When I was small I wasn’t an accident prone kid; I wasn’t daring enough to do anything that might have caused an injury. I hang around with a group of boys who lived in my street and a girl who I am still friends with, but the boys tolerated us and let us play with them, under strict instructions from their mother, my godmother, to make sure we were OK. I didn’t really enjoy making mud pies and climbing trees, but I quickly identified that in a mostly male environment, if I didn’t I would be playing by myself a whole lot. So I learnt (vaguely) the rules of football and rugby, wore shorts instead of skirts and practised not crying when I fell over. Mimicking the other monkeys, as it were. The boys soon learnt my limits, like putting me in goal was a bad idea as I would head in the opposite direction to the ball when it was hooned at me so not to bruise my peachy skin, and that I was better off in the field at rounders where I would make daisy chains and not get caught out when batting. They found that hockey was not my forte, and I would absolutely not react well to being punched, nor would I touch poop, whether it be with a stick or otherwise. We survived the endless summers in relative harmony; me getting treated well in water fights (girls rules, best way. You may squirt Laura with a water gun, but not a balloon as she will go mental, but she can do what she likes) and kids who came from other streets to be our rivals in these battles were fiercely punished if deemed to be ‘ganging up on the girl’.
But the peace was disrupted when I was 11 and two brothers moved in to a house in our road. We weren’t interested in boys at this age and this offended them so they tried to push us out of our little pre adolescent group. It culminated in me getting pushed out of a tree (fear not, I wouldn’t have climbed a big tree, it was more a small shrub!) and cutting my knee. It’s pretty much my only scar and I’m proud of it, but said boy underestimated the slight little girl he pushed out of the tree, and everyone waited for me to cry. I dusted myself off, got back into the tree, and waited for my chance. Do not cross me, people! I seized the opportunity, and pushed him out the tree back. He cried and went home to his mum, and in the eyes of my friends, I was the hero of the hour, and he was the big girl. Yep, I was accepted by the pack.
My sister on the other hand was a bit younger, and had a different pack of boys to play with. She was naturally a tomboy and had no female compadre, so it took a while for the boys to accept her. my friends little brother eventually took pity and she was allowed to play football. They put her in the goal, a natural space created by two trees which became the posts for the goal. A boy kicked a ball at her. she went to save it with gusto and ran face first into one of the trees. Mum had to patch her up, and the boys were so embarrassed they didn’t let her play again.