I was built for comfort not for speed

Mr Hook joins our team in the Carlow Rugby Club Tag Festival in June

I was built for comfort, not for speed. I knew this as a child. Although taller by a full foot than most of my contemporaries, I never won races. Looking at me it was a surprise: long and leggy, I should have been fast, but my abiding memory was of running my hardest and yet still seeing titchy things overtake me on the track and win. My school sports were hockey and tennis, neither of which I excelled at. A brief spell in goal seemed to suit me and I even made the senior team and went on tour to Wales aged 13. Too young really to enjoy this freedom as I did not drink and was very much the baby of the team. But my niece was born while away which was wonderful and John Lennon was shot and killed which was not. The Wales of my memory will never be the same again. After a few close misses with hockey balls flying past my face, I opted to return to the field again and finished my school sports career in my final year as captain of the Thirds: the captaincy of which came as result of my age and not any skill. Most girls with little or no athletic ability tended to drop team sports by their final year in school, but I just played away blissfully ignorant of my lack of talent, and more notably, speed.

Ah, speed. This is why I am writing blog today. After a hiatus of some years I have returned to team sports this summer. When I say some years, I mean a great big sum of them, as in almost 30 years. A dear friend texted me at the start of the summer and asked would I join a tag rugby team in Gorey, Co Wexford. I baulked at first, then warmed to the idea. I am naturally active, again without any particular skills. I learnt to horseride after my divorce and went on to win small jumping competitions, went on an amazing cattle drive in Montana and an equally stunning equestrian safari in South Africa. I have joined the local gym, attend classes with regularity and use my treadmill often. I like to walk. I also sing, write, socialise and enjoy pubs. But it has been a long time since I did any team sports and so four weeks ago I rocked up to Gorey Rugby Club feeling excited and a little bit nervous.

How hard would it be I thought. I’ve brothers who played rugby at senior levels. I’ve grown up in a rugby family, went to a rugby school and spent many, many hours cheering on my team or country in rugby matches. It was only when I arrived at Gorey and saw everyone warming up that I suddenly realised I had never chucked a rugby ball round with my brothers in the back garden, ever. I almost turned tail there and then but my good friend persuaded me to stay.
Fast forward to tonight. Learning a new sport is tough, even in a friendly environment. Tonight was my fourth match and boy was it fun. For starters there was no rain, a first in this summer league. I am not sure why but every Thursday it has been bucketing down with rain. At least two nights have been cancelled and last week we played despite the stair rods of rain coming down. At first I was very grumpy but once wet it really doesn’t matter. Running around in the pouring rain is actually quite good fun in summer. It wasn’t cold or rather we weren’t cold. And surprisingly I got a try. Don’t ask me how but I was in the right place at the right time and touched it down! Go Me!

Tonight was very funny and it all goes back to speed. Girls get three points for a try, boys only one. So the emphasis is on getting the girl over the line. At one stage, a teammate shouted at me: “Stay Up,” and I did try but my legs while long are not fast. I don’t know why. I think I run a bit like Phoebe from Friends and I was miles from him at the touch down. Epic fail. Later on, the same teammate looked at me and looked at another girl on the team. Although we were all neck and neck and no one was marking me, he still passed to her. Sadly she was tagged and missed the try. It was a good call based on my lack of speed just unfortunate in its ultimate execution.

Half time came and I promised to try and run faster. And not be scared of dropping the ball if passed to me. I would call for the ball. My time came soon enough. A late run and I was twenty feet off the touch down. I went into my top gear and ploughed on. I was tagged but did not realise it. I was running so fast I could not stop and ploughed into the hedge at the perimeter of the field and got stung all over with nettles. Now, this was playing. I was running so fast I could not stop. A result albeit it without a try.

Five minutes later and getting very close to end of the match and again I was up with our side. The ball came my way, I caught it and ran on to the goal line. Touchdown and into the hedge after. TRY! Loads of nettle stings. I’d taken one for the team! And got a try!

I am now officially the highest scorer on our team. Nothing to do with talent at all. But I have the nettle stings to prove it.

I love Tag Rugby!


Death By Sex?

The irish Book of the Dead by Jillian Godsil

What is it about the Irish and their fascination with death? From wakes to accidents, to death by sex, by misadventure, by time, this new collection of short stories traces a personal approach to death in all its froms. At times funny, stark and poignant, the nine stories will leave the reader wanting more.

Buy this book now on Amazon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
 Illuminating July 10, 2012
From a woman who knows how to make a word pack 20 punches this is surely a knock out blow. I think any short story gets its greatest compliment when its read twice just to make sure you missed nothing first time round.

The day I lost my Bosoms!

The day I lost my bosoms

To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune: to lose both looks like carelessness, so intoned Lady Bracknell in Wildes’ Importance of being Earnest. So, too it was that I lost both my bosoms to a severe allergic reaction while on a brief break in the sun last week.

Well, to be strictly honest, I did not lose my bosoms so much as I could no longer see them without the assistance of a mirror. My eyes had so swollen up as to render me half blind, fully oriental and scared silly my face would never return to my normal occidental self.


Under a hot sun, misfortunes may sometimes look harsher than under a cloudy Irish sky, with all its 50 shades of grey. In the searing heat my skin puckered and grew angry. First a tell tale itchy rash across the top of my arms and then my face began to creak and redden. On day two of a short five day break I knew I was in trouble. That evening, my right eye was puffy as if I had overslept. I kept on touching the skin under my eye, conscious of its straining to expand.

I went to sleep that night an Irishwoman with bosoms and I woke up the next morning looking like a very unattractive Asian woman and unable to see clearly in any direction, especially below. It is like those stories of overweight men who sigh of the lost sight of their manhood. With the swelling across my face, especially around my cheekbones and eyes, I could see nothing south of my nose. I spilled a little yogurt while having breakfast and had to go the mirror to find out where the drop had landed – ironically bang in the middle of my bosoms.

When I awoke that morning I could feel the strangeness in my face. My eyes felt as though someone had injected a saline solution all around them in a bizarre cosmetic procedure. They were bloated like arm bands and wobbled in a terrifying fashion.

Fortunately I was on a family break and surrounded by siblings who took care of me, but there was no change to my face for the next three days despite latherings of aloe vera, fistfuls of antihistamines and the regular application of cold compress cloths cooled in the freezer (on one occasion the cloth was frozen hard and I feared then for ice burn on my poor face as the cardboard textured cloth pivoted coldly before starting to defrost and ease across my cheeks).

I genuinely worried would my face stay like that. Had the wind changed? Was this to be the next ignominious chapter in my life – telling what is was like to endure a terrible facial disfigurement? I know, how shallow is the view of one’s face, but it is an intrinsic part of who we are. When we look in the mirror we just expect to see the same familiar face there.  Once, many years ago as a teenager I had a serious bike accident with the main injuries on my face. Then as now it swelled up in a grotesque caricature of normal myself. Indeed, I had a visit from my first boyfriend to the hospital to see me. When I was discharged a week later, I no longer had a boyfriend. God love him!

Flying home was also a peril as I had to leave the safety of my air conditioned holiday bedroom and mingle with strangers. I tried the celebrity approach of wearing sunglasses indoors, nabbing my daughter’s for this purpose. However, they made me feel claustrophobic and unsteady. And then there were the deep indents from the frames in my puffy cheeks when I took them off. ‘No one knows you in the airport,’ said my family kindly, but when the server in Burger King wished me a good day with a big smile, I really found it very hard to return the gesture; not least because it hurt to squeeze my puffy cheeks upwards for a smile. He must have thought me a most rude, grumpy and frankly ugly woman!

And then I was terrified I might explode on the flight while at high altitude, like cheap breast implants and splat all in my vicinity. Fortunately my worst fears were not realised, although how I went through passport control without a caution or at least a double look I have no idea.

When I retuned home I visited my family doctor. She walked past me in the waiting room while calling my name: she did not recognise me. There was no need to ask for drugs, these were liberally granted to me – more antihistamines, steroids and antibiotics as well as cooling creams and painkillers. I needed them all.

Today, a week after a first went down I am so much better.  My face is again recognisable and normal. My rash is gone, almost. And I have finally been able to get a full night’s sleep.

Three important lessons have come to me as a result of this little hiccup in wellness. The first is to always be sick in the company of your family: there is no one to mind you so well. The second is to love your face, wrinkles and all (apparently when puffy I had no wrinkles so my kid brother kindly told me!) as there is nothing so dear as that which is so familiar – the same goes for favourite teddies, worn slippers and well thumbed books.  And finally, don’t worry about losing your bosoms, they will still be there once the swelling goes down!