It is getting towards that time of year again. The days grow shorter and colder and as they do so the number of wet and windy days increases. To a sport-loving child such as I this was not a good combination. Kids nowadays might relish the chance to be stuck indoors for hours on end with nothing to do but play on a computer, but that wasn’t an option when I was young.
Outside, our long and narrow back lawn was ideal for hitting or kicking a ball on, and during the winter I would spend many an hour indulging in imaginary games which required me to chase up and down the grass in a manner which endangered plants and windows far more than it did me.
None of this was possible if it was raining, or had rained recently. Ture enough, we had the field behind the house that I could run about on if the ground was wet and muddy, but that was only fun if there were other people for me to play games with out there. Any strictures placed upon not playing out when the ground was wet were confined to my parents not wanting the lawn completely destroyed rather than me getting dirty.
Sadly, most of my friends didn’t have parents who were so phlegmatic about a small boy’s need to run around and get dirty and so wouldn’t allow them out if there was a risk of half of the field being walked back into their house afterwards. Which meant that I needed another option.
We lived in a house with a combined lounge and dining room, which ran the length of the house and occupied about half of the ground floor.
At one end, there was a bay window. At the other, a set of patio doors. Across the middle ran a strip of black carpet tape, where the brown shag pile carpet that we had had in our house in Scotland met the hideous multi-coloured affair that the previous owners had left*.
Add to this the fact that there was almost always a balloon knocking about the house somewhere, a relic of a birthday party attended by one of my siblings, and I had not only a football pitch with a goal at each end, but a halfway line and a ball, too.
Of course, it wasn’t ideal. The patio door goal was significantly larger than the bay window goal, but required me to circumnavigate the dining table to get to it. The halfway line was more like a 60%/40% line** and balloons are infuriatingly slow moving no matter how hard you kick them. And, of course, my brother and sisters would entirely fail to understand what I was doing and insist upon playing in the room at the same time, often with small things such as Lego which really hurt your feet if you trod on them in an effort to score a winning goal.
On the other hand, it meant that I could work off some energy chasing a ‘ball’ around to my heart’s content, or until someone yelled at me to stop. Usually the latter.
*The hideous carpet had covered the entire lounge/diner when we moved in. It tells you how bad it was that my parents preferred having mismatching carpets and a strip of carpet tape for many years.
**Practically, this means nothing, but to me it was very important as it meant that the side defending the patio end was at another disadvantage, even though I was playing for both teams.