I saw this today, a quote from John Waters the wacky film director
“The only insult I’ve ever received in my adult life was when someone asked me, “Do you have a hobby?” A HOBBY?! DO I LOOK LIKE A FUCKING DABBLER?!”
As a child I was desperate to have a hobby. It seemed to define everything you needed, to be thought clever or at least worthy of inclusion in my family. My parents had hobbies, my brother had more hobbies than molecules but me… nope, none. I think my parents saw a hobby as a way to get me to stop asking them, as children do, to join in some make believe game. My brother was self contained and I was needy; he had hobbies and I didn’t. Quod erat demonstrandum.
But the Archaeologist, bless him, had no time for sport. Hated it. Despised it. When he won a full scholarship to public school (I didn’t; let’s not go there) he had to have all sorts of sports kit. 8 years later when he left for uni I’m pretty sure my mother took it all back still in its original wrapping.
Since I discovered sport I’ve loved ever stupid, pointless, exhilarating, heart stopping, muscle tearing moment. It hasn’t exactly defined me but ask me about a year and I’ll tell you how England got on at cricket first and then move onto, say, my wedding or the birth of a child.
I was reminded of this at the weekend as I visited Wells. a picturesque cathedral city in the West Country with the Vet as part of some Mother’s Day shenanigans for the Textiliste. While the two ladies were arguing about cardigans I say this long bronze metal strip on the pavement and approached to see what it was.
Mary Rand. She’s it. My earliest sporting memory alongside Ann Packer and Lynn Davies. But it is the long jump in a world record by Mary Rand that sticks out.
I was 7 at the time of the Tokyo Olympics and had no clue what they were but I caught something of the fever that surrounds British successes. Dad shhed when the radio news came on, waiting on a sports bulletin. He smiled broadly for something that made little sense to me then. There was a grainy black and white photo of Mary in the paper, hair flying, leading with her small black shoes. Was she friendly or austere; funny or serious; chatty or monosyllabic? No idea she was just a hero who inspired me. More than the World Cup winners 2 years later, more than the cricketers from 1968 onwards when I found the sport of gods.
And today it was brought home to me again.
I played a tiny part in a local preservation project that came to fruition after 7 long tiring years for the committed team behind it.
The Herne Hill Velodrome hides behind residential houses a mile away from my home.
It first hosted track cycling in 1891 and was the site of the first event at the 1948 London Olympics. Bradley Wiggins, our most decorated Olympian started his track cycling career here and countless others learn about the joys of the bike here today.
In the late 80s and early 90s it nearly closed and it was only the proximity of the 2012 Games in London that stimulated the renaissance.
Starting with raising funds to relay the then condemned track the Friends went on to install floodlights, build a training track for small children and today open a magnificent new pavilion and changing rooms.
They even managed to include some of the original pavilion’s features.
60,000 people use the facilities now, including disabled riders and those with special needs. Many schools use it. Because the banking is not the vertiginous 45 degrees of an Olympic velodrome but a more manageable 30; because it is outside and made of tarmac not wood; because it encourages participation for 2 to 92 – truly it is open to all.
Me? I did some of the initial legal grunt until I put down my quill and handed on the baton but it was others today getting the plaudits rightly. And others, young and old, being inspired to a love of sport. There’s a lot to recommend it.