Broom and rockNew broom sweeps screen

March 2001

(A tongue-in-cheek guide on how to prepare for Paul Gross's new film)

Ice work if you can get it

With the filming of Men With Brooms due to commence in April 2001, and in response to Paul's recent request for film extras, the PG-L will now attempt to unravel the mysteries of the skilful, strategic, much-maligned and gripping sport of . . . curling!

Oh, who are we kidding? It is housework, isn't it? Although, Constable Turnbull once said, "Curling is a calling". So, pay attention all you potential extras out there and we'll make champion curlers out of you yet. For you never know if - or when - you may be called onto the ice.

We'll begin with a description of the game and then we'll take a look at some of the rules. And contrary to popular belief, yes, there are rules and no, these are not made up as you go along. However, they appear to vary slightly between different countries and various curling associations, so if you do happen to break any of them, a simple "I'm not from around these parts" should keep you out of trouble.

What is Curling?

Curling is a sport played on an indoor ice surface. This surface is about 138 ft long and 14 ft wide (for those of you who work in metric this is, um, big) and it is known as a sheet. At each end of the sheet there is a circular target area. This is 12 ft in diameter and is called the house. This means there are Two Houses and I'm sure we can all remember that. The centre of the house is known as the button. The button is bisected by the centre line and tee line, also knowns as the tee. British extras may congregate here round about 3 pm on filming days.

The sheet

A curling team comprises four players, led by the skip, and their job is to slide (well you try throwing one!) 42 lb curling stones (also known as rocks) from one end of the sheet to the other, attempting to get said stones (or rocks) as close as possible to the button. And that's it. Well, almost . . .

Cutting a fishing hole in the iceThere is a little strategy involved. Don't let this put you off, we'll talk you through it gently. Your team has to position its stones so that your opponents' attempts at removing them from the house are thwarted. At the same time - and this is where you need your multi-tasking skills - you have to try to keep your stones as close as possible to the tee in order to score points. And to make things really interesting, curling stones, just like supermarket trolleys, do not travel in straight lines. As the stones move across the ice, they curl - ie, they move in an arc. You must be able to read the ice in order to determine where the stones will end up as they slide along. To assist the stone on its way, team members are permitted to sweep the ice surface. Sweeping occurs for two reasons: to extend the stone's momentum and to straighten, or reduce, the amount of curl.

Each player puts up two stones, alternating shots with the opposing team. When every player from each team has had their turn, the end (don't get your hopes up yet!) is completed and the team whose stones are closest to the button scores a point for each stone. Then the whole process is repeated. And repeated again. And again. When eight or ten ends have been played, then the game is over. After which the team with the most points wins and to prolong the excitement they no doubt celebrate by going down the library.

Rules of the game

Well, there are two sets of rules: The Official Rules - like "Don't throw stones" and the 'Spirit of Curling' Rules - like "Please don't throw stones"! And as it would appear that it is considered a far worse offence to break the Spirit of Curling rules, we'll look at some of those first.

Spirit of Curling Rules (almost)

In order to comply with these rules, please remember to do the following:

    A 42 lb rock If you lose the game, grin and, through gritted teeth if necessary, congratulate your opponents.

    A 42 lb rock If you win, thank the losers for the game. Probably best to avoid pointing and chanting "Lo-sers, Lo-sers". It's just not the done thing.

    A 42 lb rock Never shout "Look turtles!" to an opponent. Deliberate distraction is severely frowned upon.

    A 42 lb rock A true curler would prefer to lose rather than to win unfairly. You are not a true curler, you are an extra. Do whatever's necessary to beat the cr*p out of the opposition. Moving swiftly on.

    A 42 lb rock Do not deliberately break any rules or traditions of the game. If you do so accidentally, then own up. If you can't bring yourself to do this, try to look innocent and say, "I didn't do it".

    A 42 lb rock Play nice.

Still with us? Good, but you may not be if we post the official rules. These can be found by following the links from this page of the International Curling Information Network Group's (ICING) website. You may wish to familiarise yourself with the rules before filming begins. They're very useful. Especially if you've been having trouble sleeping!

So now you have a rough idea of what it's all about. But as there's so little time left to prepare, we think we should now help you to brush up on some curling terms.

Curlingisms - a simple guide to a few very basic curling terms

Try to remember as many of these as you can and drop them into 'sheet side' conversation:

Bonspiel - a curling tournament.

Broom - the instrument used to sweep the ice. Remember, curlers use either horsehair, hoghair or synthetic nylon brushes, depending on personal preference and ice conditions. But then you probably knew that anyway.

Cashspiel - a bonspiel offering cash prizes.

Draw - a stone that stops in front of or in the house.

Glockenspiel - a percussion instrument played at curling tournaments.

Guarding - placing a stone in front of another stone in order to prevent a takeout. You can also guard an empty house with the intention of drawing in behind it later.

Hack - a rubber block from which curlers deliver the stone. Also, a dry, spasmodic cough no doubt caused by spending so much time freezing to death on the ice.

Hammer - the last stone of each end.

Heavy ice - when the ice is 'slow' and the stones have to be 'thrown' harder.

Hog lines - located 21ft from each button. When delivering a stone, you must release it by the hog line.

House - we explained that a while back. If you don't know what this is, it's because you weren't paying attention. Go back and revise.

Hurry - shouted by the skip or shooter to tell the sweepers to sweep. Don't get excited, the game is not about to speed up. Much.

Keen ice - when the ice is 'fast' and you don't need to 'throw' the stone so hard. Also called 'quick ice'.

Straight ice - where the ice conditions don't allow the stones to curl that much.

Swingy ice - where the ice conditions cause the stones to curl a lot.

Takeout - a shot which removes another stone from play. Also, sustenance in paper bags brought to the rink from Tim Hortons.

"I just made a curling reference. I'm gonna go lie down" - Ray Kowalski, due South (Asylum)

Body language - a word about style

Try to think of a bowling motion when you're delivering your stone (that's ten pin bowling, not over-arm as in cricket). When you take hold of the stone, pull it backwards and frequently lift it off the ice in the backswing. Then, swing it forward into a smooth glide down the ice. For the best delivery, glide along as far as possible with your stone. Good curlers glide close to the ice. Mental note: release the stone. It is very important to let go! And you must release it by the hog line. Then, if all goes to plan, you should slow down and your stone should glide on into play on the opposite side, beyond the other hog line. Of course, the PG-L cannot guarantee that this will happen. And we must stress at this point that we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for any of our readers who have to be scraped off the walls.

Does my broom look big in this? - sartorial elegance on the ice

It's said by those in the acting profession that when you step in front of a camera, you gain at least 7lbs in weight. Tempting as it may be to don the little black dress and stilettos, ladies, please be advised that it really isn't suitable attire for this sport. And should any of our male readers be having similar thoughts . . . well, we don't think the world of curling is quite ready for that yet!

42 lb of solid goldWhat you really need is the loose-fitting layered look. Special curling shoes are available and when delivering the stone, a slider is worn on the sliding foot to facilitate a long, smooth-sliding follow-through. Then there are all the little extras, like hats and mitts and even curling jewellery! After all, granite is a girl's best friend

But our research has taught us that what really matters is your socks - frequently exposed if you're adopting the correct curling stance. Apparently, in a sport where most athletes wear black shoes and black pants*, black socks are by far the most elegant complement. White are definitely a big no-no. Wear white socks and you may find yourself being escorted from the ice by the curling fashion police. Wear one white sock and one black sock - yes, it really has been done - and you're likely to induce cataplexy in your audience. Please run through the Black Sock Rule in your mind and ask yourself if you're sock-friendly before taking to the ice.

* British readers please note that this is US/Canadian vernacular for trousers. The PG-L has not carried out any research into curlers' undergarments. Yet.

Break a leg - some of you might . . .

So now that you're equipped with plenty of information about the look and lingo of curling, all that remains is for you to turn up for filming. Good luck to all our extras on set!

Bon bonspiel!

This page was written and researched by Angela Pressland. Angela is from Kent in England where there are no curling rinks*. However, there have been some hard frosts there lately, she does have a good yard broom and, by happy coincidence, her youngest child weighs 42 lb.

* Since writing this page in 2002, Angela has discovered that it is, indeed, possible to curl in Kent, and has been since 2004! Details are on the BBC Kent website. No excuse now for anyone to be "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" - get along there and grab yourself a broom!