So It Goes: Gymnastics through the generations

GYMNASTICS: Cartwheeling two generations

GYMNASTICS: Cartwheeling two generations

I can’t believe that a grand daughter of mine is doing gymnastics.

Not only is she doing it, but she is doing so willingly.

I can’t talk to her upright anymore. She spends most of the time looking at the world upside down, doing cartwheels or handstands or contorting her body into unnatural positions.

I look at her with a mixture of horror and amazement.

Just how did any relative of mine end up at home on a bar or a beam?

Gymnastics was a compulsory subject for me at high school. I suffered at least two lessons a week, usually putting myself at the end of the line for any and all activities.

I have a phobia about heights and even walking along the beam caused my heart to pound. I would swoop my foot alongside its curved sides, pointing my toes as instructed and pray for the dismount. I would clumsily hurl myself across the vault and coat my hands in powder ready for the dreaded bars.

But most of the lesson was spent trying to get out of the lesson. Having watched my classmates rotate like chickens on a spit around the bars a few times, our gym instructor would ask “Who hasn’t had their turn?”

My faithless classmates would call as one “Linda” and then spend a good few minutes of great hilarity watching my bony (the bones have long been covered since my teenage years) but not at all dextrous body attempt what no body is meant to do. We wore bloomers (lycra hadn’t been thought of) under our gym uniform and there was mine splayed out in an ungainly fashion for all to see.

If we were chickens, my goose was cooked.

I would then spend the next few days recovering from the gym session, and just when everything stopped hurting, we would go in for a second bout. I even asked my doctor to step in and he reluctantly issued a letter saying I wasn’t allowed to do backwards somersaults. I am not sure just how much that helped.

Our school rankings were out of seven and I gained a four most terms. It wasn’t a fail but it ranked among my lowest school scores, rivalled only by grooming and deportment. Perhaps the gym teacher should have conferred with the deportment teacher about whether a girl who couldn’t "pause gracefully” could in fact do anything gracefully.