I hated the sporty kids when I was at school. It wasn’t anything to do with sports per se. There just happened to be a high correlation between a person being top of the class in PE and also being a terrible, terrible person. Later in life, Facebook tells me, it has transpired that there’s also a correlation between a person being top if the class in PE and their glory days being well and truly behind them by the age of twenty-five, so I do feel a little better, if ashamed to think that I just spent a Saturday night Facebook stalking people I used to hate. But anyway, I wasn’t a PE fan. There was just a few too many yellow polo shirts and bitches for my liking.
But even the kids who were PE fans really only did it as a placeholder. The very instant that Bacardi Breezers came onto the scene even the sporty kids stopped being sporty. No more begrudging Saturday morning football. No more voluntarily trying during the compulsory once-a-year cross country. By the time we got to our GCSEs the PE teachers were so hard up for people to take to the annual school county athletics thing that even I was briefly in the frame (for shot-put, which is every overweight teenage girl’s dream).
In Cornwall, the kids actually do sports. And, like, cool ones. I forever see them on the train with all manner of sports sticks (I don’t even pretend to know what kind of sport or what kind of stick), or being dropped off at the local dojo. The school where I do tap classes has a wall of fame for all of the kid who represent their country in something sporty and there’s, like, an entire wall of them. Not just the one wheelchair football player who carries the weight of an entire school’s athletic reputation on his shoulders.
All summer long, the kids of Falmouth could be seen in the sea practising their surf lifesaving (a thing I know lots about because sometimes I watch Bondi Rescue and it’s exactly the same here except with much fewer sharks and Australians). That involves running, swimming, and propelling yourself along on your knees on boards that one can’t help but feel are excessively complicated just so that the makers can charge more for them.
I once accidentally ended up in the middle of a huge surf lifesaving competition on the North Coast – children everywhere were just voluntarily wearing numbers and doing running as a fun Saturday afternoon activity. It was very alien to me. I mean, I will occasionally wear a number and do a bit of running if necessary but that is one hundred per cent for bragging rights and a reason to eat giant burgers under the guise of ‘refuelling’. It has nothing to do with enjoyment. And if you had suggested it to me when I was under the age of twenty four I would probably have wept.
I don’t really know what the point of all of this is, except that it’s one of many ways that I’ve realised we grow up in really different ways in different parts of the country. I just find it really interesting. It’s mind-boggling to think about how many olympic events I might have ended up competing in had I been born just a couple of counties along.
I mean, probably still zero. After all, that would have been Oxfordshire, not Neverland. But we should keep an eye on the Cornish children because they might all take over the world one day.