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Friday 5th September 2003

For some reason a childhood memory has been playing on my mind this week. I'm not sure where it's popped up from or why, but it is maybe indicative of something.
It's not particularly amusing or even interesting, but it obviously made an impact on me because I remember it all very clearly.

I was never very good at sports as a child (you probably won't be surprised to hear), nor was I very interested. But at about the age of 9 or 10, I became quite keen on cricket (I think, strange as it is to admit, probably because my older brother liked it and was good at it, which makes me realise that I must have looked up to him, despite the poundings he regularly gave me!) and despite not being any good at it I decided to go along for the trials for the school team.
I can clearly remember being disappointed with my performance in the nets. I neither batted, nor bowled well, but in hindsight I can see that I was, at least trying very hard and was enthusiastic. The fact I'd never tried to be in a school team before is testimony to this.
At the end of the session, Mr Morris the games teacher read through all our names, indicating whether we'd made it into the squad or not. "Kevin Jones, you're in. Phillip Fry, not this year..." and so on.
When he got to me he said "Richard Herring.... just on the border." I took this to mean that I had just missed out. That Mr Morris had seen how keen I was to play and was trying to cushion my disappointment by telling me that I hadn't quite made the grade. I wasn't surprised. I'd played really badly and knew that I could do better.
We were allowed to stay on and play after the trial was over, and I was so desperate to be a part of the squad I even went up to Mr Morris and said, "If we play really well now, might that affect your decision?"
I remember him looking a bit confused, but telling me it wouldn't. I was heart-broken. I was not to be one of the lucky ones invited along to the training session later in the week.

A few days later, after school, I was waiting for my mum by her car (she was teaching at the school at the time. I have the unusual distinction of having been taught by both my parents - explains a lot, I think). Mr Morris saw me and approached me purposefully.
"Where were you at practice, yesterday," he asked.
I was confused, "Er, I forgot," I lied, for some reason. I hadn't turned up because he told me I was just on the border, and thus not in the team. He continued with the disappointment in his voice very clear, "If you want to be in the school team then you have to turn up to the practice. You have to take it seriously."
I apologised and immediately realised that when Mr Morris had said I was on the border, he'd meant that I was on the border and in, rather than I had assumed on the border and out.
In hindsight I can see that he was doubly disappointed, because he had only included me in the squad because of my enthusiasm and because I'd never tried to be in a team before. But I had thrown his magnanimous gesture back in his face and not even bothered to show up.
It's weird that I didn't feel able to explain the misunderstanding. That I lied about having forgotten to cover my embarrassment. In fact I never tried out for the team again, despite the fact that in the next couple of years I would become a half decent wicket-keeper and performed extremely well in an inter-house cricket tournament in my last year at middle school (we had houses, like in Hogwarts, though named after hills rather than fictional magicians, but it wasn't a posh school. I was in Blackdown).
After we won the tournament, not in little part due to my cat-like ability to stop nearly every ball that came to me (I'd been practising with a bouncy net thing in my back garden for months), Mr Morris said, "You've really improved, Herring, it's a shame you didn't try out for the team this year."
And I suppose I only hadn't because of embarrassment over the earlier misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that could so easily have been cleared up if I'd just explained what had happened. But again embarrassment prevented me from even doing that.

I think maybe there's still quite a lot of that 9 year old boy in me and my actions and decisions today.

I don't know if Mr Morris is still alive, I think he probably is. I wonder if I should write to him and explain why I didn't turn up to practice now. Or whether it might be a bit too late, and that he possibly may have forgotten all about it.
I'd just like to thank him for the kind and encouraging gesture of putting me in the squad, even if he couched that inclusion in slightly confusing terms (I think he was also slightly embarrassed by the blatant injustice of putting the worse player in the squad).

I need to go away and think about why my subconscious has thrown that story into the front of my brain after so long. I would guess it's something to do with always assuming the worse and not having confidence in myself.
Just on the border.
Maybe a title for the autobiography that I will never be confident enough to write!


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