I would like to thank the Royal Horticultural Society for their kind assistance in researching this article. This will particularly please my mother who feels that I do not show enough enthusiasm in the garden; which reflects badly on her. I certainly bow to her superiority, as she recently won a third prize at the Upper Beeding Spring Show with nine different flower blooms. She is currently wondering where to invest her winnings; the entry fee was 25p and she won 30p! If you do not know Upper Beeding very well; it is a large city near Brighton. If you have heard of my home ‘city’, you may have just spotted an example of literary exaggeration! Inspired by the matriarch, in the past I have entered the Shrewsbury Flower Show in the single rose bloom category; this gained me entrance to the show as an exhibitor and was considerably cheaper than paying for a two-day pass. That loop-hole appears to have been shut now!
“Squash come in all kinds of shapes and sizes,” according to the RHS “from massive pumpkins to tiny patty pan squashes. There are winter squashes (such as pumpkins and butternut squash) and summer squashes (such as yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck, and scallop, which are harvested when immature). They are all relatively easy to grow from seed.”
It is clear from this picture that squash players at Shrewsbury do indeed come in all shapes and sizes. They also cover a vast range of abilities, from the casual social player to those who are willing to push themselves to the limit to win a point. Generally our squash players are of the winter variety, as I have heard that squash in the summer can lead to heat exhaustion; although I am quietly wondering if this applies to Shropshire even in these days of climate change. Therefore you may find it hard to spot a yellow crooknecked player, or indeed a scallop!
The man responsible for nurturing Shrewsbury squash is Myles Harding. In an in-depth and very honest interview I learnt a lot about the man who puts the ‘squish’ into Shrewsbury Squash! A man of faith, it is not surprising to learn that at an early age young Harding was dominant at St Faith’s Prep School, winning the tennis tournament and reaching the final of the squash championship. (Myles is still bitter about losing, as he usually beat his opponent – who I will not name for fear of raking up past angst.) Then the competitive young man went on to a minor public school you may not have heard of called Felsted, where he made quite a name for himself with his racquets. From there it was on to Nottingham University and various other clubs.
It was clear from talking to his current squad of players that Mr Harding does not like to lose. I asked the senior squad what they had learned from playing the ‘Harding way’. They would rather not be named, so we will use their ‘secret codes’. ‘Yellow straightneck’ told me that Mr Harding tells them, “Never lose”; and ‘Butternut’ said he has been inspired by comments such as, “We win and that’s the main thing”. ‘Pumpkin’ told me that he loved hearing Mr Harding relating stories of his triumphant past and that he had developed a winning philosophy as a result, even if he did not always win the actual match!
The rising star of Shrewsbury squash is Alex Webb (R IV). Alex is not pictured here as he had been given a day off for good behaviour! He is somewhat feared by Mr Harding as a pupil who could perhaps one day challenge the master! He has already beaten him at tennis – a feat that has only been achieved by one previous Shrewsbury pupil (see Myles’ article admitting this fact, published on the website a few weeks ago – Squash news: Rising star Alex Webb)
When I visited the courts, the senior squad were being put through their paces by their coach Mr Rutter, who was Captain of Shropshire Squash and stills plays at a very high level. There was a great spirit among the players and they are rightly proud of the fact that they are unbeaten this year (not counting adult opponents). Indeed even here there are stories of chivalrous defeat when victory could have been theirs. Tiger Vechamamontien told me that he had recently lost a match to the headmaster 3-2. He went on to say that he felt he had to be diplomatic in the last game as he valued his school future!
The top five players at the moment are Alex Webb, Anton Nelson, George Bates, Tom Edwards, Ed Graves and Tiger. They are all in business in the under-19 and under-17 County Championships this week, so good luck to all the squashes! Make sure you squish your opponents!
(P.S. For more on ‘squish’, do YouTube the Two Ronnies - Squash Match!)