Here is a need to explain what a bowling club actually is. In New Zealand it is an institution. It is an old Anglo game that is not to be mistaken for 10-pin bowling, which is what people play in bowling alleys in Sweden, Europe and the US. There is however one similarity, you roll a black bowl. The Anglo version is played outside and on grass, which is probably why it is so popular "down under" in the nice sunshine. There are no pins to strike down. Instead you are to get as close as possible to a small ball. In a way it is a little similar to French Boule. Another odd thing is that the bowl you roll is not round it is a little flattened and will actually fall over when it loses speed.
Bowling is immensely popular among senior citizens and while playing you should be dressed in all white, this is after all an old Anglo colonial game. There is also another reason to frequent a bowling club and this is why my friend Henrik went there. They are licensed to serve alcohol and they do it cheaply. Henrik told me after he had moved back to Sweden that if you pass Kawakawa to please call in to the club and say hello to his old drinking buddy Stan, the green keeper, who Henrik assured me would be there.
In 1997 me and Veronica pulled up outside the club house and went inside. There was some people at the bar and some people hanging around in a seating area. No one was out playing and everyone fell silent and looked at us as we came in. We were 20 years younger than the youngest regular and a young woman like Veronica was not someone who regularly came round. I broke the silence by asking for Stan Olsen. It went possibly even quieter. Then a guy stood up and said. "are you relatives of Stan?" I explained that we were friends of the "Swede" and since we happened to be in the neighbourhood, we just wanted to pass on the "Swede's" regards to Mr Olsen.
They all remembered the "Swede" from a few years ago and sadly informed me that Stan Olsen was no longer around, since he had died a few months ago. One of the more talkative regulars stood up and explained a little more in detail what had happened. He pointed at a seat and said "Stan was sittin’ right here, as always in his usual spot. Nothing seemed wrong with him at all. He was just drinking his beer. He stood up to do something, when he just fell to the ground. We all rushed there but there was nothin’ we could do. We tried to get him going, but dead he was old Stan".
Unable to pass Henrik's regards on to Stan we stayed and had a drink with the regulars. We toasted to the "Swede" and to the memory of the great green keeper at Kawakawa bowling club, Stan Olsen. I never met him but he was sadly missed by all his friends, most of them are probably at the club today.