Cosmic Birthday

Today is Zoom’s birthday. She’s had a pretty challenging year, so I thought I’d dedicate today’s blog post to her.

One of the most significant historical events to take place on October 15th occurred in 1520. This was when King Henry VIII ordered 2 bowling lanes to be installed at Whitehall Palace.


Why is this such an important historical event?

Because, while bowling had been around for a really, really long time it had also been outlawed in England for quite some time. It seems all the King’s men wasted too much time bowling instead of practicing their jousting, archery and other important knightly stuff so they made the “sport” illegal. (Kind of like today’s employers putting a firewall on the company server so employees don’t waste all their time playing Facebook games).

Henry VIII, however, enjoyed games that didn’t make him move too much, and for which he could wear other people’s shoes, so one fine October 15th morning, he declared his desire for  a couple of bowling alleys in his den. And lo! They were built. And from then on bowling was wildly popular in England.


But, as I said, bowling has been around for a long time. Archeologists dug up primitive bowling balls and bowling pins in a grave of an Egyptian from 3200 BC.

There is also evidence from Germany that the sport was played in that country as early as 200 BC – except they used stones and threw them at nine wooden sticks, called kegles. Coincidentally, I believe this was also the origin of the expression, “sticks and stones may break my bones, etc., etc.” Germans have a way of taking the fun out of most things, don’t they?

Anyway, some form of bowling was played in many countries from way back. (Bocce in Italy, Petanque in France). In Scotland a player threw a ball with no holes between his legs towards the pins and after he had released the ball the player would slide towards the pins on his belly. I’m not sure why. Maybe the momentum of the throw combined with the mandatory consumption of a flagon of grain spirits before each turn?

The US started tenpin bowling because the original ninepin bowling attracted a lot of gamblers. A law was passed prohibiting people from owing ninepin bowling lanes. So, of course those clever, loophole-loving Americans just tossed another pin on the deck and kept playing.

I haven’t bowled since XUP Jr. was in elementary school. Back then there wasn’t a lot that would thrill her and her friends quite as much as an afternoon of 5-pin glow-in-the-dark Cosmic bowling. When the weather was crappy (which it almost always was in Halifax) it was cheap fun for everyone.

And it was always a great place for birthday parties!  The kids would throw some balls around and dance to the stylin’ disco rhythms of the alley’s sound system and the moms would sit, gossip and slurp bowling alley lattes.

Ah, good times.

And speaking of good times, I want to wish a whole bunch of those for Zoom for the upcoming year. And I hope we can all go Cosmic Bowling some time soon.



13 responses to “Cosmic Birthday

  1. Happy Birthday Zoom!

    If you’re looking for downtown cosmic bowling, Westpark is pretty fun (on Wellington). Good prices too.

    Hope she has a great birthday!

  2. Happy Birthday to Zoom!

    It would be interesting to speculate on a possible etymological link between ancient German bowling pins and Kegel exercises.

  3. J – Thanks, I’ll put it on the list. There seem to be a few places in Ottawa that offer Cosmic bowling. Do grown-ups do this, too?

    Alison – The Germanic word kegel was originally “chegil” with the hard glottal “ch” sound. It means pins or sticks. Kegel exercises are named after Dr. Arnold Kegel. He is also the inventor of the vaginal dumbell to be used to facilitate Kegel exercises.

  4. Thank you so much XUP for the post in honour of my birthday! I feel honoured. I’d love to go cosmic bowling with you, just as soon as I’m allowed to pick up something as heavy as a bowling ball. (I still can’t pick up my cat.) My birthday has gone swimmingly so far, starting with waking up without a migraine. Since then I’ve been to a couple of medical appointments, had breakfast, been treated to a cranberry-apple muffin, been given a glimpse of my butterscotch-banana birthday cake, and am now getting ready to go to my first hair appointment since last February. Life is good. I hope everybody else is enjoying my birthday as much as I am.

  5. Hmmm… after watching the Tudors, I’m surprised that ol’ Henry VIII had enough time to bowl – what with all that philandering and all!
    Happy B-day zoom! You and my wife share the same special day!

  6. Off topic for a BD celebration but I thought “vaginal dumbell” was just an euphemism for a man.
    All that aside happy BD Zoom and many more to come.

  7. OF COURSE! We have ten pins to get around some rule. I love to bowl, though I don’t do it very often. Thanks for letting me in on a little bit of history.

  8. Zoom – It wasn’t a bad day as far as Thursdays go.

    Dr. Monkey – Germans luff monkeys, so you’ll be fine.

    Trashee – Didn’t they ever bowl in the Tudors? So much for historical accuracy. Happy Birthday to C!

    Bandobras – No, that’s just plain “dumbbell”

    LoLa – Who knew bowling had such an illustrious history, eh?

  9. Thanks to the lovely osteoarthritis in my thumb, my bowling is limited to virtual bowling on the Wii. I still have my ancient bowling ball and shoes, though. On an unrelated note, this post reminded me of Mel Brooks saying in History of the World: Part I, “It’s good to be da king!”

  10. There are still a few traditional skittles alleys in Edinburgh where you throw yourself onto your stomach with each bowl. When you come over for your Rebus tour, I’ll take you to one (it’s in a pub called The Sheep Heid).

  11. Geewits – Damn fine movie. And too bad about your thumb. Bowling is a good laugh every once in a while.

    Loth – No way?! And here I thought Edinburgh couldn’t get any better. (Did you hear this Alison?? Skittles and beer!!)