no, after 6 ends it was 13-4 to John Sharp and he had won 4 ends to 2 and so whoever won the last end would win the trophy. Quite a finish and it seemed strange to be trying to get one shot to lose by 5-13 and thus win the competition!

The head was kept pretty clear and when John B put his first draw just around a guard and John S was just a little heavy the game was over, and the first Duncan Stewart Memorial Trophy went to John Brown (London), Harvey Curle (Glendale), Doug Andrews (SECC) and Caroline Cumming (Glendale). Also in the team was John Robertson who played the first two games in place of Caroline and Megan Runciman played one game instead of Harvey.

In a moving presentation, Mary Stewart presented bottles of wine to all 24 players and then the new trophy and mementoes to the winning team. Next year the Trophy will almost certainly be played at Fenton’s in Kent so that those in the South can have their chance to win the ECA’s newest trophy.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Prospect Before Us: 2010-11 Edition

Another season begins – by my reckoning it is the start of my 38th full season of curling, though if you add in the 6 years I did not play it is now well over 40 years since I followed in the footsteps of Bob Cowan and walked across the road from Hutchie Boys to Crossmyloof, with absolutely no idea what I had let myself in for.

There was no history of curling in my family but anything had to be better than the dreaded Auldhouse mud heap – sorry rugby fields – and as I have told many people many times in the past (yawn!) the only reason I took up curling in preference to ten pin bowling was that it was cheaper (one shilling (5p) compared to 3/6 (17.5p)) and the ice rink was a lot closer to the school than the Mount Florida Bowl.

How lives change on such small matters!

But I am not going to bore you with looking back (not this time anyway), but let’s look forward and see what the season might hold for both me personally and the curling world at large.

I stepped on to the ice at Fenton’s Rink yesterday and was glad to find that my knees were still allowing me to glide along the ice in my usual graceful style – and then I got onto the hack! Now for many of my vintage, warm-ups still do not feature in our vocabulary but all you physiotherapists out there will be glad to know that I have decided to make a big effort to do some stretching before committing my body to the perfect sliding delivery this season. So sorry if that means less business for you all.

And yes I found that I was still looking forward to being able to play those match winning shots which I dream of every time I sit on the hack and say to myself “This one to beat Al Hackner!” – never worked against Al but maybe it will against some less illustrious opponents this season!

I was down at the rink in my capacity as ECA secretary to talk to the junior teams and their parents who will be going to the European Junior Challenge in Prague – realising in fact that it was only 3 months away and that there was a lot to do in preparing the teams (and their parents) for this trip. For the girls it was business as usual – been there, done that and got the T-shirt – and yes they have accomplished all 3!

For the boys this will all be new territory and it will be interesting to see how they come together as a team – ‘very’ interesting in fact as one of them is now at University in Newcastle and so will only really have the time between Christmas and their flight to Prague on 2nd January to get together with his team mates, though he will be playing at Kelso with the Glendale Club I believe.

I am excited about the England team prospects at the Europeans in Champery – in Alan MacDougall we have a world class skip who has lost none of his flair which was evident in Bob’s recent video clip

With Andrew Reed at third he has formed a tight partnership tested through European Mixed Championships for the past 4 years. There is NOBODY who is more passionate about English curling than Andrew and he always gives his all for his country.

The front end of Andrew Woolston and Tom Jaeggi have international experience at Junior and Senior level and have that steadying influence which all dynamic back ends need!

On the ladies side we welcome Lorna Rettig back onto the international scene and with the continuity provided by Kirsty Balfour at third, playing in her 8th European Championships, I am looking forward to them bouncing back into the A division at the first attempt. Nicola Woodward and Suzie Law will have the task of setting things up at the start of each end.

That's Alan MacDougall on the left, with Andrew Reed. Suzie Law is on the right of this pic. (Lana Watson is the other in this photo of England's European Mixed Team)

On the domestic front there has been a boom in Senior curling – a new women’s team will be going to the World’s this year after a gap in England’s representation for two years – Sandra Moorcroft, Susan Young, Alison Barr and Jean Robinson will be our girls out in St Paul in April.

Who will go with them is far from decided however. I have been fortunate enough to represent England in the World Seniors for the last 6 years and in only two of those years did we have to face a challenge – from one other team - to win our trip. This year there are 4 teams entered and a playdown is scheduled to take place over the weekend of 3-5th December at Greenacres.

So am I looking forward to it? In a way I am – at least if I win no one will be able to say that I was only going to St Paul because there were no other entries, but obviously it is going to be hard work to win through, but I will be giving it 100%, especially as there will be an 18 month gap between World Senior events and I am not getting any younger! From a personal point of view the fact that my only niece is getting married in London that weekend only adds to the challenge!

But before all that we have a new tournament at Kelso on the 16th and 17th October – the Duncan Stewart Memorial Trophy - where we will have 32 players formed into 8 teams by pulling their names out of a hat and competing for this new trophy, presented by Mary Stewart in memory of her husband Duncan who was one of the stalwarts of English curling until his death earlier this year. We hope that this trophy will be a popular addition to the ECA calendar and will be taking it around the country in future years.

And hopefully that ‘around the country’ will include Sheffield and Solihull, two venues where we are trying hard to establish curling – a very successful visit by Rhona Martin in the summer (see has sparked off regular curling sessions at Sheffield, although Solihull remains a more tantalising prospect owing to a lack of free spaces in a very busy rink programme of events.

And finally, from an English point of view, I am looking forward to showcasing the best ice we have ever had in England when the 4 Nations weekend is held in Fenton’s Rink in Kent in January. As I said above I was down there yesterday and it is looking super with keen ice.

For the ECA this will be the biggest event they have held and you can be sure that the organising committee will be working hard to make sure that all the visitors are fed and watered to their satisfaction, transported to where they want or need to be and given a good time on the ice – even when they are beating the English teams (as if)!

Looking further afield (Scotland and the rest of Great Britain!) there has not been a year recently with so much change happening at any one time – a new CEO at the RCCC and a new Chair of British Curling – I am looking forward to them working together – and also to them working apart – there needs to be a clear distinction I believe in the various roles of the RCCC and British Curling – many of the problems raised in the Scottish Curling Forum and elsewhere are caused by a lack of clarity about their roles. No one can serve both masters, convenient though it may appear to be.

So I look forward to a clearing of the air about who is funding what and who, who is in charge of the different aspects related to the 2014 Olympics, and who is responsible for making sure that curling across Britain at various levels benefits from the Olympic process.

What is clear is that British Curling must have one and one only aim – providing the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations with three teams, prepared as no other teams have been before, to go on to the ice at Sochi and do their utmost to win medals for Great Britain.

Within that aim it is necessary for the RCCC, ECA and WCA to work to ensure that their domestic game is in good health and able to provide the players to be in those teams – however they are selected.

Most of all I look forward to a season which will remind me why I love this sport and why I continue to be excited about the prospects that face me on and off the ice for the next 7 months.

Have a good season everybody. May the better team win, but may you all come off the ice feeling that you had a ‘grand old time’.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

John Brown's Toothy Tales

Welcome to my new 'column' on Bob’s blog. Those of you old enough to remember me at school will know the origin of the title but for those one or two who are too young, it all goes back to my school nickname which, apparently because I smiled a lot, was 'Toothy'. Now that my family has finally found out, thanks to our chief blogger, I felt it was time to come out of the closet and use it to my advantage (or not).

And the obvious next question is why not 'Smiler'? Well there was one of those in the school already – and he became a famous football referee – Andrew Waddell. His biography on Wikipedia reads:

"Andrew Wilson Waddell (born 26 September 1950) became a qualified referee in 1965 (when he was 15) and joined the Senior List of SFA referees in 1973. From 1989 to 1997 he represented Scotland on the FIFA list of international referees. He retired from refereeing in 1999 and subsequently became secretary of Preston Athletic F.C., and campaigned for the club to be admitted to the Scottish Football League in 2008 (they failed).

Dr Waddell is the vice-chairman of the East of Scotland Football League and represents it on the Council of the Scottish Football Association (SFA). Professionally he is Managing Director of a Quality Assurance consultancy and is Chairman Elect of the British Association for Research Quality Assurance (BARQA)."

But down to business and the first of what may be a frequent, or maybe infrequent, sideways look at curling. I have no doubt you will soon tell me, or Bob, where to go if it gets boring…. No not yet – I have not written anything about curling yet!


Saturday 7th August and one young girl’s dream of wearing an Olympic medal came true – and it was gold. Unfortunately it was not her own medal but the one so wonderfully won eight years ago in Salt Lake City by Rhona Martin. It was the first evening of a daring venture by iceSheffield to develop curling further at their rink and, to help them get good publicity, I asked Rhona if she would come down and help out. Although she was actually meant to be on holiday, she graciously said she would and the scene was set.

You can see all the details here and there is a short film about the event here.

For just £3.50 an hour visitors get a short coaching session and then are able to play 40 minutes of curling. Currently it is being played on two short rinks across one of the ice pads but this is partly an attempt to increase interest as, on the other side of a portable barrier, a public skating session is held and it is hoped some of those who stop to watch as they are whizzing around on their skates may one day give it a try.

Playing across a skating ice pad is interesting as instead of having the end sheets diving to the wall as when used longitudinally, the problem is similar to what it used to be (and maybe still is?) in Kirkcaldy – you have to get the stone to the top of the hill and then let it slide down the other side!

And while curling has been on offer in a basic form at iceSheffield for quite a while and has been popular with the corporate market, its timing of early afternoon has proved to be a drawback in attracting the general public. Saturday evening is obviously prime time and it is a brave venture by iceSheffield to give curling such a good time slot.

It was also the first time that a proper pebble had been laid and obviously this made everything so much better. The English Curling Association (ECA) has bought two pebblers using WCF DAP funding and has loaned one to iceSheffield and the other to Solihull Ice Rink where there have been two successful come and try sessions in recent months.

So where next for Sheffield? The RCCC have been asked to hold a Level 1 Assistant Coach Course there on 22nd August when the local staff, and other ECA members, will get trained to be able to give good quality coaching to the public. The RCCC coaches will also give an extra morning of on-ice mentoring to those who have passed the Level 1 course on the Monday morning, before the public session on the Monday lunchtime.

We are still trying to persuade them to borrow some real curling stones as they are still playing with the plastic 'practice' ones which they bought from Braehead. But the enthusiasm of the management and staff is high at the moment and you never know, we may yet get a major championship in England.

Picture of ice technician Simon Butterworth’s appropriate top.

John Brown 10/8/2010