This issue of
Citylife

Protection Racket

I tried to get out of the way, I really did. Alas, not fast enough and the little green sphere hit my back with a ‘thwack’. The initial sting was quickly followed by a burning sensation, radiating outwards from the point of impact. I stood in the middle of the court, sweating profusely and gasping for air. I looked at Mrs. D who was dry, lithe and ready to go.

“Ha! Another one off the wall. My point” she said and prepared to serve.

This game of squash wasn’t my idea. I find that competing against my wife opens up dangerous areas in our relationship…especially when in a confined space with a rubber missile and rackets in hand. She’s often said she’d like to try ‘The Amazing Race’, where teams of two race around the world. Or Asia, depending on which version one watches. We wouldn’t get past the first leg before ripping each other’s throats out, in my opinion. Then there’s the sulking. She hates it when I do that. I say stop beating me at everything. She doesn’t listen.

It’s not that we have any more or any less issues than any other couple. We’re just very different which is, of course, part of the attraction too. Being able to cope with, accept and respect those differences are key to a strong partnership. I know this is true; I read it in a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant. She’s in your face, I’m somewhere behind you; she goes off the wall, I am definitely on it. So it was with a certain amount of reluctance I agreed we’d try to play something I hadn’t attempted for twenty years. I realised I’d made a mistake in the second minute.

She served and I ran to my right to return the ball. She stepped left, played her shot and I ran across to the other side, touching the wall with my hand to keep my balance. She stepped right, swung and I ran back to the other side and this time, bounced off the wall. Each rally was a repetition; one step for her, the width of the back of the court for me. An excellent plan as part of a regime to keep my belly in check. For relationship building, definitely not the way forwards. I hadn’t expected to win, she’s too fit. I had hoped she would at least have sweated a little, if for nothing else than to make me feel better. We’re both competitive in our own ways. Smugness abounds if one can get something over the other, breeding defiance in the loser. As I slid down the wall at the end of the first set, I naturally refused her offer of ceding defeat.

Rubbing my thigh to mitigate another hit, I wondered how fast a squash ball travels. So here are some interesting…well, useful… well, facts for your next pub quiz. A Major League baseball flies off a wooden bat at 193 kph. A squash ball travels at up to 200 kph and a top class tennis serve makes the ball leave the strings at 250 kph. Even this is slower than the fastest bat and ball game, Jai Alai. They use large, curved, banana like rackets and fling the ball at a wall at 302 kph. That is fast but not the most speedy ball. Jason Zubak hit a golf ball at 328 kph to claim the world record in 2009; usually there’s not someone trying hit it back so it doesn’t really count. However, what surprised me most was badminton, something I always considered to be a gentle game. I was quite wrong. The fastest recorded smash is 332 kph. That’s nearly as fast as Mrs. D’s tongue when I’ve done something wrong. Not bad for an artificial bird with a cork head and sixteen feathers. And I am talking about the shuttlecock, just in case anyone wasn’t sure.

Of course, this was information gained after the titanic struggle for marital sporting superiority. All I knew then was that a squash ball hurt when it hit you and I was losing. And knackered, but I wasn’t going to show my beloved that. I readied myself for the second set. It was time for the pack-leader to claim their rightful place. It didn’t take long, sixteen-minutes in fact. I offered my begrudging congratulations and sloped off to the locker room to lick my wounds. Later, she was suitably smug…but fair play, I would have done the same. I had to take defeat like a man. So I sulked for several hours and didn’t speak to her.

She questioned my ball speeds, claiming she knew two that worked faster than any of the above. I didn’t understand what she meant so she took me upstairs to demonstrate. Maybe I should let her win more often?

Nah, maybe not.