When I was a kid, I used to love space hoppers.
Or, to borrow modern-day parlance, I used to heart them.
I loved their weird, rabbity, scrunched-up faces; their funny, whimsical, gormlessness. I loved their plump orange bodies, and their ribbed little ears, and the smell and feel of them, and the way they lay there, on your lawn, all forlorn-looking.
But, as always, shit happens. Or, as the philosopher and visionary thinker Samuel L Jackson famously put it, snakes on a plane man, snakes on a plane!
And now, the sad fact of the matter is that I fucking hate space hoppers.
I do not heart them AT ALL.
In short, those orange FATSOS are on my shit list.
It was a love affair that ended suddenly, traumatically, at my daughter's ninth birthday party. The party - billed by our host venue, the local Bowlplex, as the Ultimate Birthday Bash - started well enough, with unlimited bowling, 'sharing' party platters, and a 'glow bowling' disco atmosphere, offering no hint of the horrible drama about to unfold. But then, just when we thought it was nearly over and we could all go back to our houses, or in my case, the dark sombre corner masquerading as the downstairs scullery, the live entertainer (suddenly revealing himself to be an outright cunt) gleefully announced one more special game. Just for parents.
The Mummies and Daddies Space Hopper Race.
"Hey, Mr Live Entertainer, say that again, so that I can use it a pretext for throwing a bowling ball with the inner core of a neutron star at your fucking head?"
But I digress.
When my partner and I got to the starting line, having been loudly nominated by my daughter's friends, two space hoppers were waiting for us. Not the friendly eccentric creatures of my childhood, but dog-faced grinning entities, with nothing inside them except Evil and the desire to humiliate.
And yet, the first few metres of the race - which involved bouncing 20m along the carpeted lobby area, around a reception desk, and back again - went surprisingly - freakishly - well. I bounced zestfully past my struggling partner, grinning broadly. After years of degrading, dehumanizing experiences at the hands of hockey, netball and rounders enthusiasts, all whorebags and motherfuckers, here at last was an opportunity to heal myself, to feel good again.
It was, of course, not to be. By the time I reached the reception desk, my knees were abnormally spongy. The space hopper was, I realized, a predatory life-form in disguise as a toy, sapping my energy, giving nothing. My partner, too, was gaining ground on me. Halfway around the reception desk, he pushed me off the space hopper, thinking it was all, you know, good fun!!!
"What the fuck are you doing?" I shouted. "Do you actively want me to spend the rest of my days rocking away in a corner, do you? DO YOU?"
Actually I didn't say any of that. I just laughed a bit.
When it came to getting back on the space hopper, I couldn't do it. Somehow, I managed to crawl a few more metres, dragging the space hopper behind me like some grotesque haemorrhoid, fighting back vomit, unable to think or see properly. I fell forward, and off again. The space hopper rolled away from me, like a bastard.
"Is she still at it? roared the live entertainer.
I can't remember the last few metres of the race. I do remember standing up at the finishing line, my skirt was around my waist, my butt on show, like a baboon woman. I remember finding out that my partner had quit the race, bored, half way through, and that I was the only one racing.
I puked up in the ladies toilets. I sobbed.
Afterwards, I rejoined my daughter's birthday party, and ate cake, quite a lot of it. On the way out of the Bowlplex, I remember seeing the space hopper, lolling around on the lobby's carpet tiles, a monstrous look of satisfaction on its face.
"What's wrong mummy?" said my daughter. "Is it because you didn't get a present for winning the mummies and daddies space hopper race?"
"Gosh, no, ha ha ha! Of course not! It was just a bit of good old-fashioned fun", I said. "I love space hoppers!"