Becoming a fully-fledged London adult is hard. I tried to make like the rest by joining a gym, but running towards a grim, grey wall for twenty minutes (slash ten minutes) in my lunch break began to hurt my thighs, fringe and soul. I tried the finest coffee London has to offer from a non-chain coffee shop with only reputation for a name, but all I wanted was a comforting Yorshire Tea and a packet of chocolate digestives. Even necking red stripe on a Saturday afternoon on the streets of Brixton proved difficult as I longed for a refreshing can of Strongbow. The only element of London life I seemed to be any good at was eating copious amounts of BBQ food and sampling the capital's finest 'cooked pink in the middle' burgers. Drastic action needed to be taken before my existence would be summarised solely by work, wine and sleep. I needed a hobby to thrust me into the world of the 'well-rounded' individual. I needed to join a netball team.
As an energetic pre-teen, I was convinced that I had the skills of a world-class goal shooter, menacing my opponents with my sharp eye and killer aim. I ruled the Doncaster courts, not even a palm in the face could come between the net and me. That was, of course, until the accident. One PE lesson and a rather exuberant roly-poly later, and my netball career came crashing down before my eyes. A broken finger was all they needed to kick me to the sidelines. I was replaced by the new girl, who not only stole my position, but my 12-year-old hopes and dreams too. 'I'll get you new girl.' I would murmur as she netted the side to victory. 'I will get you even if it means joining a netball team ten years later in a different part of the country.'
5.29pm rolled around on a pleasantly warm Tuesday evening and my eyes were glued to the bottom right of the computer screen, waiting for the final minute to tick over. I had been googling pictures of netball throughout the day, just in case the sport had drastically changed over the last ten years. I was relieved to find that it hadn't. 'Still up for tonight?' I text my housemate. 'YOU BETCHA' she replied. Drat. I had almost started to develop 'womanly pains' as the netball dread kicked in and immediately regretted my decision to ever want a life that involved anything more than work, wine and sleep.
Hand in hand, we walked along in our 'look sporty, but also cool' sportswear to the pitch. The sound of the whistle and shouts of 'Faster! Quicker! Better! WHAT ARE YOU DOOOOING!? echoed around the sports complex. Oh shit.
It wasn't long until we were thrust into some overly complex passing exercise, that not only involved far too much concentration for a Tuesday, but the ability to heartlessly tell on all the people who messed up and caused the downfall of the team. 'Amanda didn't run.' 'Fiona threw the ball too high.' 'Danielle isn't fast enough!' HEY, I bloody well am. The ball got quicker. The footwork got messier. Soon I realised that my skills matched that of a flailing giraffe, and like a true sportsman, I wanted to leave immediately so I didn't have to deal with the confirmation that I was terrible.
The only relief that came from seeing the power-mad coach handing out netball bibs was the opportunity for an Instagram - three or four likes guaranteed, especially in Valencia filter.
The whistle sounded to mark the start of the match and my netball career was about to come crashing down as hard as the girl next to me was elbowing my ribs. Every rule had left my weakened brain. Every ounce of hope and promise had turned into hatred and bad marking. It was clear for all that I peaked at high school, never to return to the pitch again. As the playground emotions came flooding back, I suddenly felt like the unpopular girl, forced to eat lunch in the form tutor's room in fear of having social interactions with people in the lunch hall (Year 8 was a bad year for me). The whistle blew, the chirpy girls with top knots aggressively high-fived, and me and my housemate sprinted off into the distance never looking back.
I'm still trying to crack the London way of life. Maybe coffee gets nicer the more you force it down. As I began to unwind after an emotionally draining Tuesday, I stared at my rather disheveled looking reflection in the mirror. 'You Danielle,' I reassured myself, 'you're more of a street-dance kinda girl anyway.'