I’M not a sporty person. The only real exercise with which I’ve flirted in the last seven years involved two C-section births and lots of hobbling about. I am living proof of mind over muscle.
It wouldn’t surprise you, then, to know that I wasn’t in the mood for a post-dawn hockey match between school children – one of them my daughter, who has inherited my taste for chocolate, thick books and goose-feather duvets.
The thing about sport is that if you’re rubbish at it, you can’t hide the fact behind concealer or dark glasses. It lays you bare – jelly thighs, butter fingers and whacky co-ordination. It also won’t let you take home a trophy just for being there.
No, you’ve got to get the ball into the hole, net or whatever other orifices the sports’ gods dreamed up in ancient Greece.
In short, no talent, no free lunch.
When I was six, we had one of those fundraising sponsored runs, which effectively meant exhausting the daylights out of yourself by running around the school 20 times.
I don’t walk, I glide. I’m also short, so kilometres take far longer for me than they do for you. And back then, as occasionally now, I was fat. The one whose little shorts ride up the behind, making one look like a head on two fat sausages.
The other thing about sport is that we take it so damn seriously. Have you seen your husband during a world cup? Have you seen yourself?
Even I get down and dirty when my favourite team sashays onto the field. I shout! I break things! I eat inappropriately.
I fully believe that sport is a neat substitute for the fact that men can’t just lop each other’s heads off anymore, or call for a pistol duel in some deserted wood. Then, fair maidens and money were big motivators for invading a country.
Today, nothing’s changed – except that we can’t kill each other, and the women wear Prada.
Now, because my eldest loves reading and isn’t particularly sporty, I had this sweaty fear that she’d end up with my neurosis – fear of burning calories and making an arse of oneself.
That she rides a horse better than most her age helps, but her grumblings and mutterings about any form of exercise had me worried.
Until that cold, wet, very suburban Saturday last week, when I finally understood the wise adage: watch a child and you will learn more than you ever could from books.
There she stood, defending her goal with a steely glint one minute, then staring dreamily at the cows frolicking in the pastures the next (the coolest school – it’s on a farm).
When the ball came thundering towards her, she did her best to stop it, prancing about like a pony on hot coals, daring pint-sized opponents to breach her defence.
She wasn’t chasing stardom or a trophy and honestly – really, truly – she didn’t give a hoot that she let in a goal. There were no paunchy sponsors waiting in the wings, or shaggy-haired substitutes gunning to take her place.
“Mom!” she yelled from the goal post, taking her eye off the ball for only a second. “I am having so much FUN!”