When I was 8, I moved to my grandparents and started a new school. I was from a private, all girls, very colonial institute. I’m reticent to say we were girls, we were ladies. Then I moved. I moved Provinces, homes, guardians, and started at a public school that was co-ed and bilingual. (This was pre-1994, so as far as white South Africans were concerned, there were only two languages, English and Afrikaans – hence the ‘bilingual’ school. It should be 11-lingual. Which is quite intense.)
Now this little lady, who made a ‘whoosh’ sound when she pronounced the start of words like ‘where’, ‘why’, and ‘whence’ was about to meet her first Afrikaans kids, and the sport that they so revered.
We didn’t have Netball in Durban, at my all girls’ school. I mean, maybe we did – but we also probably had chess club and no one knew about that either, although, chess was probably in higher esteem.
But along with learning the nuance of words like Komkommer, Kombuis and Kombers, (and discovering how much more fun school is when there are boys in tow), I was also growing taller than my peers, thus proving myself an asset in the competitive world of Netball.
This story is really about my grandpa. Ted.
Once I mentioned that I was taking up Netball, my grandpa went out to his garage, that was really more of a workshed/habadashery/store-room, with just enough space for his old, matt-olive-green Chevrolet, with fluffy sheepskin seat covers, to snuggle into. (A car I would pretend to drop a pencil on the floor of whenever he’d pick me up from school, to lie down and hide from the leering gaze of other kids. My grandpa knew I would do that, and he’d laugh at me. There was no shame in that Chevvy. It was a “classic”.) My grandpa spent a few hours in his garage that evening, collecting old fishing-rods and binding them together (“See, there was a reason I kept these old things, never throw anything away!” The TV show hoarders would have run screaming from Grandpa’s garage.) And he fashioned a pole, much longer than the standard Netball goal’s pole. And then he put that pole on top of an old table. And he put that table on top of the garage. And he shaped a metal ‘hoop’ that he made sure was just big enough to fit the ball through.
“There. That will do it. Practice with this hoop, and you’ll be better than the others. You’ll be the best.”
“But it doesn’t work that way, Grandpa. Only two girls get to throw at goal. I’m not that position. I’m not good enough.”
“Practice. Get 10 hoops in a row, then you can go down for dinner. Hurry, it’s getting dark.”
And thus began my childhood equivalent to bootcamp. Practicing on a too-high, too-small netball hoop. 10 in a row, became 20, became 50, became backwards. Movie Montage to when I became so good that when I’d see the real hoops on school premises they’d look as big and low as swimming pools. And guess who got so good at scoring goals that she got promoted to the first team and was given the position of ‘Hulp Doel’ (which I believe is ‘Goal Attack’ in English) – the kid who gets to run around AND enter the circle to score goals. Yup. This little English Girl.
Then, I finished Primary school, moved away to my mother and became far “too cool” to do any sports after school in High School.
Fast forward TWENTY TWO YEARS. Yes. 22 years. Holy crap. How did I get so OLD? (One of my new teammates IS 22, so THAT puts things into perspective…) Zando contacted me and asked if I’d like to take part in the Iconic Cape Town 10s, which is traditionally a Rugby thing, it is South Africa’s BIGGEST social, sport and lifestyle event of the year – and they told me they wanted me on the Celeb squad, and I could choose Netball, Volleyball or Dodgeball.
Ah Netball. My dark-horse. My secret skill.
So I signed up. (And then realised 22 years had passed since I’d played… perhaps all those rounds of Beer-Pong in between count? Probably not. But my aim, even when drunk, has remained pretty good.)
Tonight is our first practice. (I wanted to write rehearsal, because of the industry I’m in. And given that I’m with a team of actresses, radio personalities, TV presenters and News Journalists – I feel ‘rehearsal’ is a more adequate description of what’s about to happen.) We ‘rehearse’ tonight. And tomorrow morning at 8.45am (EIGHT FORTY FIVE AY EM????!!!!) We have our first match of the weekend. And it’s bound to be a hoot.
My Grandpa passed away in 2010. Before I started my comedy career. Before I would ever have been considered “known” enough to be invited to play on a ‘celeb squad’ of anything. But he was certain I was going to be a star. He was always my biggest fan. He doesn’t know me as a comedian, but he knows me as a netball player. And that is what I will do.
Probably badly. I’ll probably pull all the muscles, in all of the places. But I’ll be playing Goal Attack, the position my Grandpa made me earn, more than 22 years ago. And I know my aim is still better than most, and THAT, is at least something.
(This post got pretty sentimental, but my Grandpa helping me with Netball is one of my favourite memories of him. SO DEAL WITH IT!)
If you want to come to the Zando 10s to watch the mayhem, to drink, to see and be seen, It’s this weekend. 3rd and 4th February 2017. Here is a link to the info. You can come and support all the teams in different sports – and this is the first year that DODGEBALL is going to be a fixture, and that should be hilarious. I didn’t choose it because I’m not nimble enough.
*high five for High Nets*
Follow the action on #Zando10s