Bowled over by high prices

I HAPPENED to wander into a sports store the other day and was gob-smacked at the cost of sports goods these days. Boy, have prices soared!

If your kid is first team cricket material, for example, be prepared to cough up anything between R1500 and R4000 for a decent bat. 

When I was a boy I had a prized Len Hutton job which was lovingly oiled through a hole at the bottom of the bat. It lasted for years and couldn’t have cost my folks more than a couple of quid.

Of course, you had to hit the sweet spot to clear the boundary in those days whereas today’s hi-tech English willow needs no more than a flick of the wrist to send the ball onto the stadium roof.

This reminded me of the simple pleasures of my youth. Remember how we used to serrate the edges of old wooden cotton reels to which we attached a small stick and an elastic band and when wound up would move along under its own steam? Many happy hours were spent racing these contraptions.

And remember “kennertjie?” when a narrow furrow was made in the ground and a piece of wood placed over the gap.

Here the idea was to flip the piece of wood off the gap with a stick. The one who flicked it furthest won. And do they still play marbles? Good, healthy, inexpensive outdoor stuff.

One of my favourites though was skimming a smallish flat stone across a calm stretch of water and seeing how many bounces you could get.

When throwing, one had to bend down close to the ground and propel the stone from as low a position as possible and as horizontally and as hard as you could.

If the water was dead still, a good throw could net you as many as 12 bounces.

I read somewhere recently that the game dates back as far as the 16th century and is even said to have inspired the famous Barnes Wallis “bouncing bomb” of World War II.

The world record for the most bounces, as a matter of interest is an astonishing 51 held by Russell Byars of Pittsburgh which he achieved on the Allegheny River in 2007.

So cotton reels, kennertjie, marbles and skimming a flat stone across a stretch of water were a few of the pastimes dear to the hearts of South African kids of my era and cost our parents very little and provided hours of simple pleasure.

But R4000 for a bat? Please! My old Dad could have bought a farm in Oxford Street for that! Better to find a farm dam somewhere near you, pick up a stone, the flatter the better, and try to get yourself into the Guinness Book of Records with a fling of 52 “bounces!”


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