Martial aids


I could have had a black belt in karate, but only attended six lessons.

In 1975, I started karate lessons in a Portacabin next to the A&E department at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.  At the time, I didn’t know whether this was ironic or simply a precaution if someone were to hit you with a roundhouse kick they’d just mastered while you were still trying to work out how to tie the (nowhere near black) belt keeping up your trousers.

I had an aunt, who lived in Flowersmead on Balham High Road. As her only nephew she took a great interest in what I did.  However, the character in Richard Sheridan’s “The Rivals”, Mrs Malaprop, could have been based on my aunt; she invariably got the place names just slightly wrong where I went to undertake my activities.

My aunt would shop, while visiting my Nan, her sister, in the dairy housed within Du Cane Court, where I also lived.  She would announce proudly to the other shoppers that her nephew went to Karachi every Tuesday. The other shoppers were probably thinking: “4,880 miles? Every Tuesday? Bit of a trek, just for one day?  And those who knew what I did for a living would probably ponder: Didn’t know there were advertising agencies in Western Pakistan.”

Because of my love of cricket as a kid, I’d frequently visit The Oval and Lord’s.   I’d often be accosted by other tenants inside the flats genuinely asking if I was alright, or more to the point, cured?  My aunt had told people I’d been to Lourdes.

I was never very good at playing cricket, perhaps I might have done better if I’d had Our Lady as a coach, rather than Alf Gover?

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