Alexandra's Notebook

Sporting Chance

I was never thought of as being a sporty type by build and, in fact, was probably in that group picked last for any sporting event based on looks alone. Not tall, willow, thin or fit looking. But, as it turns out, given ample opportunities to prove everyone wrong, was quite good. I got to join in on just about ever sporting event going, on camp, by virtue of the fact they always needed the numbers. They needed warm bodies to make up any kind of team, whether it was netball, field hockey, or fencing.

Also, I got picked because I volunteered. As I said in my previous post, I was young, naive, and eager to be involved and volunteered for everything. As a result, I found out I wasn’t half bad at a lot of sports that would never, under any other circumstance, have been available to me to participate in. Take for instance, the fencing.

Stationed in Germany on a huge camp with just a small contingent of women, as was usually the case. A senior officer who was a champion fencer wanted to make up a contingent to go to Berlin to take part in the inter-military championships. So, without any experience whatsoever to my name, and after 8 weeks of intensive training with other warm bodies needed to fill the slots, I found myself, epee in hand, a part of a team that ended up in Berlin for a long week of intense bouts.

No. Before you ask, I didn’t win anything but I did hold my own among a plethora of high level players. The key to the team coming second over all, were points accumulated and that, in the end, was the reason I was there. I scored enough to help the team, over all, get a placing. And, of course, in doing so, got into the good books with that senior officer who, at a later date, invited me to join her MahJong group which played in the Officers mess once a week.

Now that, I was an expert at playing. But that’s a whole other post another day!

Other sporting events I found myself taking part in included, playing squash competitively, badminton, netball, field hockey, and swimming, something else I was born to do. I surprised my other swim team members when I won all 3 of the events I was signed up for. Excuse the pun, but the pool of talent among the women of the Army, Navy and Airforce, at the time, was limited. I was, therefore, bound to place somewhere.

Playing sport afforded me a great deal of time off to represent not only my camp, but at times, the Women’s Royal Air Force thanks to being a willing volunteer. It didn’t matter to me whether we won or lost, it was all about the team camaraderie, and the chance to travel all over. And for that, I will be forever thankful to the military for those amazing opportunities. Because I went to Berlin, as part of a team of fencers, I also got to see this famous city, it famous sites, including Check Point Charlie, the Opera, and a very famous beer garden, Prater Garten, where I had my very first Berliner Weisse.

Ah, those were the days.