INTERVIEW WITH NORMA BEALES
From left Doreen Hankin, Glenda Dexter, Norma Beales and Pauline
Norma Beales may have started bowls "quite late" in life but
she's packed a lot of games and achievements in since first
stepping on to the green and more importantly, has made the most
"My grandad had played bowls and I thought it was a game for
old men," she recalled.
"I was encouraged by my Mum and Dad who had just started playing
after retiring and I remember going to support them in their first
match which I enjoyed watching.
"I was in my forties so it
was quite late in life but I thought I would like to give it a try
as it looked quite easy - I soon learnt how wrong I was!
"That didn't stop me though as I enjoyed the competitiveness of the
game and striving to improve. Before I knew it I was hooked."
Norma followed her parents and joined Burnham Bowls Club in
Buckinghamshire, where she would later play with the late, great,
"It was a thriving club and it turned out to be
the best move I made as it's where I met the legend, Mary, who
taught me so much about bowls over the years. I couldn't have had a
The pair became firm friends and soon teamed
up, reaching the English Women's National Finals in 1995 in the
Norma said: "I had never been to Leamington before so
I don't remember being nervous. That all changed in our first game
when I went walkabout and Mary found herself seven down but, as
always, she found that big bowl and drew the shot.
"Thankfully I improved after that and we went on to win the final.
My first trip to Leamington and we had won the National Pairs. What
an amazing feeling but also a bit surreal."
joined Egham Indoor Club so she could continue playing the game she
loved all year round.
Another huge highlight came in 2000 when,
alongside friends Kath Strutt and Barbara Whatford, they won the
National Triples and, in the same season won the National Fours
"I think it was the first time this double had been
done," Norma said.
"We all enjoyed playing together but Kath
was an inspiration to us all. She suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis
and was always in pain but it never stopped her playing brilliantly
After having a six-year break from outdoor bowls
Norma joined the outdoor club at Egham to play with her indoor
friends Doreen Hankin and Pauline Clark. Joined by Glenda
Dexter, the quartet qualified for Leamington in the women's fours in
"We were playing well and I remember when we won the
semi final Glenda said to Dors; 'we can relax now.'
"Quick as a
flash Dors replied; 'Oh no we can't as this is the difference
between winning £400 or £800.'"
Needless to say they went on
to win the final and the following year lifted the British Isles
Fours trophy too, guided by the then England Team Manager, Tony
Norma said: "I have been fortunate to enjoy
other successes in bowls but the ones I have mentioned were special
not only for the fun and laughter but I was able to enjoy the
success with such special friends.
"Without bowls we would
probably never have met. I feel lucky to have such incredible
friends who have stood by me in the good and the bad times, never
more so than when my husband died over five years ago.
encouraged me to get out and continue playing when it was the last
thing I felt like doing. I found that the bowls club was a place I
could go to on my own and not feel out of place. There is always a
friendly face and someone to chat to."
Norma says she still
loves playing bowls even after all these years, despite finding it
tough on her knees.
"I've become quite an expert on using
different knee braces and also knee injections!" she said.
"But you only have to look at players in the disability bowls teams
to see how, with determination, anything can be overcome. My friend
Kath was a brilliant example.
"I hope to carry on playing as
long as I can. I love playing at different clubs, meeting up with
old friends and making new friendships.
"For anyone thinking
of trying bowls I would say give it a go. It's definitely not an old
man's game and many of the best players are young. Bowls is an
enjoyable game for everyone and the social side is great for meeting
up with friends new and old. Bowls clubs are always looking for new
members and you would be made very welcome.
Go along and
have a look and give it a try. I'm sure you won't regret it."
We'd love to know what bowls means to you,
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Interview with Helen Wood