Sport: Now I know I've become an old person

MY NINE-YEAR-OLD daughter is learning to pass a football with the inside of her foot. Practice, practice is the only way. And so we practise, and the old rituals are passed on - "foot next to the ball, head down, push the other foot through".

It's the drill I heard as a nine-year-old from my schoolfriend's dad, a former Airdrie player, as his son and I kicked a distended leather ball across the springy turf of Chorleywood Common.

Sometimes he showed us how to tug on a shirt, or lean on a shoulder - little dodges that are not, as of now, being passed on to my offspring.

Back and forth goes the ball - 30 years on, a comforting constant. And I like to think, when she is older, that my daughter will remember how she in turn drew a kind of comfort from this ritual, simple yet compelling, straightforward and yet, I don't know, sort of...

"Dad," she says. "Yes?" "Did you know there are 61 days till Christmas?" As a point of information this constitutes news - and evokes a reaction of wincing dread which is, to my daughter, quite bewildering.

It occurs to me that here we have a pretty good test for determining at what point a young person has become an old person.

When such a statement fails to produce intensely excited anticipation of mysteriously bulky stockings and chocolate coins in bed, you can safely assume the sweet bird of youth has flown.

When it rolls a sequence of depth charges into your unconscious - "Where are the Christmas card addresses? And if we can't find them, will it be my fault? When exactly is the last posting date for parcels? Should we start looking for Teletubbies other than Po right now or can we afford to leave it until December? Why have we failed, once again, to budget for Christmas? Will we manage to avoid wrapping presents into the early hours of Christmas Day this year? How? When does Santa Claus officially cease to exist? What happens if the eldest lapses in her belief, but the others remain devout? Did we buy a new angel for the tree after last year's incident? If so, where is it? And if we can't find it, will it be my fault?" - you know the bird is long gone.

Acknowledging as much to my daughter, I find myself yearning for the presents-and-chocolate-coins-in-bed days as one might sniff for an ancient scent. Days when I would wander up to the Common unaccompanied, and back again a long, hot afternoon later, and the biggest danger would be errant shots from golfers teeing off from the fairway beside our habitual playing area.

Such freedom, such safety, is not known to my daughter, or her friends. They arrive and depart from school, tidally, in fleets of cars. On picnics in the Forest, on shopping trips to Tesco, on holiday at the beach, they are told to stay within view. Everywhere they are accompanied, chaperoned, watched over ...

We would always use a particular bump in the ground as one of our goalposts, sometimes flinging bicycles down beside it, sometimes sunbathing on it during lulls in play.

We would have themes, like "left-foot shooting only". My friend Philip would puff his cheeks out like Geoff Hurst as he produced his fitful power- drives. One in five was an absolute belter.

On Saturdays, we would wander over to the far side of the Common and play into the full-sized nets set up for Chorleywood's home matches until we were shooed off by the groundsman. The game then was to fetch any loose ball as it slowed traffic on the Rickmansworth Road, just 10 feet behind one of the goals.

On Sundays, after The Big Match, there would be bigger games back on our patch, 20-a-side, with people coming and going throughout the course of the afternoon.

On one occasion we got formal, and marked the goals with wooden stakes, grinding them into the turf with clenched knees and elbows. That was when we played for the Tinfoil Cup, full of Chocolate Buttons, and the winning team did a lap of honour before consuming the contents.

A few years ago I heard that an unexploded grenade had been discovered under our goalpost mound - apparently left in store by the Home Guard.

Recently I went back and examined the old haunt. A controlled explosion had left a small crater.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms