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A Good Sport or Good at Sport?

Updated on March 4, 2017

Lewes Dripping Pan sports field

Rodmell cricket field from pavilion

To play or not to play?

Sport is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it! Football is on my television at the moment and I hate it, but soon it will be the Cup Final (don't ask me who is in the final as I have no idea) then the tv will give it a rest - until August! Isn't it still summer in August?

When I was young the game of football was only played in the winter to keep the boys warm. Georgie Best in his short shorts or further back Stanley Matthews in his knee-length baggy shorts, Georgie was in glorious technicolour and Stanley in black and white but he was knighted for his contribution to the beautiful game.

Cricket is our summer game here in England and I think we invented it. I have some lovely memories of this game. My grandfather (the estranged one if you read my Rodmell hub) was the umpire for Rodmell Cricket Cub, Rodmell being a quiet little farming village back then. He did play when he was younger but when he was umpire my dad, uncle and their cousin, all Rodmell lads played for the team. It was a real family outing to go and watch them play, we would take a rug and a picnic to away matches and of course the sun was always shining!

A special memory of the home matches is when my gran (yes, the separated one) was the tea-lady, she lived at the bottom of Rodmell in the first of the row of four Poor Houses which was right opposite the gate to the field leading up to the cricket pitch. In the 1960's after she died, planners allowed somebody to make her modest 2bed. cott. into a proper house and to me it is an eyesore which has ruined my memories of staying there. Gran was a determined woman who was not going to fade into the distance, so she kept control of the big copper tea-urn and we would carry it up the field together, into the Pavilion where she was in charge of the tea and sandwiches. She had a special view of the home matches from inside the Pavilion while I like to be just outside watching the scorer flipping the metal score plates over.

At school I was tall and err quite big (it runs in the family), but not fat I hasten to add, so I was usually chosen to be in the school teams. I was goal defence in Netball at Ringmer because I could jump up and knock the ball away when the other side was trying to shoot it into the net. I was the bully-off girl in hockey at Newhaven (jolly hockey sticks!) - don't forget your shin pads or you limped for a week but it was great fun charging around Newhaven recreation ground in a short skirt in a cold winter, no really it was, because it got me out of the classroom. Newhaven rec: is near the end of the harbour down by the sea so a windy chilly place to be. A hockey rule was never allow your stick to be higher than your shoulders, I had quite a bit of trouble with that rule I have to say!

In the summer I was in the school stoolball team at Ringmer, we played the inter-school matches on the Green with quite an audience, and embarrassingly I was also in the Maypole dancing team on the same Green but unfortunately I have two left feet so wasn't keen on an audience for that, especially my two giggling younger brothers. Stoolball is a game peculiar to Sussex, it consists of a wood board on a wood post, a wood bat and a hard ball. A dangerous game actually but it was so satisfying to belt the ball hard, hear the *clonk* and see it flying off hopefully to the edge of the Green and then make as many runs as possible before the other side got the ball back to base, much like cricket.

Ringmer village green

Ringmer school stoolball team

Maypole dancing on Ringmer green

That is the question!

In Newhaven we llived on Mount Pleasant and our playground was Denton when not in school. Here I participated in several sports not associated with school. Tennis was knock-about fun in the Rector's garden, he kindly made us Youth Club members a tennis court of sorts, bit too near the trees and Mrs.Rector's flower-beds but we spent many a summer evening playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles. The gardener's stepladder served as the umpire's lofty seat, the boys took it in turns to be the umpire while the girly girls sat on the grass in their full skirts and the other girls happily ran around sweating and wanting to win. I was so proud of my second-hand racquet I wouldn't lend it out, not a very nice attitude for a Girl Guide to have but that was me back then.

We had a sort of competition where the winning boy and girl got to walk home together if they so wished. I'm sure everybody reading this remembers their first proper kiss, well mine was during this time, it was in front of the garage door at home, I dropped my precious tennis racquet and the neighbour looked out of his bedroom window! The memory still lingers, does yours?

My father decided to own a horse as he liked to go hunting with the Southdown Hunt, okay it's not pc now, but it wasn't frowned upon then. He built a stables in New Road Denton where the industrial estate is today. He had a friends horse there in livery as well which helped to pay the bills and he bought a pony for the local kids to have lessons on and employed a girl groom.

One Bank Holiday Monday I was off work and decided to go for a ride on the pony over the Downs with Jacky on dad's hunter. Had never even sat on a horse before, nor had any lessons, but she made it look easy up there on the big hunter. So up I got and off we trotted. If you can't rise to the trot (and I couldn't) you are like a sack of spuds atop a horse. This pony called Rusty wasn't rusty but he sure knew I was because as soon as we hit the wide open spaces of the Downs, he bolted. I could do nothing but just try to stay on. I couldn't even steer him between all the families of walkers that were enjoying the Downs that day.

I was mummified and terrified until he must have run out of steam and finally stopped. I jumped off, legs shaking but hanging on to the reins. Jacky caught me up and said, "It's like a bicycle, you fall off, you get back on." Erm no, I hadn't fallen off and no way was I getting back on. So me and Rusty walked all the way back to the yard escorted by Jacky and Sherry. C'mon folks, at least I didn't let the beast go, because my dad would have probably killed me.

I never tried riding a horse again and won't even go in the same field unaccompanied where my daughter's horse is kept. I can't drive a car either, failed my driving test three times, always reckoned I could drive anywhere so long as nothing else was on the road at the same time, but never got to try that out!


Denton village 1950's, the rectory was behind church in the trees

South Downs above Denton village

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows...

My final thoughts turn to the time I was given a Lambretta scooter for my birthday. Dad bought it from a friend of his in the days of Mods and Rockers. I was neither of those but he was trying to get me mobile after my unsuccessful attempts to ride a horse or drive a car. We kept it parked up in his stables which was a short walk from our house on Mount Pleasant. He tried a few times to teach me how to ride it up and down the lane there. Clutch control okay. Riding along okay. But the lane was a dead end so a turn was required. Every single time I tried to turn this great big heavy green monster I ended up in the ditch under the barbed wire fence. He had to walk about a hundred yards to extricate me and upright the scooter. I don't remember who lost patience first but that scooter stayed parked up in the stables.

At the Youth Club I casually mentioned I had a Lambretta. All the boys wanted to see it. So we arranged to meet there the next evening and I steered it out, enjoying being the centre of attention. Yes, I know it was my scooter they were admiring! We ended up driving it up and down South Heighton hill on several occasions. Life was good! Until...I don't know how dad found out but he did and put a stop to it. More than that he sold my scooter and I never got a replacement present. To this day my usual form of transport is Shanks' Pony or a bus.

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Dolly's boyfriend was a good sport

© 2015 Bren Hall

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