Archive for the ‘sport’ Category

100 great goals

Robin 

Every night, for months, Robin has chosen, before sleep and after L or I have read to him, to read from a book that describes 100 great goals. A short description of the action is leavened with some information about the scorer or the occasion. There’s also a diagram of the movement of players and ball on its way into the net.

When sleep is about to smother him, Robin tosses the book from his bed. In the morning, it lies on the floor, crumpled. Its hardback cover fell off weeks ago. Its binding can’t hold for long. But even if it does disintegrate it has lodged itself in Robin’s memory. He knows the goals and scorers by number (1 to 100). He can even recite some of the reports if given a scorer’s name or goal number. 

Eliza

‘My palm has five layers of skin left,’ Eliza explained on the way home from gymnastics. Intensive work on the bars in recent weeks has worn a tear in the skin of her hand. She has been practising a manoeuvre that involves a complete rotation on the higher bar. To achieve this safely while in the learning phase, her hands are bound to the bar. It’s from that friction that the skin on her palms is torn away.

Gabe 

The election result has been welcomed by Gabe. At school, Corbyn is a hero. Gabe is dissatisfied by my position that neither major party leader is a fit PM. ‘What have I got against Corbyn?’ I was asked often during the campaign, as well as, who are you going to vote for and why? On election night, he sat with Lou and I as the TV guests and presenters toyed with the unlikely exit poll. Around midnight, with four GCSE exams the next day, he conceded that is was time for bed. 


Sprint champion

Robin

Sports day was held in the week before the half-term holidays. That evening, responding to my question, “How was your day?” Robin urgently informed me, “I beat L in the 60m sprint!” Beating his classmate, Man Utd junior footballer, ranked as a higher accolade than simply being year (probably school) sprint champion. 

Eliza

Eliza’s last 24 hours or so have featured: two 2-hour gymnastics sessions, a trip to a local trampolining centre and a sleepover with her gym friends which involved no sleep until they finally keeled over at 8am. She has gone to bed very weary tonight. 

Gabe

Gabe has left the house in the last two weeks solely to take exams and for two shopping trips. As previously reported, this hermit-like behaviour doesn’t mean he is revising from dawn to dusk. Revision is happening, but not in the quantities that a two week confinement would suggest. 

On his shopping trips Gabe has added to his LP collection. Unfortunately he has experienced the downside of vinyl: scratched records, so must go out again to take back a couple of discs. His other acquisition has been a blue suit, which will become his sixth form attire from September. 

Revision

Gabe

Gabe is several weeks from the start of GCSE exams. Since the start of the Easter holiday, he has been making sincere, if not always successful, attempts to revise. He’s easily distracted by his phone and possibly misdirected in his efforts. He owns up to some anxiety and admits he wishes he worked harder in year 10. By the Easter weekend, at the close of the fortnight’s holiday, he had reached a state of near complete dependency – needing L or me to be with him for him to revise. We both put in the hours and added momentum to his studies. I found out a lot about electricity, radioactivity, French tenses, An Inspector Calls, the New Deal and enzymes. Working in tandem, L and I had an important victory: managing to convince him that he must plan before he writes. Whatever his technical frailties, we both assume his powers of retention will put him in good stead to excel in the exam room.

Eliza

Eliza is becoming an expert and loving gift-giver. Her birthday present for L was perfect. In the past she has sketched me and her together and made me an Eliza-themed collage for my wall at work. This year, as my birthday approached, she hassled me for clues about what I would like, even calling me during a work meeting. Come the day, the centrepiece of her gift was an eight verse poem about me written out on a large piece of card. It was full of her disdainful wit: “your company will occasionally suffice” is almost as kind as she can manage to be. It will be treasured and maybe responded to.

Robin

Robin’s club football season has not been as successful as it might have been. Playing wide on the left, against very tight defences, he has had little opportunity for marauding dribbling and goals dried up after Christmas. When talk turned to next season and moving to another league so the team could play on Saturday (not Sunday), his interest was equivocal. We spoke about trying other teams or clubs. Eventually, he agreed to sign on again, after his friend A – even less committed given his skateboarding fervour – relented under his parents’ pressure. Another consideration was the promise from the coaches that the current centre-forward, a difficult and troubled lad, with sumptuous football skills, would not be returning and Robin would move back to striker.

Mock exams

Gabe 

Gabe has finished the first week of mock GCSEs. His preparation featured some focused revision sessions, but they were neither as frequent or enduring as I would have wanted. Christmas in Scotland was a blank and he didn’t return rapidly to his books on getting home. But he does seem to have done some meaningful work targeting specific activities – like learning quotations from set tests. Testing him on his notes, his capacity to absorb, retain and reproduce information impresses. He also has a strong grasp of everything we have looked at together. 

He reports satisfaction with how the eight exams sat so far have gone, pleased that he’s completed all tasks and used all the time available. He has shown no nerves, but has taken the initiative to get to bed early and asked to be woken earlier than normal. He has also enjoyed the freedom to come home immediately his day’s exams are finished.  

Robin

Robin’s closest friend, A, has found a passion greater than football: skateboarding. Gradually Robin has been lured towards it, too. Initially, in A’s garden and then taken to the centre where A practises. Robin, in borrowed gear, started off in a beginners group, separated from A (although with some other boys he knows). After just three lessons, Robin feels that passage to that higher group is within reach. 

He finds skateboarding thrilling, describing to me (as I’ve not yet seen him in action) the tricks and manoeuvres, lapsing into skateboard slang, which leaves me guessing. With A and he headed to different schools in September, and A’s commitment to the football team wavering, it may become their shared passion that keeps the friendship running. 

Eliza

Eliza has declared a commitment to environmental issues. Why, she wonders, won’t people cut down on environmentally damaging activity? I score well with her for changing our energy supplier to a renewable-only provider. School – geography, I think – has planted these ideas. She’s also considering vegetarianism, but acknowledges there are meats she likes to eat. She thinks she may want a career doing something promoting the environment – “if it’s not too late by then” she worries. 

30 day challenge

Eliza has joined L and me on (so far) two 30 day challenges with escalating physical demands. First, we did ‘abs and squats’ and now we’re attempting an arm strength challenge. We get together in the evening for that day’s exercise. Eliza goes first, so she can finish first. She does the exercises frenetically, pitching her torso up and down with sit-ups, not with the control I would expect of her as a gymnast. The fourth and final daily arm exercise is shadow boxing. Eliza thrashes her arms, getting quite uppity at the futility of the exercise and liking one of us to hold a pillow that she can flail at. 

Robin has played in his second cup final of the year, this time representing school. His team won all six matches, barely conceding a goal and with Robin leading scorer with 11. He has, I’m told, impressed playing alongside his friend and Man Utd academy player, Big L. 

The Beatles continue to be Gabe’s favourite band – to listen to and to play on the piano (Lady Madonna, at the moment). But he’s allowing other long defunct groups into his listening repertoire: Bowie, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and most surprisingly, the Smiths. He’s interested in which songs L and I like, encouraging us to add them to Spotify playlists (the subscription for which he convinced us to buy). He’ll listen to our choices, but hand down his own judgement on the correctness of our taste. 

Quiet birthday

Gabe

All of the children’s birthdays are recorded here, with a note of the theme of the party or event. Gabe’s 15th was the quiet birthday. He had refused the option of a party, a meal out with friends, or a cinema trip. L had the idea of a visit to the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. “No, thanks. Don’t want to spend my birthday in the car.” He was, he said, happy to have a quiet day. A meal at a pizza restaurant? No, pizza at home. 

And he was happy. A football match, the last of the season, in the morning. Then a quiet afternoon, cheerful and sociable with us all, pizza and presents. L and I briefly worried about some sort of social anxiety, but it’s more like a preference for no fuss and self-possession. 

Eliza

Eliza’s desire to have pets surfaced again. ‘Yes,’ we said to a question about gerbils and knowing how she stores and accumulates riches like a rodent, ‘you can buy them’. Bumble and Bianco, two small brothers, live in a cage in her room. She seems satisfied and her own brothers happy to have them around without the responsibility of looking after them. 

Robin

Robin’s team qualified for the cup final to play at Trafford United’s ground against the only team they didn’t defeat during the season. On a bright, sunny day, with a loud crowd around two sides of the pitch, the opposition took an early lead. Robin had the best chance to equalise in the first half, but missed. He saw little of the ball, with the other team’s defence outstanding. The second half continued with the other team missing chances. Robin was moved into attack and deep into the second half, screened a bouncing ball from a defender and as it dropped on the corner of the area, volleyed it past the keeper. His team clung on through full, then extra time. Robin took the first penalty and scored. After 4 penalties, the score was tied 2-2. Luke made a diving save and then took the final penalty, scored to win the final and man of the match. Robin revelled in the experience, particularly enjoying playing in front of a noisy crowd. 

In the trenches

Gabe

Gabe went away in the early hours of Thursday before half-term holiday. The school history trip to the Belgian battlefields of the Great War had been over-subscribed and Gabe too late to express interest. But a couple of weeks before departure he took up a vacated place.

Trenches (real and simulated), cemeteries, chapels and the towns the war plagued were visited. Each student had a local soldier to research before departure and search for some marker of their death when in Belgium. Gabe found the site of the mass grave of 35,000 German casualties the most affecting. It was, he confirmed, the best school trip he has had.

Robin

Robin was picked for Sale’s under 12 team in the indoor winter cricket league. The step-up in intensity, particularly in the field, energised him. He coped well, bowling strongly and batting reliably, pushing singles to share the strike with the skipper, only swinging hard at deliveries aimed at his legs that he could shovel square. While his teammates batted, he hung on the edge of his group, likely as not returning to me to sit on my lap: an endearing mix of young affection and physical prowess.

Eliza

choc towerOn her desk is built a chocolate tower. Weeks after Christmas and barely touched are chocolate reindeer, a selection box, Lindor, a bar of chocolate, a chocolate Santa and a tub of Heroes. That same ration barely saw Robin and Gabe into 2016. Eliza is unlikely to finish hers before Easter. It’s a sugary monument to her self-control and her understanding of the value of a pleasure deferred.