I have to say straight off that I’m suspicious of my sister’s motives. A large part of me thinks that she is merely trying to rub salt in my wounds in the way only a sibling can. You see she was an accomplished athlete and, when we shared a room growing up, I had to suffer the indignity of being mocked from her side of the room by trophies for; netball, hockey, rounders, the list went on and on. Whilst I, on the other hand, had to make do with my Starsky and Hutch posters.
I never participated in any team sports and never won any trophies but I would be lying if I claimed not to have gained any awards whatsoever. My first came in primary school, probably aged about seven, when I was given an award in gymnastics. I think they were called BAGA awards and, before you get too excited, let me explain that all you had to do was a forward roll and maybe a cartwheel. I also have a vague recollection of a handstand but that could just have been high jinx. Anyway, I suspect the teacher gave everybody a certificate basically for throwing their bodies about on one of those smelly green mats.
I think that was probably the pinnacle of my gymnastics success but my sporting achievements did not end there. During my second year of secondary school, when I would have been about twelve, the girls in my form were sent into raptures with the arrival of a student teacher, who took on the role of our from tutor for a term. He was called Mr Lavarack and, we convinced ourselves that he looked like David Essex, although looking back I’m not so sure but you know how these things work. Mr Lavarack, it turned out was a skilled fencer and set up a fencing club which, predictably, we all flocked to join.
Under Mr Lavarack’s tutelage, how we flourished, and he would drive us to other schools in the minibus to take on other junior fencers in interschool competitions. I was so committed and proficient with my foil (see I even know the correct terminology), I managed to achieve a bronze award which meant I got a badge and a certificate. Sadly, my fencing career was cut short and I never progressed to silver because Mr Lavarack had to move on to his next placement. There were no other teachers qualified to do fencing so, that was that, the equipment was stuffed in the PE cupboard and the dream was over.
My only other success came in swimming. I actually used to like swimming before vanity kicked in and with it the reluctance to get my hair wet. My mum took my brother, sister and me to private lessons and so by the time I started school I could already swim. This gave me a bit of an unfair advantage and I suspect made me seem better than I really was. While the others were still learning to swim, I was accruing certificated for 25 yards, 100 yards, half a mile and so on.
It all came to a shuddering end, however, early in secondary school what with the hair issue and feeling self conscious in a swimming costume. I did go out in a bit of a blaze of glory though when I achieved my bronze award in life saving. It’s all a bit of a blur now but I think there was several lengths of swimming involved, possibly in pyjamas but I could just be making that bit up. I also had to retrieve a plastic brick from the bottom of the pool which was more than likely down to luck rather than skill given that I have no sense of direction at all. My real tour de force though came when I had to tow a boy called Mark Cawthorne by the chin for what in my mind were several lengths of the pool but more realistically was probably just the one. No matter, I fulfilled all the requirements and got a medal and a certificate.
That’s it I’m afraid, I really can’t dress it up any more than that. I basically have a few certificates for rolling around on a mat and swimming, a badge and a medal that says if I see someone drowning I’m qualified to save them. The only problem is my eyesight is so bad these days, I probably wouldn’t see them, and then there’s the hair thing. Thinking about it I’m wondering if in all good faith I should probably send that medal back. That would bring me down to a handful of certificates and a badge.