It probably won’t come as a surprise to most of you to know that I was reasonably good at basketball when I was at school. After all, being excessively tall and having a face which looks like it has taken a few elbows is practically half of the job description for a professional role*.
Which is not to say that I was good enough to play for the school team or anything like that – nor did I, in fact, want to play for the school team, which seemed to involve spending a lot of your evenings taking longer to travel to games than the games themselves took to play. I was, however, pretty good at annoying the opposition, being far more adept at intercepting the ball, blocking shots and drawing fouls than I was at things like passing and shooting.
The last time I played the game was when I was fifteen. I collided in mid-air with another player, fell backwards and landed heavily on my right thumb, which promptly swelled up like a very swollen thing.
The teacher in charge took one look at it and sent me off to see the school nurse, Mrs Yarwood – the same lady who had first dealt with my broken arm about thirty months earlier.
Bear in mind that it was late winter and that the nurse was on the adjacent school campus to mine. And that I was wearing my school PE kit, which was pretty similar to what basketball players wear now except with far less material. And that I couldn’t really run there.
Mrs Yarwood took one look at the thumb and pronounced it ‘injured’. To prove that medical technology really hasn’t moved on since the 1980s, she then told me that there was no point sending me for an x-ray as the treatment for a broken or sprained thumb or finger was the same – you strap it to the digit next to it. Which is precisely the advice handed out to people today.
All of which meant that I had a cold walk across the campus again, back to the changing rooms where, by now, everyone else had showered and changed and gone off to the next lesson. I had to change one-handed, avoid showering in case the strapping came off, and then spend the rest of the day trying to write without being able to use my thumb.
And then guess what happened?
That’s right, I went home and no-one noticed. I think that it goes to show just how chaotic our house could be that the largest and clumsiest member of it could wander around until bedtime with a load of cotton wool and elastoplast around his fingers without it registering with someone. I remember thinking that it was quite bizarre and funny.
In the morning, I had to tell someone, because I couldn’t do my shirt buttons up. Outwardly, there was surprise. Inwardly, I suspect my parents wondered – probably not for the first time – why I was so weird.
*Actually, I could never play professionally. I would be too small. And any sport in which I am too small is very, very freaky indeed