Afternoons were always hot, unless it was raining then it was just hot and muggy. Our school didn’t have an air conditioner in every room either, like they do now. I remember having to peel the page off my arm because it was wet with sweat. Summer in Queensland as a young, moderately, ok, heavily overweight kid was abhorrent.
Going home from school wasn’t much better, so to conserve energy I became sloth like in my movements. I could travel as far as 200 metres in forty five minutes. when I look back on it, it’s actually fairly impressive just how slow I was.
That slowness trickled over into other parts of my life. This would have been fine except for my brothers. Bruce, nineteen months older than me and a fast bowling freak, was always engaged in some sporting activity. Then there was Darren, well, he was five years my junior and from the moment he was awake until the moment he dropped from sheer exhaustion he was going full bore.
As a young man I was, shall we say, ‘encouraged’, by my Dad to participate in a summer and a winter sport. The sports of ‘choice’ were cricket and football. Every afternoon that Bruce didn’t have training on we would go out the back yard or down to the nets for practise.
He was a monster! Broad across the back with shoulders like rock melons he could send a leather cased cricket ball down the pitch like a red missile. I had to face him. Every afternoon after school I’d go down to the nets, my older brother yelling ‘Come on, Ash!’ as I dawdled down the street. As a slow walker, and despite my brother’s constant cajoling I had no incentive at all to increase my pace. Going faster meant that I would have to face down my brother sooner. Just imagine, me standing at the crease with a mere piece of hewn willow to angle the demonic red balls that would fly towards me away into the nets to safety. Rinse. Repeat.
My little brother was too young to face Bruce. Darren would whinge and carry on but he wasn’t allowed. ALLOWED?! This was my nightmare and here’s Darren trying to get in there to face these torrents of cricket craziness. They were as mad as each other but Dad didn’t want Darren to get hurt. Yeah, sure, hurt the middle kid. Whatever.
Bruce and Darren practised and so did I. I was practising ambivalence about not being able to match it with my brothers. I got good at pretending I didn’t care. The problem is, I did care. I cared deeply. I only recognised my desire to be able to participate as a grown man. Now, as a thirty something year old, I practice. Not cricket or footy, but participation.