It's Saturday morning at the cheer-challenging time of 8.25am and Annoying Dad from the tennis team that Sapphire is playing against comes up to me for the fourth time in two minutes, asking, "Is your team all here yet? Are you ready to play?"
Instead of doing what I did the first three times, which is smile politely and say "Sorry no, we're not all here yet and no, I'm not the team captain and don't have the book and do we need to think about whether it's okay to play seeing as it's raining?"
.... I snap and hiss, "We're still five minutes early. I told you I don't have the team book and it's now sleeting down ice shards outside so surely you need to call the match off?" Chastened, he backs off and I seethe, trying not to hear the common sense in my eleven year old's advice to 'calm down and be quiet, Mum,' as she tugs at my handbag strap.
At precisely 8.30am - the official start time - we have our full team complement battling various stages of early morning-itis (and hair), staring out of the foggy windows of the warm clubhouse with very obvious expressions of dread. I decide not to re-establish my friendship with Annoying Dad and find Nervous Mum in the corner and try again. "Um, do you think it should be cancelled?"
"YE-E-E-E-E-S" say my team in an unenthusiastic but determined chorus, but she hesitates and rapidly whispers that we have to sit and wait for two hours -two hours - before anyone can officially call the morning's play 'off'. "It's not that heavy," she concludes, zipping up her Goretex Everest Puffer Jacket right up to her chin.
Sighing, I spot Denis and Alice and say, "You two - Boy Two and Girl Two - you're ON. Oh and Denis, meet Alice. Alice, this is Denis."
After several minutes of uncertain milling about, it seems that I am team coordinator today. Denis politely smiles at Alice who is playing her first ever match and then flips up his hoodie as a thin layer of protection against the downpour. Alice trudges behind him, already shivering and regretting her optimistic outfit of shortie shorts.
Nervous Mum sidles up to me again but the rustling sound of parachute material and Goretex betrays her.
I know what she's going to ask and I'm dreading it.
I've got a bloody inner ear thingy that makes it hard to hear, hard to stand up straight and quite frankly, hard to give a crazy cow's crap-splat about Saturday morning tennis 'Special Grade 2' comp.
"Do you have someone who can umpire this game?"
Poo. Love Chunks senses my distress and offers to take on the first match. There he stands, trying to keep the umbrella open, his fingers and scoresheet dry and keep an eye out for faults and outs. I couldn't love him harder than at this particular moment. Goretex rustles off to umpire the number three mixed doubles. Any negative thoughts I have about her instantly vanish as she stands there without an umbrella and thongs on her sodden bare feet.
Sure enough another match is ready to commence. Umpiring tennis games is clearly a task that for most parents (our team and the opposition) enjoy doing about as much as a home-made genital wax but we're in a grade that requires an umpire for each match. I've already explained my Labyrinthitis to nearby parents, but suddenly two have to run an errand, one claims not to fully understand the rules and there's an unseemly rush to the warmth of the clubhouse toilet block.
Poo Bum. My turn but - thank god - Love Chunks has offered me his umbrella. The temperature mottles my handles into rather lurid red and blue splotches and I drop the pen in a puddle of water. "Hey boys...." ---I gesture them over to the net--- "......How about we forget the warm up shots and get straight into it?" They're as relieved as I am.
Poo Bum Bugger. It's wrong and unfair and bad sportsmanship to wish for a quick thrashing, isn't it, but I do wish that, very much. The score sheet is now an ideal paper mache slab and the boys are bravely fighting against the elements to hit hard, try harder and get it to four-all. Each thwack of the ball produces a spray of water that, if near the south side of the net, splatters into my face and make it even harder for my frozen paws to grip the umbrella, pen and notepad. I wallow in self pity and forget what I'm supposed to be out there doing. "Sorry guys, was that a fault or in - do you want to play two again?"
Our boys lose the match 6-4. I offer my congratulations but they're both keen to buy a foul-smelling lukewarm hotdog from the club canteen and huddle in the shelter by the court.
No sooner do I write down the store in both team books than another two matches have started and Goretex is out there again on one court and asks me to do the other. Poo Bum Bugger Shit!
Love Chunks grabs the notepad before I can plead, "Please, please dear, sweet and honourable Goretex lady, let me sit down. Force someone else to do it and I'll promise to give you enough chocolate to give you a much-needed winter coat for the duration of this season." He shakes out his umbrella in preparation for the rain and my love for him beats stronger.
Somehow, the rain clears a little. It's now an acceptable drizzle and the competition is close; closest we've ever come to winning. One more set out of the final three and we'll finally know what victory tastes like. Kids from sides are now willingly running out onto the courts to hit up ready for playing. Every single one of them has played brilliantly and, to my utter amazement, actually enjoyed themselves in arctic conditions. For reasons undeserved, I feel hugely proud of them all.
It is then, with three courts free and every kid out there warming up and trying to hit the balls as hard as they can to thrash the water out of them before their final doubles matches that Annoying Dad makes his re-appearance.
"I'm officially calling this match a wash-out. It's 10.35am and it's a draw."
Poo Bum Bugger Shit Faaaaart!