Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40onsıde| ISSUE 38 AN EXTRACT FROM: ED SMITH 38 oth my sister and I went to the local state primary school in north Tonbridge in Kent. It was, and still is, a good school, but with some undeniable drawbacks. When I was there in the early 1980s, some classrooms had been built as temporary buildings but had ended up being retained as full-time classrooms. These caravan- style trailers, standing on bricked-up stilts, stood next to the playground, reminders that the money had dried up. There were some playing fields at the back of the school, but we didn’t use them much. A little bit of rounders in summer, an occasional football match, a yearly athletics competition. There was a weekly PE class in the assembly hall. Taken together, it was probably no worse than the average sporting education in a 1980s primary school, perhaps even a little better. There were no matches against other schools, not one. And I never picked up a cricket bat at primary school. The most competitive activity I engaged in was playing marbles in the playground. I’m not sure how we were supposed to develop a serious passion for sport. Most kids played no sport at all. At home I was playing sport non-stop — not only with my parents, but also against my sister. Though I was always the more focused about sport, it was my elder sister Becky, not me, who was the better runner and swimmer. She was also fiercely competitive. As she was three and a half years older than me, the result was a lot of defeats for her younger brother. I would lose at every game we played — from Monopoly to Swingball. What happened to the sporting development of my talented and fiercely competitive big sister? That story starts with schools. At secondary level, our educational paths diverged. She went to the state grammar school (Kent is one of the few places that still has grammars). I went to the independent school. Why the apparently unjust discrepancy? It was decided by pure chance and opportunity. My dad taught at the independent school, which was boys only, and the fees were effectively waived for the teachers’ sons. My parents couldn’t afford to send either of us to an equivalent fee-paying school. I was lucky enough to get an independent education as good as free. My sister didn’t. Her grammar school was full of clever girls. She was one of them, and went on to study English at Oxford. Where she felt let down was in the rest of her education — the drama, the music and, especially, the sport. Becky dropped out of competitive sport as soon as she could. The brilliantly competitive eleven-year-old played no organized sport for the next two decades. Once she stopped playing sport at school, she stopped playing sport anywhere. By contrast, we had a 25-metre indoor heated swimming pool (now upgraded to a superlative Olympic version with accompanying gym and exercise rooms). We had twelve rugby pitches, each tended to perfection and cut in geometric stripes. We had two hockey AstroTurfs that doubled up as twenty-one tennis courts. We had a rackets court. We had seven fives courts. We had four squash courts. We had an Olympic-standard running track. We had more cricket nets — ten artificial ones, and ten grass ones — than any professional team I ever played for. And the quality of the 1st XI cricket pitch was astonishing. Lord’s, the most famous ground in the world, has the smoothest outfield I ever fielded on. The second best is my school ground. Playing a 1st team cricket match at my school was like playing football at Anfield. That’s how good the facilities were. From my sister’s point of view, the comparative prospect of scraping her knees on the state school Tarmac netball court didn’t really appeal. In a sense, my sister and I were part of an accidental educational THE SILVER SPOON “I played cricket for England. My sister didn’t play for any team in any sport ever again.”