Monday, 14 November 2011

The World of Sport

Before time turned her bones to brittle twigs that sometimes snapped in the slightest of breezes, my mother was a sportswoman. In a way, in the safe-padding of her armchair, she still is.

Her involvement, engagement, in televised rugby transcends mere spectatorship. She is there, on the sideline, roaring England on.  

‘Go on, Son, run…’
My grandad was a football man. After the war, he played for Dorchester Town. They had a black and white striped kit like Newcastle United. Grandad was the keeper. He had a crooked little finger sustained after trying to stop the pig-bladder ball.

After a match, Granny and Grandad would cycle home sharing the load between them: it was her job to wash the kits.

Black and white stripes
hang from the line
smell of soap powder
in the clean air

Mangling and scrubbing was the full extent of Granny’s contribution to the world of sport. She worked as a cook in Dorchester prison. Her cooking was so bad it was part of the punishment. She was there in the days of hanging.

So Mum must have got it from Grandad – the sporting prowess I mean. She probably inherited his passion for televised sport, too. Once, when watching the 1978 FA Cup Final, Grandad pounced from his armchair to fall onto his knees, then all fours as underdogs Ipswich scored against Arsenal. When he got up everyone laughed and Granny called him ‘a bloody fool.’

Mum’s sport was hockey. It was a primitive game in those far off times. They played with a cannon ball and shin pads and gum shields hadn’t been invented. Goalkeepers didn’t wear crash helmets. They played in pleat skirts in sub zero temperatures. Their legs would turn pink with cold and get splattered with mud. At half-time someone would bring on a plate of oranges cut into smiling segments.

In the evenings she’d play badminton. But this was too tame so it came as something of a relief when it turned to 1980 and squash became the latest thing. Every summer, Borg won Wimbledon. Then that nasty terrier McEnroe stole his crown. Snooker was sponsored by Embassy and the players, waist-coated like penguins, chain-smoked into the small hours. Granny would watch in bed on a portable TV. In black and white because she said it was relaxing.  

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