(We have thistles out in the field which have been allowed to grow without molestation. The tallest of them- I really should take a tape measure out with me- must be about seven foot.)
I was thinking it would be nice to play croquet on the lawn. I'm still thinking it, but more forlornly now, having checked all the sheds and lock-ups for the croquet set we used to have- and not finding it. I wonder where it went? I did find what I think is a badminton net- but badminton is too energetic for us creaky oldsters. Croquet on the other hand would be just right- a gently paced game of strategy, dexterity- and utter ruthlessness- that all ages and genders can play on an equal footing. The first time we meet the young people in The Small House at Allington- Bell and Lily and Bernard and the weak and wicked Mr Crosbie- they're out on the lawn playing croquet. For them it was a new thing, a craze (the rules of the game were first published in 1856.) They ask Mrs Dale to join them but she reckons she's too old at forty. There was a story in the papers the other day where someone was predicting that croquet was on its way out. I hope not. The tap of mallet on wooden ball is almost as redolent of the English summer as the crack of leather on willow. But the gear is expensive. A cheap set- hardly worth having- comes in at £100. A really good set will cost you a four figure sum.