If you are new to squash, you may wonder why, when you first go on court, your squash ball dies like a dog in the street.
That, my friend, is because the ball is cold. That is why the ball only starts to perk up after some violent encounters with the tin.
Warming up the ball before play saves time hacking away at a sluggish piece of chilly rubber, or spending half an hour rolling the ball under your foot. So when I played in the leagues in Dubai, I used to stash my squash balls down my knickers.
I gave up this practice out of consideration for opponents of delicate sensibilities – although there weren’t many of these in the men’s squash league. THEIR trick – which I considered significantly more offensive – was to surreptitiously smear the ball with sweat before serving (so that it skittered along the floor and was therefore more difficult to return. Tactical squash. Now you know).
In contrast, plucking a squash ball out of my knickers did not appear to put any of my opponents off their game. However, I would not fancy it if, upon asking, “My, how do you get your balls so warm?” my opponent were to respond, “I store them up my arse. Yep. Ideal temperature for them.”
Not that I’m comparing that in any way . . . ok, I have already ventured far further into this topic of conversation than I am technically comfortable with, but ANYWAY, I now tuck my squash ball into the waistband of whatever pair of shorts or pants I wear. Or I would do, except that I haven’t played since El Knobbo maimed me eighteen months ago.
The rematch was today, and I left the house with enough time to spare for a quick detour to Glen Eden Library.
Now, it appears the success of the Knicker-Warming Method has to do with the efficient holding capacity allied with the elastic properties of the knickers. Because as I entered the Glen Eden Library, I sensed the squash ball’s impetuous response to gravity’s seductive call.
Instinctively I grabbed for the ball, before remembering that Michael Jackson was the only person in living memory who was ever able to pull that one off.
Unfortunately, I was somewhat al-dente, being equipped with only a couple of library books and my wallet. Frantically, I looked for somewhere to hide, but – and I’d never noticed this before – the Glen Eden Library offers no real opportunities for cover or even camouflage.
The only thing to do was to wait until the ball rolled down my pants leg, kick it smartly under a bookshelf, and retrieve it later at leisure.
Regrettably, the elastic properties of my tracksuit pants kicked in around the crotch, and there the ball stuck.
The tracksuit pants were manufactured by Fila: need I say more? Ok, then: form-hugging. But I am no shameless middle-aged slapper; I had a long, shapeless sweatshirt over the ensemble that came down over my arse.
But not far enough.
Because anyone checking me out – unlikely perhaps, but still – would think someone had botched the sex change operation.
I clapped one of the library books over the errant ball. Unfortunately, it was a rather insubstantial paperback: Sara Gruen’s ‘Riding Lessons’. (TERRIBLE book; I don’t recommend it.) When I added the second book to the first, a librarian gave me the evils, so I tried to pull my sweatshirt down over the whole lot.
I feared the librarian would think I was attempting to abduct the library books; so I substituted my wallet, all the while performing a desperate cross-legged shuffle towards the bathroom.
If there is one thing I have learned from the experience, it is: there are worse things than cold balls.