Archive for the 'history' Category

Grass bike polo, Hackney, 1956

Photo courtesy Gary Beckett

I first played bike polo on grass about 20 years ago in the track centre at Herne Hill after a Saturday morning session. This was back when the club-house and changing rooms were still open, and there was never any worry that the sessions might be over-subscribed. I didn't know his name, but the guy who organised the knock-about on the grass polo bikes was Garry Beckett, son of the great Ron Beckett. The Becketts, for those who don't know, are pillars upon which the south London cycling scene is built. Stalwarts of the Bec Cycling Club (whose rollers we borrowed for the first couple of Rollapaluzas), organisers of the Good Friday track meet… And stars of the bike polo scene! Garry used to be captain of the England team, and father Ron was a regular player too. Garry posted this picture to his twitter account.

 

Why haven’t I been playing polo recently?

A few people have been asking me why I haven’t been at polo recently.  There are a few reasons, which I will summarise briefly:
Courts
Let’s face facts: the sport has been going down-hill since we stopped using Brick Lane. The young & ill-informed might point to the steep camber on the court, to the large gaps in the fence, the inconveniently placed goals or even to the very frequent discoveries of human faeces as good reasons to stop using the court.
To these persons, I say, huh! The large gaps in the fence facilitated that game moment now largely lost to London Polo,  namely, the Beer Break.  The ball would go under the fence, shoot off down Shacklewell Street towards Cambridge Heath, and we’d all stop for a refreshing & reviving draught of beer. By the time Yorgo had returned with the ball (yes, Yorgo was our ball boy), we would be ready to play like gods once more.
The goals were only inconvenient if you left your contact lenses at home, or forgot to look where you were going like Emily Emilia Emilie Object did (ouchy!)  Those goals were also nice and big so we used to score a lot more sweet goals back then. And scoring sweet goals is what polo is all about isn’t it? Not all this blocking & endoing and other show-boating such as you see the likes of Emmett & Ryan doing these days.
 
As for the camber, well, it’s not my fault that I always made sure I was playing down it, is it?
Yorgo, father of polo ball retrieval, illustration copyright Adrienne Hawkes, all rights reserved

And that leaves the matter of the poo. All I have to say about this is that if anyone had bothered to ask me, I would have immediately moved to exclude the south London element from polo. You can take a monkey across a bridge, but you can’t take the bridge out of the monkey.

Refs
Who died and left that speccy-eyed twat in charge of the whistle? How can you respect a man who wears slippers outdoors? Wait a minute, I’m getting confused here… what was your name again?
Mallets
You can now buy ready-made mallets. This is being presented as ‘progress’, but this a lie and a trick. So-called ‘innovations’ like this will lead to the infantilisation of London polo players. Soon you’ll be wanting to be accompanied to the toilet and you will only be able to remove your mouths from the teat of ‘big polo’ with surgical assistance.
I still make all my own mallets out of broom handles, nailed to great big lumps of wood, and my mallets never failed to make an impression on the opposition, I can tell you.
Water
Two things wrong here:
First, water is bad for you, and beer helps you score sweet goals; these are scientifically proven FACTS.
Second, how am I going to steal your beer if you’re all drinking water or ribena or whatever muck it is you have in those bottles?
 
Rules
What’s that? Turnover? No, I don’t fancy any baked goods, thank you very much, I’m trying to score some sweet goals in between putting these clowns into the fence.  And what the hell happened to “321 Polo”? How am I supposed to jump the charge and score a sweet goal if I don’t know when the whistle is coming?
 
The French
The French also bear a big responsibility. After all, they introduced dolphin slaps, blocks & other nefarious moves to London polo, and what has happened to Marc’s hair? Like everything else in polo, it used to be a lot better 4 years ago.

Polo from the past

Spotted this on the Hardcourt blog. Scan is from Fixed Gear on Flickr. Photo is from a match at Hearne Hill! Incidentally a bunch of old polo bikes were recently rescued from Hearne Hill

Vintage polo bikes rescued!

I’ve always wondered what was going on with the ancient polo bikes which were rotting away at Herne Hill Velodrome. They had been used for grass games in the past but recently we have heard nothing of them. So it was great to here that Rollapaluza CC has recently purchaed the 11 reminaing bikes and now plans to totally overhaul them so they can be used once again!

Apparently they need quite a lot of work on them so any donations of time and spare parts (26″ wheels!) would be much appreciated. The aim is to get them fixed up and suitably stored at Herne Hill so we can eventually play some grass games.


A few more details on London FGSS and photos from Flickr.

Playing polo with Hungarian Counts

Jack of the wonderful bike show sent me the passage below the other day. I think it quite aptly captures the mood of polo today….

[The year is 1933 and Leigh Fermor is an eighteen year old, walking across Europe. He is staying with some Hungarian nobility in a big house near the border with Slovakia]
“Great wings formed a courtyard and, from a terrace leading to a ceremonial door, branching and balustraded steps descended in a sweep. As I was crossing this place d’armes, several people were coming down the steps, and one of them was Count Józsi. Forewarned by Lászlo, he spotted me at once. He waved a greeting and cried, “You are just what we need! Come along!” I followed him and the others across the yard to a shed. “Have you ever played bike-polo?” he asked, catching me by the elbow. I had played a version of it at school with walking sticks and a tennis-ball on the hard tennis-courts; it was thought rather disreputable. But here they had real polo-sticks cut down to the right size and a proper polo ball and the shed was full of battered but sturdy machines. Józsi was my captain, and a famous player of the real game called Bethlen had the rival team; two other guests and footmen and a groom were the rest of the players. The game was quick, reckless and full of collisions, but there was nothing to match the joy of hitting the ball properly: it made a loud smack and gave one a tempting glimmer of what the real thing might be like. I couldn’t make out why all the shins weren’t barked to the bone; nor why, as one of the goals backed on the house, none of the windows were broken. The other side won but we scored four goals, and when the iron Maltese Cats were back in their stands, we limped back to the steps, where Countess Denise and her sister Cecile and some others had been leaning on the balustrade like ladies gazing down into the lists.”
(Patrick Leigh Fermour’s ‘Between the Woods and the Water’)

Incidentally, they are still playing polo in Hungary:
I thought I had a website for them at some point but can’t find it, check out this instead http://alleycat.hu



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