On Saturday, Baggins and I had a rare free day. And it was the kind of beautifully sunny day where you feel the world (London) is your Oyster (card).
Baggins came up with what HE thought was a brilliant plan.
“Let’s go to Decathlon in Canada Water! It’s one of the BIGGEST sports and outdoor shops in LONDON!”
My LIPS said “OK!“.
I arranged the REST of my face to passively-aggressively say:
“Is this some kind of sick JOKE?! It’s SUNNY! A sports shop? Inside? In weather like this?! I better be getting a bazillion brownie points for THIS!”
We pootled eastwards in the sunshine along the Thames path on Boris bikes (sorry Santander) and stopped – on the way – for an al fresco pub lunch on the river. So far so good.
Looking back, it’s clear I was being groomed.
Then came the part I was dreading as we arrived at “one of the BIGGEST sports and outdoor shops in LONDON!”.
Winding our way up and down the numerous aisles (it was a bit like an IKEA for scooters and sports bras), we eventually stumbled upon a makeshift mini badminton net in the middle of the shop.
Now I’m not the sportiest. I went to six different schools so the amount of time I spent playing the part of “New Girl” meant that I never really had time to play sport. Every new school had their own special sport that they loved and DOMINATED.
Whereas I neither knew nor cared.
“Netball? Never heard of it.”
You look excited out there waving your bat/ball/fist…but I’m not feeling it
I’d join one school where their ‘thing’ would be hockey. I wouldn’t bother trying out for the team because – crucially – everyone was already good at hockey. The only ‘puck’ I knew was Shakespearean.
I’d join the next school and their ‘thing’ would be lacrosse. There’s no way I wanted to be a newbie in a sport that looked so BRUTAL and everyone else had been playing for 5 years. I wasn’t about to get both figuratively and literally murdered on the field just to fit in.
You get the picture. I swerved sport.
The only sport I did manage to partake in at school had – in fact – been badminton. I had chosen it to fulfill the compulsory ‘sport’ section of my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.
I decided it was hard to be bad at badminton. It is the most forgiving of sports, especially if you’re slow and mal-coordinated (comme moi). The shuttlecock kindly allows you about 7 minutes to get in position as it ambles over the net.
On a side note, if you’re interested (which I highly doubt you are) I never did pass my stoopid Duke of Edinburgh Award. For the ‘service’ section I’d been working every Saturday morning for about 3 months in a charity shop on my local high street. However, on the day I went in to finally get my form signed I was told that the little old lady who’d been managing me had died, bless her.
It was the type of unfortunate situation in which I’d have seemed ever so slightly callous if I’d brought up the fact that the deceased hadn’t got round to signing off my sheet before shuffling off this mortal coil.
“Dead? Bloody dead? Tell her to look bloody lively!”
So back to Decathlon where the badminton net loomed (all 4ft of it) in front of us. I hadn’t picked up a racquet in 15 years, but that wasn’t going to stop me showing my ridiculously sporty husband that there WAS in fact a sport his lady wife could do.
We rallied back and forth and, as lots of shoppers stopped to watch us, I actually felt like Tom Hanks in Big.
I couldn’t exactly hear any mumbles but I’d guess our fellow shoppers were definitely whispering:
“These two must be Olympians!”
“I must buy a badminton set immediately! This is – without a doubt – the most elegant display of sporting prowess I’ve ever seen!”
I felt SPORTY. I felt ALIVE. If only the lacrosse team could see me now.
And we only hit ONE woman on the head so I think that, in itself, is a remarkable feat of sportsmanship.
This little kid (bottom left) wanted to play but I made him wait about 20 mins
Ironically we ended up leaving Decathlon with five items for me and one thing for Tony B. I even managed to sneak a massive bar of chocolate into the basket as we approached the till.
We’d whittled away so much time with our badminton match that we were in a bit of a rush leaving, with friends arriving for dinner only an hour later. We jumped on the Jubilee line to get back west and, on arrival at our home station as we were about to tap-out, Tony turned to me.
“Where’s the second bag?!”
“Was I supposed to pick one up?” I asked, innocently.
There had been two bags, yes. But I’d assumed Baggins would carry them both.
He’d assumed “two people, two bags”. An equal division of labour, bless him. How quaint.
So we made the long trudge back along the Jubilee line, back to Decathlon, to see if our second bag of sporting/outdoor goods was still there.
I didn’t want to be charged for the same journey twice so I selflessly offered to wait behind the barriers in the station while he nipped out to the shop.
But Baggins also managed to swerve the double Oystercard charge by ducking out of the disabled exit behind a big group.
The only problem would be getting back through the barriers when he returned.
There was a ticket operator manning the barriers so as the husband came back – triumphantly clutching the missing bag – I did my best attempt to distract the ticket man.
I racked my brains to think of a train-related question.
“How do I get to the platform?” I asked slowly, like I’d never been on a train before.
Then I stood up on my tiptoes just a few feet from his face and stared directly into his eyes, trying desperately to block his view of Baggins at the barriers.
He looked at briefly at me like I’d just escaped from the zoo, then hawk-eyed back at his precious barriers.
This wasn’t really working. I was summoning up the courage to go full 10 Thing I Hate About You detention flash, when Baggins appeared next to me. He’d concluded my distraction attempts were distinctly amateur, admitted defeat and tapped back in.
Foolproof distraction technique circa ’99
With our friends due at our empty flat any minute, we made our way home for the SECOND time.
Baggins told me how the man in Decathlon had checked off the items in both bags against our receipt.
“The guy said: ‘The only thing on your receipt but not in your bags is a big bar of chocolate. Do you know where that is?'”
“I told him I did” said Baggins. “I said ‘The wife forgot to pick up her bag but managed to finish THAT before we even got out of the shop.'”
Another successful day out in public, my friends.