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  • jdettmann

My Dark Past

When I was a teenager, I went through a rough time in my life. It was a time of wearing revealing clothes, messing around with ropes and clubs … Not the kind of stuff any parent wishes for their daughter. Yes, dear readers, for several years I was a rhythmic gymnast.

I was reminded of those years, from thirteen to sixteen, as I drove the car earlier this week. As part of Operation Sleep In Your Own Damn Bed, May Blossom is categorically NOT allowed to fall asleep in the car or stroller at the moment. Combined with her disrupted (but — hooray — mercifully improving) sleep at night and you have the long-winded explanation of why I was playing ‘Live And Let Die’ by Wings (‘the band the Beatles could have been‘) at top volume. I hadn’t heard that song for years and the dramatic orchestral interlude took me straight back to my days as a leotard- and bun-wearing massive dork.

You see, part of what you do in rhythmic gymnastics, aside from prancing about like a dick holding a hoop or a shiny black ball, is find short pieces of music to which you can choreograph said dickish prancing. From memory, the music needed to be somewhere between one and two minutes and was not allowed to have any vocals. The orchestral bit of ‘Live and Let Die’ was a frequently used score to the ‘sport’.

So when I wasn’t in the gym practising my splits and arabesques and cat leaps and stag leaps, I could often be found at home listening to CDs and videos, on the hunt for that perfect wordless few bars. TV theme tunes were very useful for this. History doesn’t relate exactly how many hours of work I put into my quest to dub the theme from ‘The Bill’ from the video I taped it on one (who am I kidding? every) Saturday night onto a blank cassette using a complicated tangle of audio in, audio out and aux cables and some masterful combined use of the record and pause buttons, but suffice to say it was more work than went into most of my exams. The hardest part was splicing all the bits together to avoid the voice-over than invariably came on to tell me ‘The Bill’ would return next Saturday night (I knew that. Everyone knew that. It had been on for fifteen years every Saturday night) and that coming up next was ‘Birds of a Feather’.

It wasn’t for all routines that we had to choose our own music: there were many competitions where there was a set routine that had to be performed to a prescribed piece of music. For parents, it’s a peculiar kind of torture, I imagine, to have to spend most Sunday mornings (for some reason rhythmics meets are always on Sundays — possibly because on Saturdays the gyms are always booked out by proper gymnasts on parallel bars and vaults) watching sixteen kids leap about twirling ribbon to the same forty-second interlude from ‘Love Is Blue’.

And with that, I’d like to wish my wonderful father a happy birthday. Thanks, Dad, for all the early mornings driving to gymnastics competitions, and all the evenings picking me up from gym practice, when we’d get stuck in peak-hour traffic and listen to ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ on the ABC. May there be many more years in which you never have to watch rhythmic gymnastics again.

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