Tennis. Gah! Don't talk to me about tennis!
I used to play it reasonably often. When Hof was still wearing a uniform of white, I'd knock off work early, take the train from the city to Kings Cross and have a hit with him on the Navy courts at Garden Island. Apparently the grass courts we played on were some of the oldest in the country - but they were ripped out a few years ago by a bunch of philistines. It was magnificent playing on them on the edge of the harbour (and they were free).
Back in those halcyon pre-9/11 days, I could simply rock up at the front gate in my whites, tennis racquet in one hand and backpack full of work clothes in the other, say that I was there for a spot of tennis and the sentry would let me in, free to roam around until I found the courts that we were playing on.
It's the little things that have changed in this age of terror. Try doing that today.
Another big change is that back then, I'd be accosted at least once on every block by a hooker trying to score. I'd try and point out to them that I was obviously on my way to a tennis match, but they were all too strung out to care. They all had this crazy idea that I'd walked that way because my plans that day were to play tennis and root a hooker.
Children, drugs are bad. They cause wastoids to get between you and a perfectly lovely hour of thwocking a ball aimlessly back and forth as the sun goes down.
I've even had a crack at Real Tennis, which is a hoot. I'd like to have another crack - except that there are only a few courts in Australia, and the one in NSW at Macquarie Uni closed in 2005.
I had a long hiatus after getting thwocked off the bike by a car. The damage done to my neck by having my head rotated at unnatural speeds and angles by the force of the impact took tennis off the sports menu for a few years. I gave it a go a year after the crash, and spent the next few days in bed in agony.
The simple act of swinging my arm back and forth was enough to set off all sorts of nasty things in my neck, and as the neck bone is connected to the brain bone, when the neck goes bad, the brain starts to hurt. A lot. I discovered that you cannot get a prescription for painkillers with enough oompf to even take the edge off that sort of pain, which is not fun.
Sometimes kids, drugs can be good. If only I could get my hands on some of those drugs though....
Anyway, my racquet has been getting mouldy due to a certain reluctance to pick it up and risk setting off another episode in my neck. Then for various reasons, Junior couldn't make his regular tennis lesson this week, so I took his spot.
I've been going to most of his lessons, mainly in order to pick up the balls. Since the lessons cost around $1 per minute, I figure that if I can save 5 minutes by walking around all lesson picking up balls with a ball-collecting tube, it's a good use of my time. Many parents just slump there in the shade with a book or the paper, taking no interest in the progress of their kids. I walk around teaching him the value of money - which of course he utterly fails to understand. He thinks I am just trying to make him sweat more by denying him a few small breaks.
I like the coach, because he is a hard, tough, no nonsense taskmaster. He takes no prisoners. When Junior finishes a lesson, he is unable to speak - which is a condition I had never seen him in until he started tennis. Junior of course is still in complete shock at having a coach of this nature - every teacher he has had up until now has been of the touchy-feely variety, and I think he could count the number of male teachers he has had any contact with on one finger.
Whilst the coach is not quite in the same calibre as the legendary drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket, to Junior, he might as well be the same slightly insane, order barking robot.
Anyway, this week he was all mine.
I was hoping he'd take it easy on the old guy, but I was wrong. Within a minute of starting, I was running to all four corners of the court. By the end of the lesson, I was thoroughly shagged. I might be reasonably fit for cycling, but I am hopelessly out of shape for tennis.
My swing is also a complete mess. After 30 years of belting balls in a certain way, he now wants me to completely change my technique. Do you know how hard it is to teach an old dog a new trick? I went from getting almost every shot over the net and into the court at the start of the lesson to actually hitting balls over the back fence, or topping them and watching them sail over the back fence. It's like learning to play left handed. I can appreciate why I have to make the change, and I worked pretty hard at being the change, but by the end of the lesson, fuck-all had changed. I hope Junior can make the lesson next week, because I don't think I am that ready for change.
I can see I am going to have to pour a small fortune into this change, and hope that it works. Hell, I might as well call my racquet "Obama".
Nah, that would be a curse. All I'd ever hear is lots of air whooshing past, and I'd never connect meaningfully with anything. But I'm sure the kids would love me.