Clive has fun at...ten pin bowling
PUBLISHED: 10:09 21 March 2012 | UPDATED: 20:35 20 February 2013
He didn't feel sexy or glamorous, but Clive Angram clocks up a very good score in his first game in 40 years. Who says? He does.
Although to those of us of a certain age it doesnt seem that long ago, the first ten-pin bowling alley opened in Stamford Hill in London 51 years ago. Henry Cooper, now Sir Henry, rolled the first ball down left-handed and intrepid Mount Everest climber, Sir John Hunt, the second. Their scores are not recorded. In those days, of course, you had to write down your score. Since a complicated piece of equipment down the other end cleared up the mess you had just created you wouldnt have thought that it was asking too much of bowlers to keep their score. But, apparently, many found it too much of an effort and so, after an enormous boom in the 1960s, bowling alleys started going down like er, nine-pins?
At the peak, there were nearly 200 bowling alleys in the UK. No one knows for sure how many there were at the trough, presumably because no one could be bothered to write the number down. Basically, bingo took over because players could sit down throughout and it required very much less in the way of effort.
Two independent factors, apparently, triggered a revival in ten-pin bowlings fortunes in the 1980s the introduction of automated electronic scoring systems and a combination of Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer. The former meant that the lazy general public only had to enter their names and everything else was done for them while the latter starred in the otherwise unregarded movie, Grease 2, which portrayed ten-pin bowling as a glamorous and sexy sport.
Feeling rather unglamorous, not especially sexy and a little anxious that the spectre of a bald hack bowling might reverse the positive impact of Grease 2, I set off for Ocean Bowl in Bexhill humming Score Tonight, undeniably the only decent song in the movie.
Like most bowling alleys today, Ocean Bowl is located in a retail park. Ravenside has a Boots, PC World, Comet, Halfords and, what I suspect is the jewel in the Ravenside crown, a Tesco. The bowling alley is next door to B and Q and has plenty of parking spaces outside. Inside its bright, lively and moderately noisy. Chris Karitzis, the general manager, explains that its been around for more than 20 years, although the current owners only took over from Megabowl in 2002.
Obviously affected by the recession, business over the last couple of years has been quite tough. Chris has countered with a string of promotions and so, particularly off-peak, there are a number of attractive offers to appeal to everyone from young children enjoying a birthday party to pensioners seeking exercise. There are also attractive family deals and the broad rule of thumb and two fingers is that its progressively cheaper the more you play. For example, the first game for an adult is normally 5, the second 4 and the third 2. For those under 16 its 4, 3 and 1.50 respectively. The really astonishing figure, however, is Chriss highest score of 279, which is just 21 shy of the maximum 300.
As when entering a mosque, one of the first things you do in a bowling alley is take off your shoes. Outdoor shoes would damage the timbered lanes and so youre given a special pair that wont. On the previous occasion that I went bowling (circa 1969), I seem to recall that they retained my shoes as a sort of hostage until I returned theirs. Nowadays they reckon that no-one would want to walk down the street proclaiming their shoe size on the back of each shoe quite so brazenly.
Since I would feel just as self-conscious bowling on my own as walking down the street with a big 10 on the back of my shoes, I have brought my wife Rose to the Ocean Bowl and the two of us make ourselves comfortable on lane 20. The next thing we need is a bowling ball, of which there are dozens in the racks behind. Finding one that is the appropriate weight is important but Im more concerned that the holes for the thumb, index finger and middle finger are large enough because my worst nightmare is to find myself unable to release the ball and sliding inexorably down the lane towards the pins. Dont laugh, Ive seen it happen to Barney Rubble on The Flinstones and it wasnt pleasant.
Right, were nearly ready. All that remains is to set the automatic scoring system in motion and were away. Except were not away because I cant seem to figure it out. Its asking me to enter our names, which Ive done but still nothing is happening. Give me a sheet and a pencil any day. I try again and again and again, still nothing. I could go to the main desk and ask for assistance but Im a bloke and seeking help is embarrassing. In desperation, I turn to Rose who carefully follows the instructions, the screen lights up and my name appears.
Hardly in the right mental state, I grab my ball, hurl it down the lane and three measly pins totter over. A 3 appears in the first box. I could just as easily have written that down myself, I mutter and pick up the ball that has been returned to me. Although still some way short of calm, I knock over all but one of the remaining pins. Well done, darling, Rose says in an unsuccessful effort to cheer me up before having a go herself.
Okay, very quickly, heres what youre trying to do. Obviously knock over as many of the pins as you can. If you blast all ten down with your first ball, thats a strike. The best thing about a strike is that youre next two balls are added to the 10 youve already scored in that frame. By the way, I should perhaps have mentioned that there are 10 frames in a game. So if you record a strike followed by four pins and then three, you score 17 in the first frame and seven in the second.
The next best thing to a strike is a spare, which is when you knock all ten pins over in two balls, which is all youre allowed. The good thing about a spare is that, as well as the 10 points you get in the frame you knocked them all over, you add what you score with your next ball. So a spare followed by, say, five gives you 15. Got it? Basically, to get a decent score you need spares and strikes. By decent I mean anything over 100, which is good. Anything over 125 is very good, over 150 is exceptionally good and so on. Anything over 200 is spectacular. Incredibly, a maximum 300, which is 12 straight strikes, was scored by a young man at Ocean Bowl last summer.
Reluctant though I am to brag, I strike in the fourth frame. Actually, its something of a bitter-sweet moment. The fiendishly clever electronic scorecard flashes up my name alongside a big X, the symbol for a strike, which is all very nice. On the other hand, apart from the extra points you receive, which are most welcome, your reward is that you only get to bowl one ball in that frame instead of the usual two. Since I have paid hard-earned money for the thrill of rolling the ball down the lane at the pins, only being allowed one ball in a frame feels like a punishment, although I dont suppose it bothered the kid who had the perfect 300 that he only bowled 12 (including two bonus balls for striking in the final frame) instead of 20 balls.
If a strike is at one end of the thrill spectrum, a ball that ignominiously slips into one of the two gutters on either side of the lane is at the other.
Rose rarely makes it beyond the first paragraph of my articles and so Im hoping she wont read this far but, because I sense you want to know the score, Im obliged to record that I won 135 to 96. Much as I suspect you would like to see a neat and detailed, frame by frame scorecard, who can be bothered to write all that lot down?
Try it yourself
Ocean Bowl, Ravenside Retail Park, Glyne Gap, Bexhill-on-Sea TN40 2JS
T: 01424 730014