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In Good Company: All This Sport

Enid Blackburn tries to think positively on the bowling green.

All this sport on television – the victorious, the cups and the trophies are a persistent reminder to me of all the records that I must have broken over the years with my sporting efforts. I feel sure there must be other dedicated failures like myself who may be harbouring unrecognised talents.

Take tennis for example. I have been a dedicated tennis player ever since I missed our school coaching by dragging my appendicitis on for almost a term. Every summer I can be seen or heard smashing a tennis ball passionately against our coal cellar door, unless the dog is quicker than me and runs off with it and (Barbara Woodhouse forgive me) fails to bring it back. He gets ‘sit’ confused with ‘git’! Nevertheless I recently hit the ball sixteen times without missing – is this a record?

On holiday my super tennis-playing spouse took me on court for an hour. During which I galloped, ran, swooped, dived, strained one arm six inches longer than the other, ground my racket frame to a splinter, spent so much time retrieving balls from the adjoining playground, that my see-sawing daughter asked me why I wasn’t playing tennis. Despite all this energetic exercise I never won a point - a record surely?

My dancing days were plagued annually by the dreaded tap and ballet competitions. On stage a pianist would pound out my intro while I stood petrified in the wings awaiting the cue to come tapping forth. Once in front of the adjudicator sat in judgement at her raised table, my mind and feet lost contact. My feet would automatically tap out something, but for the first sixteen bars I was lost.

The sight of teacher’s fist waving frantically from off-stage usually kept me going as long as the music. The only award I received for this torture was a card with the message, ‘A pleasing sense of eye-line.’

For the past seven years I have been trying to win some recognition for my bowling efforts. My hands are nearer the ground than most, what with pushing five prams around over the years but my muscles are reasonably developed.

My teenagers’ have been a considerable help to my game this season. Every time we have a row, I reach for my bowling bag, I’ve had my hair cut short, and become adept at chewing gum. I have made a profound personality study of all the Wimbledon personnel this week, trying to pick up useful hints.

I made a note of tennis player Bjorn Borg's philosophy. ‘Every match I believe I shall win. A man who comes to the court thinking he cannot win, has lost already.’

Last week I stepped on to a bowling green with these words burned in my mind. Half an hour later I stepped off having scored five points to my opponent’s twenty-one. Now, I have developed my own homily: ‘A bowler who comes to a match thinking he cannot lose – is in for a trouncing.’

We also have post-mortems after the event. ‘What happened Mrs B?’ ‘Well her woods were a lot weaker than mine, she’s also a left-hander as well you know, and of course she had all the luck.’

My husband naturally sums it up much more succinctly. ‘She was outbowled, love.’

Last week as woods bumbled over hailstones, I watched the permanently pleated faces, as bowlers wandered across the green dressed like deep-sea divers. ‘We’re all here to enjoy ourselves,’ said my companion. But my game has improved. When I lose I can now smile cheerfully at my partner and repeat ‘Good game’ as if I meant it!


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