Saturday 19th May
Trying to run
The day hadn’t been going well.
Friday, being both my free and favourite day, it was tasked with overflow from the week, but quickly it was filling up. A beautiful sunny morning filled with potential and opportunity, first I was going to take the dog for a run, to clear my heart and mind as i was feeling complexed and perplexed and stuck.
Running always helps, firstly by changing the dialogue in my head from intense woe filled thoughts of unhappiness (I’m growing so tired of being unhappy) and anxiety, (I am boring myself with my anxiety), to real life issues like: the expansive beauty of the Mersey River, the wide blue open sky, the sun twinkling on the water, the oyster catchers squawking in protest, the red campions bursting into flower… and my legs aching.
And the narrative in my head changes to important conversations like ‘are we there yet? and ‘why don’t we just walk?’
I am all dressed in my running gear and ready to embrace the day, when the dog walker knocks: he couldn’t remember if it was a ‘happy dog’ day or not. ‘Happy dog’ is straight out the door, jumping at his car, desperate to get to his mates.
I accede, I’ve got a lot of work to get on with so I retreat back to my office. The sun is streaming through my window but my heart is tight and the anxiety is overwhelming. ‘The more I do now, the less I have to carry over to next week,’ is my thinking on this matter.
So I press on, but in truth, nothing proceeds very well.
I have a tennis match that evening against the team that is currently top of our league and we are fielding our weakest team, with three beginners who have never played a league match before. And to top it all, the opposition is made of of kids; how humiliating. One of our stronger players suddenly becomes available and I have to find a diplomatic way of encouraging the weakest player to stand down. It is against all my principles of fairness and equal opportunities, as I know she would have psyched herself up all week, filled with anticipation and excitement and pride at being asked to play.
So my working day is peppered with tennis related phone alerts, interrupting my thoughts, my work and effectively my whole day. The weaker player agrees to stand down, I don’t want her to be completely overwhelmed and subjugated by her first league match experience. She understands and graciously agrees; I promptly book her in for the following match.
Phew, and breathe. But I feel bad, ominous, uncomfortable.
Is it sadness, bereavement and anxiety? Or is the thought of looming humiliation by children!
The day is still not progressing well, work is incomplete and unsatisfying and my lover/ex-lover/friend is constantly calling, worrying about my unacceptably low state of mind, telling me off for being miserable, berating my unhappiness.
I’m doing nothing well, although I did make a very nice chick pea salad for our post match tea.
I arrive at the tennis courts nice and early in order to manage my anxiety. I know my partner will be late. if a player is 10 minutes late, you concede the first set. She arrives 11 minutes late but we play on.
The matches are long and arduous, each game dips in and out of duce. The game plan into finish each point quickly to allow enough time to play all matches before sunset. The dreaded sunset rule is looming so I will have much to look forward to; I check my watch constantly.
We are in the lead at 5-0 to us, it’s going well, ‘in the bag’, all is well, but, this is where I have to take heed as I start to feel empathy for the opposition, after all, they’re just children…
Before we know it, they’re clawing back and an hour later we’re on a championship tie break. We do eventually win, but we fight for every point and I’m knackered.
It’s 8.10pm by the time we start the next match. Sunset is at 9.10pm, ‘oh no, the sunset rule! Please don’t let me have to deal with the sunset rule!’
Sunset rule: item 5.(h) p43. ‘Except where both Captains agree to use floodlighting, no set shall begin later than 10 minutes after sunset (local time) and no championship Tiebreak Set shall begin later than 15 minutes after sunset (local time) and all play should terminate 30 minutes after sunset unless both Captains agree to play continuing beyond these times.’
We win the first set 6-2, all is well. We start the next set at 9pm, (you can’t start a new set 10 minutes after sunset) the light is dimming and a sense of foreboding descends. We play on, lose the first game, win the second and scores slowly creep up as the light quickly fades. “Let’s keep playing as long as we can.” I say and all are in agreement.
“There’s no point stopping while there is still light. I hate it when people want to stop while there is evidently still light” says the opposition.
Okay, I think to myself, that’s good.
The previous opposition had been really insistent on stopping while there was clearly enough light, which was frustrating. They were losing, so it was in their favour to stop play as the match would be discounted. But hey, we’re good sports, I’m not going to insist on playing if a player is having trouble seeing, even if it means losing precious points. We’re all women and mothers and sisters and daughters and I might bump into them in the supermarket, and mostly I like to go to sleep with a clear conscience.
I do love my sleep.
So back to our match; the neighbouring match is getting heated. The teenagers are shouting, getting animated. Desperate to win they are questioning line calls when their shots were clearly out and generally being very distracting. I’m keeping one eye on their match whilst trying to focus on ours.
It’s getting dark, for me, too dark. At 5-5 I call it in.
It’s too dark, we’ll need to stop. It’s getting dangerous, I can’t see the ball, they’re hitting it too hard, I can’t even see if it’s in or out. The Health and Safety of my team is paramount and it’s getting ridiculous. We’re at least two games away from a win and if it’s a draw, we can’t continue to a championship tie break as the ‘sunset rule’ dictates that you can’t start a tie break fifteen minutes after sunset. We are currently at forty two minutes after sunset!
The second team are embroiled in an argument with the young ones. They’ve reached a draw and want to continue but by the rule, they can’t. I am the Captain and I just say no, they can’t and it’s not possible. I’m involved with putting my racket away when I look up – our court is full of people, arguing. All the mothers are on court, the opposition, the kids, the supporters, they’re all having their say, and aggressively so.
“It’s too dark’, I say, “It’s unsafe and there’s no point in playing on as we won’t be able to finish the match.”
They argue, they accuse us of all sorts, they beg, they insinuate, they quote their grandfather, the chairman of the Liverpool Tennis Association, who says ‘once you start a set you have to finish it, regardless’.
“What, in the dark? Nonsense.” I say.
They ask for the rule book, and a torch to read it with and start quoting p43, item 5(h). By this time it’s even darker, luckily I have my lovely first team Captain to back me up. ‘Just no”, I say, taking down the nets. The disagreeable, angry horde of tennis mothers leave the court, clearly disgusted with the proceedings. My partner admits she wanted to play on, “We could have won, I have my contact lenses in”, she says. “Just two more games and we could have won!”
Now I am feeling bad. Did I make the wrong decision? It all got so heated, so fast and it was all my decision and I am responsible and now I have to go into the clubhouse and they will all be glaring at me and tutting. This Captaincy is taking over my life. I only want to hit a few balls, have a laugh, and win. all the matches. Not a lot to ask, really.
Being me, I will endlessly examine and question the authenticity of my decision. What the opposition didn’t seem to grasp was that there was no benefit in carrying on. If we’d reached tie break the whole match would be worth zero. I keep my head down, questions and doubts whizzing around my head. I fill out the match card, my head working overtime to understand the implications of my decision. The online conversations continue on social media, well into the night, with all my irate team players voicing their opinions, mostly relating to bad sportsmanship. I turn my phone off, goodness me, all I want is a good night’s sleep.
Luckily, against my fears, I slept like a load of led, overslept even, floored, exhausted, wiped out.
I still managed a jog when i awoke… shimmering water, blue open skies, sunshine on my face, panting ‘happy dog’ at my side.
Okay, so it was a day later than planned, but I got there, eventually.