sports that are enjoyed out of doors are encumbered by forces
over which Man has no direct control. Weather is the most
apparent of these factors, with topography and the local
flora and fauna also to be considered. Any sportsman true
to himself and his game will not look at these items as
barriers to sport but rather as challenging variables tossed
in by Fate.
no sport is this as evident as it is in overland croquet.
Hills and fields are traversed in pursuit of the next wicket.
Balls are mercilessly chased through sunshine and rain without
a thought toward anything but the game itself. The animals
of Britain are for the most part docile and unthreatening,
eager to stay far away from the stampeding hordes of summers
greatest game. But overland croquet draws a new element
that is for the most part peculiar to the sport: the meddling
ways of the Fairy Kingdom. Let this article serve an education
to the player who would rather be prepared for meetings
with the most common fey to be found on the greensward in
summer, the pixie.
in nature, pixies spend most of their lives on a plane separate
from the one humans inhabit. In their regular forms, which
are composed of pure light and energy, pixies are nearly
invisible to Man, and for the most part harmless. In this
form they appear to us only as flashes of light that may
as well come from sunlight shining off a newly-polished
bucket, so fleeting and sharp are their maneuvers. It is
when the pixie transforms itself, through dedicated concentration,
into a material being, that it becomes a bother.
are most likely to inhabit the battlegrounds or burial sites
of the early tribes. Mounds of the ancient kings are favourite
haunts, but any builder who would construct a course on
such ground is asking for trouble from more than just the
Fairy Kingdom. The fey may not be guarding the site, but
the designer may rest assured that other spirits are.
pixies are chiefly interested in pranks, apparent in the
continuous mischief they visit upon the course and its players.
Many wicketers have paused before swinging their mallet
as they notice a sudden change in the surroundings. This
is the effect of the tricks of the fey. Through speed, surprising
strength (given their diminutive sizemost pixies stand
no taller than a mans shin), and their ability to
enchant humans into thinking no mischief is
afoot, pixies are able to pull stunts like switching a wicketers
shoes, turning the mallet upside-down in mid-swing, or trading
the places of two balls on the course. Any of these incidents
can set the players on edge and ruin the game.
the history of the Fairy Kingdom, iron is a fairly recent
introduction. Like most new inventions, iron tools proved
to be the bane of the fey. Iron nails house all the qualities
of the substance in a useful form. Simply carrying an iron
nail in your pocket whilst on the course will lessen your
chances of a random encounter with solitary pixies. When
an infestation of pixies onto the greensward occurs, more
drastic measures are called for.
particularly effective method of combining overland equipment
and anti-fey tactics is to drive an iron nail into ones
croquet ball. As the ball rolls along the turf, the iron
nail creates a corresponding line over which pixies cannot
cross. Using this method on standard croquet greenswards
virtually guarantees protection from fairy raids. Some players
claim the nails presence affects the balls roll.
This has not been seen in any of the spiked
balls this writer has observed. Purists will want to steer
clear of this method, though, because it introduces a foreign
object onto the course. (Here I assume that players interested
in ridding their course of sprites would be keen to remove
all alien influences from the game.) An iron fence around
the entire border of your course will repel all fey influence,
but be sure that none are inside when the fence goes up,
or youll be stuck with them.
balls arent the only equipment the player may modify
to introduce iron to the game. An iron nail driven into
a mallethead will transfer some of its energy to the balland
will keep the fairies away from the malletbut certainly
isnt as effective as the nail-in-ball method. Iron
wickets are standard on most courses, and do produce a low
energy field that repels fairies, but the space between
wickets is often great enough that no protection is afforded
to wicketers more than twenty yards away from a hoop.
cousin of the pixie, the stray sod employs a more direct
approach to mucking things up. Disguised as a divot of turf
much like those uprooted by zealous players, the stray sod
is bent upon a specific kind of enchantment. If trod upon,
the sod will poison the players mind with a sudden
sense of misdirection. This confusion is known as being
pixie-led. Well-known fields lose their familiarity
and common landmarks disappear. As with pixies, stray sods
are fatally allergic to iron. For overland players who prefer
to wear cleats, iron spikes will deter the liveliest stray
The practise of turning ones coat inside out to deflect
the enchantments of the pixie is unadvised for wicketers,
as it ruins the appearance of the outfit. To this end, select
Saville Row tailors have taken to attaching their label
to the outer sleeve of their jackets. The jacket appears
fine to all observers, but to pixies it is inside out and
they will offer its wearer no trouble.
of the pixies favourite tricks is to employ glamour
against the senses of its human victims. Glamour is the
power of illusion, the magic that makes things appear differently
from what they truly are. Such magic is used for fairy revels,
transforming hillsides into palaces and banquet halls. If
the proceedings should happen to be interrupted by humans,
the entire scene can vanish in the blink of an eye. Glamour
differs from true illusion in the sense that it is real
so long as the viewer believes it to be so. Therefore, food
made of glamour can be eaten and will nourish its eater
unless he becomes aware that it wasnt real,
at which point it will vanish from his body instantly. This
can be especially unfortunate if the human has been living
on glamour for more than a few days.
these lines, a croquet ball made of glamour will run wickets
just as well (some say better) as any other ball. Pixies
used such a trick in the 1901 Glastonbury Trounce, hiding
the ball of OMC president Fergus McAnnis in a thicket and
replacing it with one made of glamour. The ball ran its
next few wickets flawlessly, but then went on a most erratic
path into a wooded part of the course. McAnnis followed
the ball into a cave from which his body was never recovered.
His original ball rests on display at the legendary museum
of Professor Marcus White, in Inverness. It is hoped that
the readers of Phooka need no more encouragement in their
fight against the meddlesome and potentially deadly forces
of the fey.