Something that I always agonize over or at least occasionaly think about is moving back to England. Why? Not for the Victorian gardens, the tea, surely not the Tories...no, it is so I can once again shine on the rounders pitch.
Allow me to share with you a tale of a woman shoved into a foreign culture with only her memories to keep her safe.
Last night i debuted on the company softball team. They were short of people and I was essentially doing them a favor. I adopted a Hugh Grant dithering demeanor when asked and feigned fear of sports. "I am just making up the numbers", i kept saying and then chuckling nervously. Inside, i was giddy. I would return to my former glory running from base to base with my hair blowing in the wind. Ok, so I come from a land of small bats and small balls. Softball was a little different, but, I was raised on rounders. How hard could it be? Plus, I work with a bunch of shirts and ties...I was a maverick, a former sports star, I would show them I was more than a skirt in an office.
I arrived 10 minutes early. My hair was up in a ponytail and I had that song from A league of Their Own in my head. Not "This Used To Be My Playground" - don't be ridiculous - the other one. Anyway, I arrived after a minor directional disaster ( in hindsight this was the gods trying to avert embarrassment) I checked myself in my rear view mirror and aside from the crows feet and blonde facial hair glistening in the sun light, I was 12 again. I could smell the changing rooms and sense the verrucas.
I walked over to where my team mates were throwing a ball. They were wearing mitts. Ha! I guffawed. Just like that american football stuff with the shoulder pads. Wait till you see my hands of steel catch those suckers. I approach and am ignored. Not quite the thank you for saving the day welcome I had imagined. "Hi", I shout to the guy that recruited me. He catches the ball and responds, "sorry i can't hear you". Dear lord. I mean, if you see someone for the first time wouldnt you at least say, "hi, sorry I can't hear you"?
I wave my hand across my chest giving the old international sign for don't worry about it.
Everyone seems to have a partner that they are throwing to and I don't seeem to know any of these people. Eventually a young man throws me a ball and gasps when I catch it bare handed. My insides burn with excitement. My hand burns with pain. Good pain. Feel the burn. I fire it back at him and nearly knock him off his feet. The Burt is back. After the 16th throw my hand is hurting and so I decide to bumble over and 'up' the Brit thing. Little less Grant, little more Firth. "So...may I see the size of your bat?" Thought that might raise a giggle, to which i could pretend to have not noticed my double entendre. I could blush and before long they would be asking me where in London I am from? It would be like Beatlemania.
Am handed a bat - something the size of an AK-47. The ball is the size of a large hand grenade (should they come in sizes). No wonder they can hit it. Keep cool. Hustle.
I decide to lean over and talk to one girl and tell her it is my first time playing this game. She says that it is hers too- i smile and put my hand on her arm and say, oh it's all a bit of fun. She tells me she was joking and this was her sixth year playing in this league to which I remove my comforting hand and tell her that it really was my first time. We laughed. It was a clumsy exchange. Ahh, softball humor.
Anyway, I bided my time. I was the eighth hitter/batter and the seven before me had managed contact. I was ready to knock this ball low and hard.
I approached the dusty square and waited for a nice underarm ball to come my way. I swung with all my might. It was beautiful. I missed. Cue embarrassed giggle. "It's my first time", I told the backstop (catcher) to which she laughed and told me to just keep swinging. How nice, I thought. She spoke to me.
Next ball, it was like slow motion - a perfect rise and fall. I swing and....i'm out. Apparently, we all start with one strike against us. What. A. Load. Of. Rubbish.
I walk off the field and nobody said anything to me. I am left to sit on the bench on my own. Maybe it was because I clapped when the other team caught us out or because I whooped when they hit a good ball...but I was just being supportive of everyone.
Anyway, to make a horrid story short - it happened again...and again. I was officially playing for the other team. I eventually offer my batting position toward the end of the game to the girl beside me. I expected her to reassure me that it was just a game. Sadly she couldn't have been any quicker to snatch my bat.
You see...to be honest, I just wanted to immerse myself and learn the sport. I have the fondest memories of my mother practising rounders and netball with me and sadly those sports never caught on over here (because they are wholesome and non contact, no doubt). I was a bit of a wizz at rounders. Here, i'm the foreigner with no friends. As I sat on the bench, kicking my feet in the dirt, I wondered if this is how extremists start. A bit bullied and made to feel like an outsider -and before you know it you leave a carbomb in Times Square. Poor chap probably had a rough time on the softball field.
To be fair, these were no doubt lovely people taking their game seriously and probably found me to be a bit ofa bumbling irritant. My point is...yes, there is one...i'm discovering that it is rather strange for me to raise a child in a country that i didn't grow up in. The other day Nellie the Elephant fell on deaf ears. The wheels on the bus don't go all day long, they go all around town and don't get me started on the hokey pokey. Even family fortunes is called family feud. It's the simple things. Marmite costs $9 a jar. I miss fruit machines and drinking Top Deck. I miss citing Timothy Claypole as a comedic figure. I especially miss referencing a Neighbours episode when a friend needs advice. No complaints just observations - it's not as if I am in a country where I am forced to eat dog because there has been a run on chicken.
Now, I know you don't want to live through your children but it is lovely opportunity to relive some fun moments through their eyes.
I leave you now complete with bruised ego and bruised hand. I put my rose tinted specs back on and remember myself as a good player - one who would race round the stick bases to the chant of "raandur, raandur". (That's rounder with a Bedfordshire accent).
On the plus side, i didn't pee myself. Silver linings, people...silver linings...