1989. I stand yawning on the edge of the games field, nose twitching with incipient hay fever, idly watching the bees on the grass. Far off, there's a yelp from the games teacher. Someone has hit the rounders ball hard, and high. It's flying out to the perimeter.....yup, it's coming straight for me in a perfect arc. Helplessly, I stick my hand up in the air to catch it. The ball flies into my hand....and I drop it.
This is my main memory of the rounders that I played for five year's worth of summer terms, two hours a week. The humiliation of dropped catches. The difficulty of bowling into the right area, neither too high or too low for the batter. And the batting. The squeals of laughter if you missed. The terror of having to run like the wind if you actually hit it, or you'd be caught out at first base.
But the main thing was that I could never see the point. Tennis, yes, and swimming - one was a sociable game, with some skill to it and an interesting psychological element, the other a necessity of going into the water. But rounders? It was just running around a field. It was almost as bad as my bete noire of Hockey, except that the weather was usually more clement and, if fielding, you could just stand there daydreaming.
But this weekend I had reason to thank my years of rounders hell. We were invited to a barbecue by an American work colleague of The Doctor's. At which there would be a game of softball.
This was actually quite funny, because none of the The Doctor's fellow post-doctoral researchers are American. They are all Italian, German or Asian, so none of us really knew what softball was. As we trooped out to the field, with a thunderstorm threatening, no-one looked particularly enthusiastic. "Do you really think we have to play?" we had been muttering to each other in the car.
But then our host was asking who wanted to try batting. One guy had a go, but all the others were hanging back. Suddenly it came to me - this was, basically, rounders, but with a bigger bat. "I'll do it," I volunteered, and stepped up to the plate.
Readers, I hit the softball. And ran. And really quite enjoyed it. The Littleboys were cheering. The Doctor - knowing my usual lack of ability for team sports - looked surprised. "This is a whole new side to you," he said.
So thank you, Miss M, for those years of being shouted at across a grassy field. I can actually hit a ball with a bat. Which, as any American child knows, is pretty darn important in the US of A.