I’m no longer 8 years old, indeed I haven’t been for quite sometime. By now my brain should be fully informed not to entertain such ridiculous, non-age appropriate notions. But no – my level of faddiness is equally matched to my competitiveness, resulting in my internal monologue shouting “Bring it on!” at any whiff of a victory dance!
One such scenario happened last Wednesday, when the weather was unusually dry for once on our annual school sports’ day. A range of activity stations had been set up, from the traditional sack races and obstacle courses to the more comical welly wanging and bum-shuffling. Something that all the children could enjoy, whether they were star athletes or less able in a sports arena.
And then there were space hoppers…
Now make no mistake, back in the day I was not to be messed with on my space hopper. It’s over-sized, rabbit-esque ears were the reins to my grinning yellow steed, that boinged and bounced its expert rider to seemingly amazing heights. And I was fast. Zooming down the avenue, my heels acted as some hand-brake turn equivalent upon reaching the end of the cul-de-sac, before racing full throttle for a return leg. But my years were still in single figures, my understanding of fast and high only relative to my small frame. I likely only jumped six inches off the ground!
Skip forward a few decades and my PB is bound to be around a third of it’s heyday height, though this did not deter me when my friend and colleague suggested we should have a hopper race. Despite an audience of small humans and their parents, humiliation was not an issue – working with children you tend to lose inhibitions quickly and find yourself in a range of laughable situations. Besides, I wasn’t going to be humiliated was I? I was the Hopper Queen! A quiet voice was trying to get through to my ears from inside my head, warning me that my opponent was much fitter than me, adept at running with lithe legs that would surely extend into graceful leaps and bounces down the track. However, a louder, testosterone fuelled voice (I do tend to lose all sensibilities as a lady sometimes) was the one that won out, yelling such positive reinforcements as, “Yeeessss! Hoo-Rah! C’Mon!” and urging me to finish in a blaze of glorious applause and admiration.
On a space hopper.
As I climbed aboard the tiny, deflating, red sack of air, it was quickly apparent that things were not as they should be. Unlike in my youth, when I was sat in an upright position, legs at a downwards angle, my cushion sank almost to the floor and my knees were somewhere up near my ears. A picture of a macabre, dismembered spider sprang to mind. No matter, the extra push needed to lift me off the floor would power me to spring along further, faster, before another touchdown.
We set off – the children excitedly cheering us along, the parents laughing, waiting for the first to fall. Two springs in and I realised I couldn’t do this, I simply could not return to my legs’ starting angle created by this pitiful choice of vehicle. “You’re on a child’s toy woman, what do you expect?” chastised my sensible voice, suddenly gaining volume. “You wanna lose? Well do ya? Not an option on my watch! Mooooove it!” Coach overpowered all sense and I think by space hopping rule-book standards, I kind of cheated. The inflatable ceased to touch the floor and I became a bunny, bouncing with as much grace as one trying to escape treacle, its odd, red, rubbery cotton-tail flapping behind.
And victory was mine… just. Worryingly, I nearly knocked out a child as my arms swung aloft to bask in the glory, still clinging to the hopper. The class were suitably impressed and on the sidelines, the parents smirked, sporadically clapped and returned to their drinks. An air-horn shrieked into action, signalling our time to move to the next event. As I replaced the airbag, its benign smiling face stared back at me. Strangely, it seemed to be holding on to some unknown secret, like the Mona Lisa. But what did it know? “Oh, you’ll see soon enough my friend…” it whispered back.
The next morning, I was a little achy, but this was nothing unusual after a small amount of exercise I told myself. A shower freshened me up and I thought no more of it, until I had to traverse the stairs. One step down and I pulled up, almost overbalanced and frantically grasped at a non-existent handrail. What the hell was wrong with my legs? Tentatively, I tried another step, but the searing pain was still there. My thighs were burning, but I had to get downstairs and out the door. One at a time, I part crab-walked, part slid, a lot relied on gravity, to descend, lump by bump.
That sadistic sack of
s h air, had leached all lower limb muscle function from me! Was that what hoppers ate, muscle tissue? Were these simple toys of joy really a parasitic danger to our future generations? Obviously, they are stealthy though, taking only a little from the young, who can replenish easily. But I bet it thought all its Christmas dinners had come at once, seeing my thighs – it went all out and gorged on the feast!
I battled the day through work. Sod’s law our classroom is upstairs, so I quickly had to find ways to drag myself up and carefully lower myself down, without looking like I needed immediate paramedic attention. Inside the classroom was no better. The children’s chairs are understandably smaller than ours and sitting down to assist them required further problem solving. I began to look like a pregnant woman, one hand on the back of my hip, the other braced against my destination, in an attempt to cushion the inevitable drop accompanied with a tiny scream.
And now it’s Saturday. Four days later and I’m still walking in a way that suggests I’ve had major surgery or aged by 50 years overnight. Even the basic human necessity of using the toilet is a chore – I wish I was a man at the moment! I can’t feel any improvement and need to lay horizontal, cocooned by softness for the foreseeable future.
So who is to blame? Was it my competitive streak that needs keeping in check or the overzealous coach voice? Perhaps my sensible side needs some assertiveness training, to be better equipped to protect me through my later years. Of course, you could just be thinking do some exercise, you unfit idiot! No, I refuse to acknowledge any of these ideas, after all I never like to be wrong!
Ladies and gentlemen, I blame The Hopper. The evil, rubber, bouncy ball of doom, with its endearing face, emitting whimsical memories of childhood, that entices you in its hunt for nourishment. So think carefully about whether your child needs them in their life, to be fed upon, possibly to continue the cycle in later years and promote the existence of these parasites. Beware The Hopper people. You have been warned.
Now someone please get me an ice bath and a physio…