Wow is all I can say - is it really January since I last posted on this blog - so much has happened since then - if you have found me again then please stick around as I hope to post more regularly again. And tell your friends as they may have forgotten all about me too.
Where to begin is the first question - well I should have more time as I gave up being ECA secretary back at the AGM in May - the new secretary is Nigel Patrick and we also have a new ECA President in Tommy Campbell - we wish them all the best. I am still treasurer of the ECA and also Competitions' Convenor and I have a new role in curling - I have been elected onto the WCF Commission on Competitions and Rules - having been proposed by the ECA, I was accepted and so, along with Hew Chalmers (SCO), Mark Swandby (USA), Danny Lamoureaux (CAN), Karel Kubeska (CZE) and Paul Ahlgren (SWE) under the chairmanship of WCF President, Kate Caithness and Competitions' Director, Keith Wendorf, we will be looking at the way forward for the sport after the Sochi Olympics - are there any rule changes that should be made or are there any competitions we should add or drop from our programme? Look out for more information coming through in the future.
We held our first meeting in Copenhagen in September at the WCF Congress and will be meeting again at the Women's Worlds in Canada in March.
The New Season
Closer to home the season has begun and for me there have already been 4 trips up to Scotland!! Firstly I drove up to support the English team in the European Mixed at Murrayfield where the team of John Sharp, Lorna Rettig, Nigel Patrick and Alison Hemmings won 3 and lost 4 games to finish midfield in their group. I was also supporting two of my team who play with me in the I'Anson Trophy at Stranraer - Dawn Watson who was playing for Wales and Louise Kerr who was in the Irish team. And also of course the Scottish team which included a regular at Fenton's, Karen Barthelemy.
Two weeks later I drove up with our Junior Women's team to the first Asham Under-21 Slam event at Kinross which was looking bright and sparkling after its takeover by the local curlers following a lot of hard work. The girls did very well to win 2 and peel one of their games and narrowly lost out on qualifying for the semi-final - that would have been good to see - an un-funded team from England doing better than some of the well-funded Scottish Academy teams. That might have been a difficult one for Brad Askew, the Scottish Performance Coach to explain!!
Back home for just long enough to change my clothes and do a few hours work to help pay for the diesel, and it was back up to Murrayfield for the first ECA event of the season - the Duncan Stewart Trophy which is open to all ECA members and where teams are selected just before the first game. We had 4 teams this year and with some people playing just one of the days we had a total of 19 participants including a few playing in their first ECA event.
As can be seen in the photo on The View From the Hack blog, I was fortunate to win it helped by Alison Barr, Judith Dixon and Andrew Woolston (and Ian Paxton on the Saturday). It did not look like it at the start of the weekend - losing a 4 in the first end of the first game and then another single in the second end does not normally lead to a trophy, but we plugged away - came back to win the first game 7-6 and the second one by 7-4. With the top two teams qualifying for the final and those teams already identified after the first two games (two teams had 2 wins and two teams had 0), we then played new President Tommy Campbell twice on the Sunday - a friendly peel at 3-3 after 6 ends followed by a 7-4 victory in the Final.
A couple of weeks at home (including a win in a game at Fenton's in the league) before it was back up in atrocious weather for the Welsh International Bonspiel sponsored yet again by Glenfarclas. Things had gone badly even before I left when my lead player, Jean Robinson, contracted shingles and had to pull out - but my first message for help yielded a result and Alison Barr, who had played with me in Edinburgh, was available for all but one game.
I had a good feeling nevertheless about the weekend ahead in spite of also losing my regular third, Dawn Watson, who had defected to the Dark Side (well Wales). The last time my new third, Lana Watson (no relation), had played with me in the Welsh we had been undefeated, but only won the B Final, as a team we had peeled with qualified for the A Final, also undefeated, having won one more end than us over the 4 games. So there was unfinished business there. My regular second, Donald Forbes, played with me again for the 10th time in 11 years and the only time he had been unable to play, we had won the Bonspiel - yet more unfinished business. And having been undefeated in Edinburgh just two weeks previously with Alison in my team, the omens were good.
And then they began to look a little shaky as, without the hammer, we lost a 3 in the first end of the first game - but had not something similar happened in Edinburgh?? I am glad to say that we fought our way back into the game to be peels going into the last end where we were fortunate to steal a single to beat Margaret Meikle by 6-5. And it happened in the next game again - lose the toss and lose a 3 at the first end, and the next game - lose the toss and lose a 2 in the first end - but on both occasions we fought back to win, beating Laura Beever 11-6 and Gus Storrie 7-5.
So there we were sitting on top of the section with a nice rest before Sunday when we would surely be playing Graeme Adam who had come back from a first game loss to win the next two games, the second of those by 18-0 and winning all 8 ends - he was second in the table and we had not played him - but the Schenkel system is strange at times and it depends how the organisers use it to avoid duplicate games. This time if we played Graeme and the other games were played as the system required there would be a duplicate game being played and so we ended up playing Andrew Woolston, the holder, instead - not sure which was the worse option for us!!!
This was the game Alison could not play and we won the toss, won the first end and lost the game!!! And what a finish there was. I will try to explain as simply as possible - Graeme Adam was playing Gus Storrie and whoever won that game would qualify for a final on 6 points. As I was also on 6 points but losing to Andrew Woolston it would come down to ends - I had 15 before the start of the game, Graeme had 15 and Gus had 11. As the endgame played out with me losing it became apparent that if Graeme won then he would go to A, I would go to B, but if Gus won I would go to A and he would go to B with Graeme out. Going into the last end they were peeled. Hold it there.
Meanwhile, Andrew Woolston had peeled with Laura Beever the previous day and they were both on 3 points - if they both won then whichever had the more ends would go above whichever of Gus and Graeme lost and would qualify for the C Final. Laura finished her game first and Andrew then knew that he needed to win the last end against me to finish above her. He was leading me 6-2 - but I was lying (thus Laura would qualify) but I had a slim chance with my last stone to get the 4 to peel the game and guarantee myself a final even if Graeme beat Gus. As I began to consider my options for my last stone, Graeme threw his last stone on the other sheet and ........it was a measure - so I still had to try for the 4 as I could not really hang around waiting for the measure - I had strung it out enough already!!
In the end my bid for the 4 and the peel failed to come off but.........Gus won the measure and I was safely in the A Final and Gus was in the B while Graeme was out. Meanwhile in going for the 4 I had actually taken my own shot out giving Andrew the end and pushing him into the C Final above Laura - but only just - they had the same number of points, ends scored and shots scored and it went down to the shots up before Andrew broke the tie!
The other group was won by Ken Horton, who had a strong English contingent in his team. Hugh Stewart was second and Adrian Meikle was third.
In the idle moments before the Finals began it struck me that the Welsh International Bonspiel was really living up to its name this year - of the 24 players in the 3 finals, 17of them had at one time played for their country and all 4 Home Nations were represented. The full list:
John Brown (England Men and Senior Men)
Lana Watson (England Women and Mixed)
Alison Barr (England Senior Women)
Ken Horton (Scotland Junior Men, Men and Senior Men)
Lorna Rettig (England Women, Mixed and Mixed Doubles)
Ben Fowler (England Junior Men and Mixed Doubles)
Liz Horton (Scotland Senior Women)
Hugh Stewart (Scotland Senior Men)
Carolyn Hibberd (Ireland Women and Senior Women)
Jim Stirling (Scotland Senior Men)
Gus Storrie (Scotland Senior Men)
Adrian Meikle (Wales Men and Mixed)
Dawn Watson (Wales Mixed)
Andy Tanner (Wales Men and Mixed)
Andy Woolston (Wales Junior Men and England Men and Mixed)
Lesley Gregory (Wales Women and Mixed)
Martin Gregory (Wales Mixed)
Into the A Final then against my old team mate from 4x years ago, Ken Horton - usual scenario - lose the toss, lose the first end - but this time it was the third end as we blanked the first two - a situation repeated next door in the C Final between Adrian and Andrew. A quick reply with a 3 at the 4th end and then it was back to 4-4 after 6 - with last stone I was only able to take a 1 at the 7th and things looked to be against us but we were able to steal the 8th for a famous 6-4 victory.
Hugh Stewart won the B Final against Gus Storrie and Adrian Meikle beat Andrew Woolston in the C Final.
And then here we are back home again - a weekend of family stuff and then back North for the next two weekends - to Greenacres for the tournament formerly known as the Gormac (where I am subbing for an injured player) and then to Stranraer for the I'Anson before 8 days in Stavanger at the Europeans. Two trophies in two weekends so far - can it continue - keep watching for further updates!!