It had to happen at some point. It was folly to think that attempting 26 activities in 26 weeks would result in 26 positive experiences. And yet (after 9 really good weeks) I had pushed that idea to the back of my mind and, as such, skipped along to my J activity expecting an hour of fun. I was sadly disappointed. I have spent the last couple of days trying not to write a negative review (because the positive nature of the blog is important to me) but have struggled to think of anything nice to say – and we all know what politeness dictates you should do then…
So… in order to maintain a positive veneer I am going to do two things. 1) I am not going to name the group (although I will be sending this blog to them and to the people who fund them) or attack anyone personally and 2) I am going to focus on the funny. With that in mind, let’s begin…
One of the first things I learned about social interaction from my parents was that it’s important to have a party trick. Being able to sing a song or recite a poem would get you laughs, make you friends and (most importantly at the age of 7) would mean you could stay up for grown-up parties so long as you trotted out at some point and performed your piece. My sisters and I learnt a series of tricks – singing ‘Do your ears hang low?’ and ‘Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west’, reciting the alphabet backwards (I still do this – often to prove I’m not drunk), attempting to Riverdance. My little sister could flip a polo from her nose into her mouth in one movement, my middle sister could lick her elbow – we were quite the social animals!!
It was with this in mind that I thought I’d give juggling a go. I cannot sing, cannot play an instrument and have no memory for jokes. And there remain situations where I would like to distract people from my poor social skills. Juggling seemed just the thing…
Other person: “So… what do you do?”
Me: “I am a research assistant……… Kind of a big deal …….. *#@$ing MICHAEL #@!*ing GOVE!!!…… and do I really want to have children when I’m 30??………and then I started singing the Rocky theme tune to the cat……..”
Other person: *backing away* “I have to talk to someone else now!”
Me: *starts juggling* “Look at this!”
Other person: “What a charming young socialite you are! Could you recite the alphabet backwards for me?”
Me: “But of course – Z, Y, X and W, V….”
The group who shall not be named listed various forms of juggling on their site – Balls, Clubs, Hoops, Poi spinning, Diabolo, Devil sticks, Plate spinning! ‘Great!‘ I thought ‘with so many options I’m bound to find something I could do’. I packed a camera just in case it would be worth videoing the results of my tuition and headed out.
Juggling is a skill involving moving objects (often through the air) for entertainment. Toss juggling is the most common form and involves throwing props up to catch and toss up again. The best juggling facts? 1) The world record for juggling chainsaws stands at 88 catches 2) The fastest mile hopping on a pogo stick whilst juggling three balls is 23 min 28 sec and 3) Despite the essential role of gravity in its practice – people have juggled in space.
It was a beautifully sunny day and when I arrived I was pleased to find that the group had moved their session to an outside space – making the most of the sunshine. As I walked towards them, their clubs and hoops dancing across the sky, I thought ‘this is what I wanted – a bit of razzle dazzle!’.
I thought it a bit strange that no-one so much as looked up to greet me but, to be fair to them, they were concentrating on keeping their items aloft. Eventually, a man came towards me and said ‘Are you here to juggle?’ I explained that I was and that I had been speaking to a man (we’ll call him Alphonse) by email about having a lesson. ‘Alphonse isn’t here’ the man said and walked back to his clubs. I think at this stage I must have pulled a face because another member of the group pointed to a pile of juggling balls on the floor and said ‘Try those – they’re easy!‘.
I walked towards the pile of balls, chose two and then stood for a good twenty seconds trying to will myself to juggle. I did not even know where to start. I had never juggled before and, as we know from previous endeavours, struggle to make my arms work simultaneously. I threw both balls in the air and caught them. I heard a laugh from behind me ‘No. Like this’. The shouting man picked up 8 balls and threw them so fast that I had no idea which hand movement was connected to which ball – and all the time he laughed. Like I was stupid. I contemplated telling him about the distinction I got on my Masters course from a much better University than his but stopped myself.
‘Again. Two balls. Slower’ I spat through gritted teeth. Perhaps sensing that I’m stronger than I look he obliged. I watched carefully and managed to copy what he was doing – at least for a couple of rounds. I dropped the balls over and over but, to my credit, kept picking them up and trying again. All around me clubs and hoops flew gracefully between people – chatting away about their courses, about plans for the weekend, about films… just not to me. My comments and questions went unanswered. For half an hour I practised, then I set the balls down, turned and left.
Oddly, I drove away from the building feeling pleased with myself. After all, I had done my upmost to attempt something new and to enjoy it. I had not lost my temper, or become upset or given up. Neither had I learned to juggle – but that wasn’t through lack of trying. So… juggling could still be my thing, I just need to find a better teacher. In the meantime I’ll stick to saying the alphabet backwards – I can do that even after a skin-full!!
Don’t forget to sponsor my Race for Life efforts here. Every pound will make a difference