Sporting chances

05 BOX-003

The archaeologist and me

When I was very young I was quite a round faced little fella, with no aptitude for sport whatsoever. At Maple Road Primary School, in Whyteleafe, Surrey, my abiding sporting memory is of standing alongside other unathletic specimens waiting for the football to come near us and praying, if it did, it would be one of the other misfits who would have to try and kick it away. In my memory it is always overcast, always November, always cold. Lisa Rieter’s latest flash challenge prompts these less than satisfactory thoughts (http://sharingthestoryblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/bite-size-memoir-no-4-sports-day/). Sport’s Day. They mingle with memories of equally cold and unsatisfactory afternoons spent watching my father play rugby. Is there anything less appealing than watching rank amateurs try and play sport? Especially when you are seven, don’t have the first clue what is going on, are frozen and wet and are fully aware that you are missing a first-rate cowboy film on the newly acquired TV.

fred titmus

fred titmus: thanks ESPN

Colin Milburn

Big Colin Milburn: thanks ESPN

What changed? No one thing but a confluence of events. I was told I ‘needed a hobby’ which was the answer to the ‘I’m bored’ moan back then. The Archaeologist, being something of a polymath, had so many it verged on the greedy. Dad tried to help by buying me  butterfly net (such things were allowed back then) but even that was half-inched by you-know-who. That was the summer of 1967. That winter an England cricketer (Fred Titmus) lost his toes in a boating accident in the West Indies (he was one of Mums favourites – she was the cricket fan in the family) and I remember her dismay. The following summer had me moving to my senior school; a great time for reinvention. I listened to the Cricket with Mother and fell for a fat scruffy chap called Milburn who couldn’t run but hit the ball a mile. Suddenly I wanted to be that man. I had a hobby, a passion and a ridiculous love of sport. I haven’t thought about it for ages but I know I was deeply p****d off at the time when the hobby that had been bequeathed to me – bug hunting – was taken away. In retrospect it did me a major favour – it pushed me in quite another direction and for that I’m grateful. Thank you, Lisa, for triggering such belatedly fond memories. This is my story… At seven I hated school sport – too fat, too slow. Mum knew better. Cricket was her love which she shared. I practised alone, catching at first, for hour after hour; then it was an old chair leg as a bat. I dreamt and sweated. At eleven, at my new senior school, my size got me an audition – prop in their rugby team – I couldn’t run, catching was still rudimentary but I was world-class at leaning. I changed school again, at twelve, when Dad’s job had us move. ‘Do you play cricket?’ ‘Yes sir.’ They picked me for the first game and I went mad, scoring 47 runs. Oh frabjous day! Move the clock on, to 18, and I’m captain of cricket and vice-captain at rugby. I have a self-confidence that comes with belonging. I kept playing both sports until my ankles told me ‘enough’ as I approached 40. The secret of my success? Practice, never give up, embrace reinvention and lie convincingly. Perhaps that’s why I became a lawyer?

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in cricket, flash fiction, miscellany, sport and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Sporting chances

  1. Great recollections. It is interesting how we fall into the directions in life we go. I particularly like your last line. LOL

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  2. Lisa Reiter says:

    Always better achieving something you had once not even entertained! A great lesson in the value of tenacity and perseverance. Hats off to Mum as well.

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    • TanGental says:

      Where would we be without mothers? Well, apart from the obvious that we wouldn’t be here at all. If dad was the heart of my family, mum was the brains. Had she not had to leave school at 12 I often wonder where she might have ended up.

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  3. Pingback: Sports Report! | Lisa Reiter - Sharing the Story

  4. Charli Mills says:

    Great memories and reflections! You can add to the last line, “writer.” 🙂 I don’t know much about cricket, but I had to make my husband stop playing rugby once our three kids were old enough to repeat the rugby songs–are those raucous songs prevalent across the pond or is that our embarrassing American addition to the sport?

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    • TanGental says:

      Oh dear yes. Dad had to give up with nursery rhymes for my brother and me, according to Mum, because he only knew them as corrupted by the rugby club. He made up witty and foul limericks just to recite at the rugby. Of course when I played it was very different…

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