GETTING TO KNOW YOU.....A LITTLE BETTER.
To round off the 2017 season of fun profiles, you get two for the price of one.
OUR MAN IN OZ
Mike Riley at All England 2011
For the first of our two profiles, I'm really pleased to feature our 'old cobber' Mike Riley and the family, Suzanne, Ben, Jordan, Chloe and Alfie the pooch. We all know that Mike left our shores early in the year – just before the bowls season. Most of the family had gone out months before, except for Ben. It was quite a leap of faith to up stakes and move to the other side of the globe. The only certain thing was Suzanne's job. She has a very responsible job with the Australian National University in Canberra after leaving Glyndwr University in Wrexham.
After sixteen years in the police, Mike was ready for a new challenge, and after working temporarily for Honda as a Sales Manager, he now works for the Australian government – a job he applied for whilst still in the UK but with the wheels of admin working as slow as they do, the whole transition took about six months.
Jordan, out of the whole family, was less keen to 'set sail' as it were and he began his introduction to Australian life by joining college. He passed all his exams with 'flying colours and his teacher couldn't believe how academic he was.' Do I know this lad? However, 'Jordy being Jordy' was intent on earning his crust and was about to reach new heights. He accepted an apprenticeship to become a roofer. He loves it, and his maths skills have proved useful for himself and his colleagues when calculations are needed. The lad has hidden talents, obviously. Onward and upward Jordy!
Ben joined the rest of the family after finishing his studies in the UK. He is keeping his options open for the time being. He may continue studies at Canberra University but has recently been offered two jobs – one for a logistics company and the other following 'his dear old Dad' at Honda. Chloe is very happy at school in Gold Creek High. Her pals love her accent ( would that be Hope or Castell Alun?) and treat her as a princess. They have a high regard for us Brits. Asked about the weather and Mike says they have extreme weather in Canberra. It can be plus 40 degrees in the summer and drop to minus 10 degrees in winter, 'we were definitely not prepared for that'. Double glazing is rare and some evenings it can be as cold inside as outside the house. The thought of summer, though, keeps them going. They are not too far from Sydney and the Beach and they make the most of weekends. They have no plans for Christmas dinner on the beach, and Mike admits he will miss the UK Christmas season. When it comes to bowls, Mike feels he went as far as he could in the game he loved and it was time for a 'new adventure'. Of course, bowls is flat green out there and he and the boys may look at joining a club in the summer. The family do keep up with bowls news back here and they still have lots of contact with old friends from the bowling world. The whole family has joined a tennis club and they play a few times a week. Apart from tennis the family enjoy long walks on the beach and across bush country, 'but you have to watch out for kangaroos and brown snakes', not your usual thoughts when taking a walk in the country. The boys also play 5-a-side football with Mike helping out if the team is short, although he 'tries every excuse not to play if possible'.
Mike feels the standard of living is very high out there, but food and second hand cars are expensive. Property prices can be as varied as they are in the UK.
I am sure there are times when most of us dream of a new start somewhere, but few of us have the courage to go for it. The family feel they have been 'thrown together' more in this new venture. They are all passionate about family life and do most things together. They are a tremendous source of mutual support to one another, and with social media, friends and family back here don't seem that far away.
The thing that came across most strongly from the entire family is just how much they have embraced this adventure. They are committed to life in Australia until 2020 and take each day as it comes. They are determined to honour that commitment. ' You have to give this a fair crack to establish if it is for us'.
Mike Riley BCGBA Champion
The Rileys at Hall of Fame induction
Hat ( tricks ) Off To Linda.
Linda Williams at Waterloo 2016
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to profile 'Wonder Woman' Linda Williams who made it a stunning three times win at the Ladies Waterloo this year.
Linda was a tender 11 years old when she first saw the game. She remembers watching Brian Duncan, on the telly, playing at the Waterloo. She was watching the Master with her Ganddad and said she would like to have a go, so he bought her a set of bowls. Linda hails from Flint and this was to be her Club for the next 20 years. She plays three nights a week as well as weekend competitions and plays for Wales Ladies in County matches. She has also brought her talents to Hawkesbury, Sychdyn and Coed Talon in different leagues.
Linda can list the following as her successes. Flintshire Merit – twice, Welsh Ladies Meirt, British Ladies Merit 2012, Ladies Champion of Champions 2010 and the Ladies Waterloo, now as triple champion 2015, 2016 and 2017. She often recalls that moment watching the Waterloo Championship and her first introduction to the sport, telling her Granddad, ' One day I want to be there and win a trophy.' So this year, after a weeks 'holiday' in Blackpool, she came away with a cup, and I don't mean a mug with 'Blackpool' written on it either. Her 'big dream' was to win it a third time. You see, dreams can come true. Pinch yourself, Linda. She is modest enough to realise that no game is ever easy - ' with each game you learn more' and she plans to play for a few more years yet.
When asked what hobbies she has, the answer was 'Bowls, bowls and bowls.'
She works a full eight hour day as a delivery driver for CES in Chester. 'You have to keep your wits about you'. One of her pets hates is getting lost, 'Can't be helped sometimes'. She reckons she sleeps six to seven hours – twirl that hair Linda.
Linda acknowledges to support she has received from Flint's Graham Martin and, of course her Gandfather, She is deeply appreciative of the support from partner Dawn who loves to watch her play. I bet she couldn't watch the Waterloo final on Wednesday though – I went to make the tea!
Any kind of music is enjoyed by Linda and she really likes Christmas films and Christmas food – Santa came early this year. Nothing much stresses her out and she likes to relax to comedy shows, with Only Fools And Horses, Open all Hours, Keeping Up Appearances and Mrs Brown's Boys firm favourites. She enjoys a cool glass of beer. Apparently she has an extensive collection of beer glasses!
Her advice to others would be, ' If bowls is what you have chosen to do, then my advice is never give up on any game. It's never over until one of you gets to 21. Accept you can be beaten and then look forward to your next game.' These are excellent words from one of Wales' best bowlers. She is very modest and is already thinking of her next game. She has been bowling for 32 years and still loves it as much as that first time she picked up a wood.
She is very aware and somewhat dismayed at the inequalities in the sport between men and women especially when it comes to competitions and prize money. We also need more women to get involved in developing the game and she would like to see more interest generally in womens' bowls and from sponsors.
Linda Williams keeping an eye on rival Nicola Boulton
Linda and Dawn at HOF night