Monday, 27 November 2017

An Unexpected Early Lesson in Life

"Fifteen love" said David. "No,no,no it's fifteen all" corrected Stanley his older brother. The two had improvised a game of 'tennis' in a corner of the ground floor of Ribstone House, one of the blocks of council flats that were known as The Morningside Estate in Hackney (circa 1946). The tennis ball, was authentic but everything else was improvised. Hands for rackets, lines chalked on the wall for boundaries of play. Johnny, aged 8, was their sole, somewhat bemused, spectator. "Why did you say 'love' ?", the small boy said. "That's what it's called when you haven't yet scored" said Stanley. "And anyway it's fifteen all" he added quickly. I soon learned that, as and when you won more points, you had to say 'fifteen', then 'thirty', then 'forty' and then 'game'. If it got to 'forty all', you had to say 'deuce' instead.

For young Johnny, this was the unlikely beginning of understanding that life is not always logical and that, despite this fact, it can be enhanced by accepting a small degree of magical thinking. After all, who would deny that the rather peculiar and unlikely scoring nomenclature in the game of tennis - and in contradiction of all the norms of science and mathematics - actually enhances the game?!

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