Table Tennis - Day 64
As I arrived at my next challenge in the pouring rain, I walked past a dozen sodden rugby players training and was relieved to be heading for the warm, dry bosom of St Austell Table Tennis Club. I was five minutes early, as I had to do the customary children’s club drop offs.
Di, the club secretary, pulled up two minutes later and chastened me for being early. We entered the large expanse of the club, which can fit up to 16 tables. I introduced myself and explained about my challenge. Di looked suspiciously at me. As a 75-years-old, veteran table tennis player of 45 years, she had seen rookies like me come and go but I vowed to win her over with my engaging personality and willingness to learn. Alternatively, I would wear her down into submission.
I was handed a bat as Di took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. I have played the odd game of table tennis before but not for over 15 years and the last time was more tipsy table tennis than anything competitive. It appears that with my limited knowledge of the game, I had been holding the bat the wrong way. Di encouraged me to put my finger behind and move my hand up for more control.
We then practised simple returns, which involved me not flapping about my arm but a smooth motion. Once conquered, we moved on to the forehand, which I found more challenging and became increasingly apologetic as my wayward shots meant Di had to be continually picking up my stray efforts. I suggested that the sport clearly required a hand-held hoover device, reminiscent of a straw and a Malteser.
We moved on to some rallies. In one rally, I counted 23 strokes and remarked that it felt very Forrest Gump-esque. I remembered to hold my tongue and focus on being a model student but I was really, really enjoying myself and I tend to get over-excited in these situations. Di handed over babysitting duties to Mike, a player in league one, who spotted immediately that my knuckles were white as I was gripping the bat too hard. As he was telling me to relax, I could hear Di in the background telling off some errant teenagers for messing about.
Mike and I went into some rallies and I took the audacity of smashing the ball hard into the corner. That felt really good! I tried to continue in that vein but I had no consistency, as the three subsequent shots fell into the net or launched past the table. I felt I was giving Mike a bit of a run for his money but then felt a little perturbed when he started kneeling down for a couple of shots. Maybe I wasn’t providing the stiff competition I had imagined?
After the obligatory photo, I chatted some more to Di, who had finished her admin duties. Mike went off for a match with another player. I mentioned how impressed I was by the venue and asked some questions about the club. I looked up to see Mike was actually sweating against his new opponent and felt a little disheartened, as he failed to produce even a drop of perspiration when I had him on the ropes.
Then whilst Di was writing down her email address for me, some of the “always misbehaving” youths fired a half-squashed ball, which landed on her head. I left the club as she went marching over to give them an earful.
I skipped out of the building and into a large puddle/small lake, which I had failed to see in the dark but there were no expletives – wet feet was a small price to pay for such an enjoyable evening. I will definitely be playing table tennis again. I just need to invent that hoover idea to take on to Dragon’s Den and I will be quids in!
Sofa Dodger; One Woman's Quest to Try 100 Different Sports and Fitness Classes in a Year is available on Amazon, please click here