The response to my last blog post has completely overwhelmed me – so many people seemed to have enjoyed the story and had some lovely things to say about it, it’s very rewarding to read and to bask in the glow of success – thank you to all who’ve contacted me to tell me of their feelings and thank you to all those who’ve just read and enjoyed anyway.
But it’s quite intimidating to come up with the next one! I have many, many stories to tell of course, some of which are true and some of which are fantasy. In good time I expect to tell them all. But in the mean time, where does one go after a successful outing?
I’m reminded of a grand occasion when my hockey team won something, unexpectedly. That’s not to imply we never won anything, just that on this particular occasion, we weren’t expected to win and then we did.
I used to play field hockey for the Hong Kong Football Club, many moons ago now. I was the Ladies’ B team goalie for a few years. I adored being a goal keeper – it resonated well with my sense of being the last line of protection, of keeping my team safe, which was pretty much how I viewed my role in all aspects of my life, as a wife, mother, teacher. ‘The buck stops here’ was my unspoken motto, which I think sometimes people might be somewhat uncomprehending about. In this day and age, that kind of integrity can be hard to understand, although I saw plenty of it in the characters that I was surrounded by in my life at that time. I didn’t think of it as integrity of course, or anything as grandiose as that at the time, it was just the way I thought. And people can be intimidated by that, I discovered. Which is actually a really good thing, when you are the last line of defence.
September 2001 (as I recall) and it was my turn to take on the Captain’s mantle. One or other of the players held this responsibility for a year and whilst it was an honour there was a good deal of practical nonsense that could give the impression of feeling rather ‘put upon’ – the Captain has to make sure that all members of the team are available for play, the practicalities of getting everyone to the game have to be managed, making sure everyone has the right kit and appropriate half-time refreshments are just some of the every-day nitty-gritty jobs that need to be carried out by someone. Some might even call it a ‘dogsbody’ job. I chose to think of it as an honour.
We’d had a pretty good season. Won some games. Lost a couple. The girls were on form and had learned to trust each other. When you play in a team game this is the most vital quality that must be engendered, in order to create any kind of success. When you trust the defence, you can make your attack plays so much more confidently and out of attack comes the goals which win you the games. More importantly, when players trust each other, winning or losing becomes less important and it truly is the participation that counts.
The season was drawing to a close and the usual Hong Kong Women’s Hockey Association Cup competition matches were being held. We had played our rivals and won through the first and second rounds. Then we lost a match, but this qualified us for the Plate competition. It was unusual for us to get this far in any of the competitions because of the way they are organised to achieve a reasonably good spread across the leagues – the Cup is seeded to ensure the top two premier division teams (HKFC A team and usually Valley A’s) meet in the final, with the Plate supposedly resulting in the top teams in division one, the Bowl for division 2 and then the Saucer for division 3 teams. HKFC B team was in the premier division, along with our A team and naturally, the A’s were expected to win there.
With our demise in the Cup, it was expected that we would go out of the competition altogether, but then we found something that I think had gone walkabouts for a while. We found some grit. The team dug in and won the Plate quarter finals. Then we won the semis – we couldn’t believe it, we’d made it to a final for the first time in years!
Finals day was complicated for me – it was scheduled to be happening at the same time as the school fair (if you’ve read Tales of the Unexpected, you’ll know this was a big deal! Not the same year as that one though). I should point out the Quarry Bay School stands at the top of Braemar Hill in North Point on Hong Kong island, whilst the hockey finals always took place at the national hockey ground at King’s Park, over in Kowloon. This was a fairly complex and time-consuming journey across town and the harbour on a Saturday lunch time – with a massive goalie kit bag in tow, it was never going to be easy. I made it, just in time and adorned my kit ready for warm-ups half an hour before bully-off.
I feel I should put you in the picture a little more at this juncture – anyone who’s ever seen a hockey goalkeeper will know that there’s a whole lot of kit. You start off with your undergarments of course and in most parts of the world that play field hockey, they do so in cooler conditions, so these undergarments are then added to with the team kit or skirt and top or all-in-one dress. In Hong Kong, particularly in May when these finals were being played, it is very hot and very, very humid. Consequently, I dispensed with outer garments and simply added my padded kit on top of my underclothes.
So, I’m wearing pants, a sports-bra and a pair of cycling shorts, hockey socks and astro-shoes; then a pelvic protector; padded over-shorts (with extra tail bone protection); colossal lower-leg pads; padded ‘Minnie Mouse’ overshoes; all-in-one body armour that covers the chest, shoulders, upper arms and elbows; throat protector; padded gloves/hand & forearm protectors and of course, the pièce de resistance, the padded helmet with face guard. The heat and humidity meant that I would sweat bucket loads just putting the entire kit on, so I usually had a thick towelling headband as well to prevent being drowned by my own bodily fluids, or at least being unable to see thanks to the river of sweat running down my face. Nice image.
Now imagine wearing all that, running around a hockey pitch for the warm up and then playing seventy minutes of fairly tense hockey. I loved it! Just before the match our coach, the fantastic Mr Chris Watson, known as ‘Watto’, no mean goalkeeper himself in his time, simply told us to go out there and enjoy ourselves. We had nothing to lose. The details of the match are a bit of a blur now but when the final whistle blew and we had won, the sheer delight on the faces of my team will forever be etched on my mind. Winning isn’t the most important thing and it never should be. But winning once in a while is the sweetest, most satisfying feeling and we all shared something great that day.
Celebrations went on well into the night and I recall taking the silverware into a number of bars in Lan Kwai Fong, for the bar keepers to place all the team’s drinks on … not sure if that’s what we were supposed to do with it but it was great fun anyway! What a feeling of camaraderie we had.
And then it was over. We all played our summer hockey or went on holiday or did the things people did in East Asia during the summer months. When the new season began in September, things had changed, moved on. It really was never the same again. For a whole bunch of reasons the team was changed. It was as if we had been challenged to ‘follow that’ but couldn’t find the muse. And then came the Bali bomb. We lost so many good, dear friends and truly, the hockey was never the same again.
So, I’m always just a little wary when that phrase pops up, suggesting I should ‘Follow That!’. I’m understandably circumspect about the outcome. What if I can’t achieve something great again?
One thing that the Open Group for Bedlam Farm (OBGF) has taught me – and there are indeed many things I’ve learned from that group – is that I need to trust in my own creativity. This next post may not be as engaging, or riveting as previous ones. But it is today’s thoughts. And that’s the key. Tomorrow, I’ll have to follow this 🙂