The week before last, I was on holiday with my family, staying with my great-aunt in East Anglia. A relaxing time was had by all. We went to local attractions we've been to many times before; we read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while lying on the lawn; we ate a lot of cake; and my siblings and I acted as though we were all at least 10 years younger than we actually are (although this is everyday behaviour for the sibs). I feel so lucky that I get on well with them.
Despite all the cake-eating, I got plenty of exercise. My brother tends to feel a day is wasted on holiday if he hasn't been for a bike ride, played frisbee or at least kicked a football about. We did a bit of all of this. My great-aunt has an enormous garden and one night, my brother and I played frisbee until we could no longer see each other in the dusk. It's a glow-in-the-dark frisbee.
However, one sporting activity in particular will form my abiding memory of this holiday, and it all started when my sister said, "Anybody want to play rounders?"
We had a softball bat, two squash balls, and (between us) a hazy grasp of the rules of rounders, softball, and cricket. And only three players. You may ask yourself, how would any of those games work with only three players?
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the D. Family Sporting Federation Memorial Batball Tournament.
(Name arrived at after much discussion. "Who is it in memory of?" my mum asked. "Batball!" said my brother.)
1. There shall be 3 players:
2. There shall be 2 bases:
– The glow-in-the-dark frisbee, positioned a yard or so from the edge of the lawn nearest the house (home base)
– The yellow football, positioned about 10 metres away from the frisbee, or level with the big leylandii tree (outside base).
3. The playing area shall be the lawn. If the ball is hit beyond the trees and into the bushes, or on to the gravel path, or over the wall and into the woods, and is therefore hard to find, that will automatically count as half a run.
4. When the ball does go on the gravel, K will fetch it if she is the only one with shoes on. Uncharacteristically good play by K may also be attributed to the shoe factor.
5. The ball shall be bowled underarm, as otherwise we will be here all night before it goes near the batter. The batter will stand to the right of home base, and may claim a no-ball if the ball does not pass over the base at roughly waist height, or if K’s sister does not feel like hitting it, or if K bowls particularly erratically.
6. The batter may not stop at the outside base (the football) but must keep going back to home base, since there is only one person on the batting team.
7. Three strikes and you’re out, unless we’re feeling generous (see no-balls, rule 4).
8. Either fielder or bowler may get the batter out, but only by touching, while holding the ball, the base towards which the batter is running, or by striking the base or the batter’s body with the ball. This last is not recommended, as you will certainly miss and make "arrrgh" noises. If anybody (K) actually manages to hit a running target (brother), a round of applause is in order.
9. Once the batter is caught out, the bowler becomes the new batter, and the fielder the bowler. Or something. Bowler and fielder may swap roles if they feel like it or the batter is doing too well, but the order of turns at bat should stay the same.
10. When K’s sister tries really, really hard to catch her brother out and misses the catch by an inch, play will stop to commiserate her as soon as her brother has reached the base. This is doubly true if she falls over in the attempt.
11. Play may be suspended for the night if:
– the grass becomes too dewy to run on
– the midges become too rapacious
– it’s too dark to find the ball in the woods.
Our tournament ran over three evenings, and I won in the end! ("Fluke! Fluke!") On the last night, as it got darker and darker, we realised that the air was full of little dark shapes that squeaked and fluttered. Our batball had been graced with some genuine bats.