And I'm back from New York. I've learnt that American portion sizes and people with absolutely no self control (that would be me) do not comfortable bed fellows make. I've also been as close to Beyonce as it will ever be legal for me to be (at a Brooklyn Nets match, n.b. we were still quite far away from her). Now on my return, I seriously need to get motivated for the sake of this project and indeed the size of my rapidly expanding arse. See previous comment on self control. If you want to see pictures of Beyonce's mum and Kelly Rowland checking out some guy's arse, head over to www.jeninspired.wordpress.com - it's literally all going on.
In other massive news, Team GB were kind enough to re-tweet a link to my blog, again, and consequently I gained my first ACTUAL OLYMPIAN follower. Sebastian Prieto, member of Great Britain's handball team, you are most welcome. Now please tell all your Team GB friends (but obviously, we will still love you the most, even when Ennis inevitably follows your lead).
Before my holiday, I managed to squeeze in a game of table tennis. Table tennis is a game that will forever reek of Youth Club - I don't know why, since I didn't play table tennis much in my youth, nor did I attend a youth club - perhaps that is why. It strikes me as a game that should be played in bars alongside a pint, like table football or darts (both of which I'm crap at). That's not to say there isn't any skill in it, but it's hard for me to take it seriously as a sport.
For this reason, along with the fact that it's hard to get people to help organise all these sports and I'm quite often dependent on the generosity of experts, I decided to hold this competition at Bounce near Holborn. Bounce is a bar, with lots of ping pong tables. One of these is a genuine Olympic table, and oh how it shines - like a beacon of, well, pale halogen lights under some darker halogen lights. But, appropriately, it is built on the site of where ping pong was first created and patented in 1901 by John Jaques III. I think this might have been what BoJo was banging on about when he said we were bringing table tennis home.
Knowing, as I do, that my friend (and gold medallist from my previous football competition) Gemma is a keen ping ponger, I asked her if she'd like to join me. We had a brief exchange during which we discussed whether or not it would be acceptable to play in a bar (Gemma raised concerns that this could sully the competition, bringing the game into disrepute etc) and finally decided on our venue. Gemma assured me, however, that if booking was a problem, she knew "of many other tables in London". Weirdo.
Apparently Holborn's legal eagles and presumably the people who work in that massive Sainsbury's head office, are mad crazy for table tennis as it was absolutely rammed on this particular Wednesday evening. Though we were able to secure half an hour with enough time before we began for a pint, to further impair my devastating hand/eye co-ordination.
I held out little hope of beating someone who "knows of many other tables in London" given that I genuinely can't remember ever having played table tennis before. It's like believing in Father Christmas; I know I must have done once, I just can't remember it. Turns out, once you hit your stride, it's kind of easy. I say easy, and I don't want to ruin the ending of this for you, but I think we all know what happens next.
In a bid to conduct this competition in the way I have intended to conduct all of them thus far, I actually printed off the rules. Initially, I didn't know that the ball is only allowed to bounce once before you have to hit it, so Gemma scored some easy points there and won the first game by eleven points to two. With this fairly crucial information logged, she was only able to beat me by eleven points to five in the second game.
The third game was thrilling. We had some pretty good rallies and I took a three point lead to start off with, though Gemma managed to make up the lost ground pretty quickly. We were then level the whole way through the game and I eventually beat Gemma by twelve points to ten. I had a feeling that she was letting me win some points out of pity, though occasionally I saw a wild look in her eye that I recognise from my own response to the music round of a pub quiz.
By the fourth game, my second pint had started to hinder my new found ability (which coincidentally, made me think long and hard about the legitimacy of the drink drive limit, despite the fact that I can't drive) and Gemma won by 11 to 7 and thus the competition and indeed her second gold medal. I had a great time, and I would most certainly dabble in the dark arts of table tennis again, though I'm still not wholly convinced it's a sport.
I don't usually go in for this kind of thing, and given my description of it, it seems so enormously inadequate to dedicate a game of table tennis to anyone. However, I think my Granny, Elizabeth Offord, who recently passed away aged 94, had a good enough sense of humour to appreciate the irony of it. A Quaker, a pacifist, a vegetarian, an artist - she was so ahead of her times in so many ways. A woman who cared deeply about poverty and believed passionately in the freedom of others, her indomitable spirit has been a source of huge inspiration to many and she was one of the most remarkable women I suspect I shall ever have the good fortune to have known. In the absence of Godly words, go well, Granny - you were so very strong in the force.