LL …. on Sport (or not sitting around)

So, this next instalment of my online musings was going to be all about the lovely, exciting world of work….BUT, as it’s a Saturday, and for reasons to become clear in my work blog (if I get around to it), I am not quite in the right frame of mind to wax lyrical about that particular 4 letter word today.

Instead I find myself drawn to a subject more closely associated with a typical Saturday – Sport!

So when I say ‘sport’, I refer more loosely to the concept of mild activity – some call it exercise, some prefer just ‘moving off the sofa’, and others get all keen and start doing crazy things like joining clubs and paying fees for something I prefer to do for free, or as close to free as possible.

At school I was one of those slightly invisible sort of kids. Kind of floating around being ok at most sports, but not really good enough to join a team or do anything more formally like an actual competition. Equally not so horrendously lacking in talent that I was the last to be picked for a team (which I always felt terrible about when it happened, to others). I was always somewhere around the unseen, unremarkable middle.

The only thing I was ever half decent at was swimming. I remember my dad teaching me to swim, around the age of 3, somewhat army-style (well, he was a former paratrooper!), in the clinical surroundings of the Hertfordshire Police HQ pool (he was also a Police officer, we didn’t just break in..) This was always after hours with only the brightly coloured canoes hanging on the wall for company, and the faintly medical/ professional kitchen feel of the stainless steel changing rooms – proper 1970s functionally hygienic style.

I moved on to more 1970s brutal boot-camp style swimming lessons in the local outdoor pool, a 50m lido-style concrete bottomed behemoth, fringed with palm trees to make it feel like you were on a Costa del Somewhere, even in mid-winter. Speaking of mid-winter – my other fond memory is of begging to be allowed to get out of the pool, lips blue and shivering – eventually to be wrapped in a towel and fed hot cocoa from a flask by my mum. Cross and shivering barely covered how I felt about that.

I was also the only girl in the school capable of lifting the shot put, and most definitely the only one capable of throwing it any decent distance. My guns are still with me, in my 40s. I hope they stay for when I’m a frail little old lady – they will serve me well I’m sure.

Swimming is still a real passion of mine. Last year I completed a ‘Swim the Channel’ challenge (in the pool, not the actual channel, I’m not that daft, plus I hate jellyfish). This was for a cause very close to my heart, and I think that’s what drove me to finish it in the allotted time. That and a stubborn streak which I think served me quite well through those dark, pre-work March morning sessions.

The only bad thing about swimming as far as I can tell is the bad hair and dry skin. But even that is preferable to ‘runner’s face’, so for now I think I’ll cut my losses on that one.

My other great passion is walking, but only with the dogs. And preferably alone so I can think. Swimming and dog walking in the open air both give me space and time to let my otherwise sociable, people-oriented self the time to simmer down a bit and relax. Swimming outdoors (in a heated pool, preferably) is also so much nicer for some reason than being in an indoor pool with all the echoey noises and germs. Oh the germs.

I read a brilliant book recently which my eldest gave me for my recent birthday. She could not have picked a better choice for me – I read this book cover to cover (what a silly thing to say, what else would you do with a book?), within about 3 days. It’s called Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel, and it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s about womens’ relationships with the world of sport and wider sporting circles such as journalism, spectating etc. You should really try it, especially if you have vaguely feminist tendencies.

This book really made me think a lot about why ‘sport’ in its formal / team / organised fashion isn’t really for me, but that in itself matters not a jot, as I can still fulfil my love of swimming and walking as an individual person in my own time and under my own steam.

In fact I think sometimes the word ‘sport’ itself can be a bit off-putting to a lot of people as it can make us feel like we should be vaguely good at it or else not bother at all. Kind of all or nothing. Reference to the school days once again, and the notion of either being a ‘sporty person’ or a ‘swot’, never really both.

Overall I’d still rather do stuff than watch stuff, except for Wimbledon fortnight, and the Olympics, which seem to come around at an alarming rate (I swear more often than every 4 years…). Never been a fan of football, and have managed to date or marry only football-hating men, so that’s a bonus too. Don’t get the tribal thing but then I’m not really a team player when it comes to moving the old bones.

Until next time, a weekday no doubt, for my thoughts on that unavoidable 4 letter word….WORK











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