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When our son decided it was time to take the plunge and leave home, it left a big space to fill in more ways than one. When our daughter left, it was agreed that we would turn her bedroom into a laundry room, so I figured I was in a strong bargaining position this time around. Resisting attempts from my wife to steer me towards an office, I decided I would rather like a games room, with a snooker table the first addition.
Mistake No 1
Before starting shopping, I thought I had taken everything into consideration, although my wife did express concern when she saw me disappearing into the room with a tape measure. After all, this was the tape measure that had encouraged me to order twelve feet square of carpet rather than ten a few years ago.
My reasoning this time was that if a six foot by three single bed had fitted in there with plenty to spare, so would a snooker table of similar dimensions. On the strength of this irrefutable logic, I decided to order the BCE Six Foot Foldaway Snooker Table for half the price it should have been at £150.
If only I had stumbled sooner across a very useful website, advising that a six foot snooker table requires a room fourteen feet by eleven for cueing. A player of some thirty years experience should really have thought of that himself though.
This was to make certain shots impossible without some creative thinking. The cues supplied are two piece ones, so I unscrewed one and added an old extension butt to the top piece. Shorter cues can also be bought for people with the same space issues, although some shots can still be impossible.
Mistake No 2
One thing I still strenuously deny is that my expectations of the product were too high and how dare the sales manager even suggest it.
I knew a little bit about how various snooker tables were made and had appreciated in advance what the shortcomings of an affordable table would be.
For instance, I knew that for the money I would not get very responsive cushions as the rubber is fixed to wooden blocks rather than steel. Neither would the pace of the table be realistic, as the bed would be made of MDF rather than slate. What I think I was entitled to expect is that the playing area would be flat.
As the table doesn't have adjustable feet, I spent hours putting slithers of cardboard under the legs in a vain attempt to level it. In the end, I borrowed my father-in-law's spirit level to see where I was going wrong. It was then that I made a startling discovery. The spirit level actually lost contact with the table around the pink spot. From there to the top cushion, was a slope that Franz Klammer would have relished!
Good at stumbling across useful websites after the event, I discovered another one that explains the tendency for a MDF bed to warp, although it did say this would be in time.
Mistake No 3
So it was that I had the aforementioned conversation with the sales manager. He eventually agreed to replace the table, which presented a challenge in itself, as the packaging was by now probably sitting on a supermarket shelf as a row of corn flake packets.
He made the absurd suggestion that we unpack the new table and slip the old one into this packaging while the delivery driver was there. As it had taken us an hour or two to wrestle the very bulky, heavy items out of the packaging in the first place, this was a non starter. Eventually common sense prevailed and he agreed to book a separate collection for the following day.
This ought to be the stage where I say that all was well that ended well, and in celebration I triumphantly knocked in a 147 clearance at my first visit to the new table. Alas, the replacement table was also warped, albeit not quite as severely.
This time the bow in the table was just from the black spot and I maybe foolishly decided to make the best of it. I now argue, with tongue in cheek, that it actually makes the game a greater test of skill, having to allow for the curve of the ball towards the top corner pockets.
However, I no longer attempt to play a full game of either snooker or pool, as the balls tend to annoyingly accumulate on the top cushion. Instead, I set myself potting challenges, such as clearing the colours off their spots.
On the face of it, the table looks the part, looking very sturdy and well made. Although coming as a flat pack requiring assembly, the process of screwing its four legs and supports to the body of the table was a relatively easy task using the allen key and its bolts. Something that was managed in double quick time, the second time around.
The table has folding legs with castors, so that it can be wheeled away and leant up against a wall. However, I leave it permanently set up, not least because of the amount of cardboard under its feet.
All the accessories you would expect are bundled and are of good quality, including two 48" cues, a set of snooker balls and six additional yellows for English pool. There are also two triangles for 10 and 15 ball set up, two pieces of chalk and a rail brush. A bag fastened at one end of the table can store the accessories and slots underneath house the cues.
BCE make tournament tables and I wouldn't have expected them to put their good name to a table prone to such defects. As it usually retails around the £300 mark, it is certainly not intended to be a toy.
Like a tennis court without lines or a putting green without a hole, a snooker table that isn't flat isn't really fit for purpose. Furthermore, the motto of the company I bought the table from is 'Real Sports for Real Players', which suggested to me that they sold serious, quality sports equipment.
In reality, I could have spent much less and bought a kids knockabout from the supermarket with the same results.