Part 1: Badminton and other striking sports

Written by Bert Plomp

At Camping Het Grote Bos, we had created a beautiful badminton court. During weekends and holidays, intense battles took place on this court. My father, despite his troublesome knee, was no less passionate about the game.
Sometimes, we would spend the entire day playing badminton, my father, Theo, Charles, and I. As the hours passed, the players’ behaviour became less sportsmanlike. It usually escalated to some verbal exchanges, but occasionally, the unsportsmanship reached such heights that rackets were not used to hit the shuttlecock but rather to strike the opponent’s head.
In this regard, my father set a bad example. He declared nearly every shuttlecock that landed near the backline as ‘out.’ Standing with his back to the opponent, he obstructed the view of the exact landing spot. While picking up the feathered shuttle within the lines, he would loudly shout ‘out.’
A good example was followed by others. Soon, my father’s behaviour was adopted by his sons, and almost every shot was declared ‘out.’

Hitting each other to teach a lesson was also a ‘sport’ my brothers and I enjoyed at home. Theo and I often had conflicts, usually settled in a sporty manner in the living room in the evenings when our parents were away.
During weekdays, Dad was often out in the evenings, selling insurance. Meanwhile, Mom was rehearsing with the church choir or visiting one of her many sisters. As soon as both had left, the living room turned into an arena. All tables and chairs were pushed aside, and several mattresses were taken off beds and placed on the floor. The battle could begin.
The dispute between the contenders was resolved through a bout of freestyle wrestling. Theo, being the eldest, almost always emerged as the winner. To balance things, I occasionally resorted to a trick from the unsportsmanlike playbook. Knowing that Theo was very protective of his clothes and had a sensitive nose, I would sometimes give him a nosebleed, quickly ending the fight in my favour. After all, my brother was about four years older than me, so I considered a little mischief on my part justified.

Once, I had fished out a beautiful piece of ship rope from the river Kromme Rijn. This rope was subsequently used for various purposes, especially to tow my father’s run-down Opel into action. My brothers, my friends, and I did this so often that, considering our age, we walked around with extraordinarily developed biceps.
In the house, we turned this virtue into a sport. If there was nothing to fight over one evening, the tables and chairs were again pushed aside. Then, the ship rope was pulled out of the basement and placed in the middle of the living room floor for an old-fashioned game of tug-of-war. After tying a handkerchief in the middle of the rope, it was decided who would face whom. Theo against me was one of the options, but that match always ended in his favour. So, Charles would reinforce my side of the rope. My younger brother and I would then consistently come out on top. Eventually, the forces of our little sister Saskia were also thrown into the mix to provide some compensation, sometimes in one variation and then in another.
Of course, both sides had to constantly brace themselves during the tug-of-war. Throughout the battle, they were pulled back and forth across the floor. The result, with a base of ‘Heugafeltjes’ (a type of carpet tiles), was that the tiles flew around our ears.
Before the return of mom and dad, the tiles had to be put back in their original positions. This rarely succeeded. The floor was usually covered on time, but the initial tile pattern was nowhere to be seen. Everything lay haphazardly, and the logical arrangement of colours was completely lost.
As soon as my parents entered the living room, they immediately noticed that the house had been in chaos. This realization led to some drumming on their part. As they didn’t want to hurt their hands in the process, lacking a badminton racket, we received a few solid whacks with mother’s walking stick.


For all episodes, click on: Being sporty

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