Thursday 22 November 2018

On the Edge

by Martin Parker

Green Alexander

 “If you're not the best you're a nobody.”
     It was the sort of remark which comes easily from an Olympic champion; and it had come easily, and frequently, from his mother who had been one.
     It had come to him every day as his 5 a.m. wake-up call. It had urged him through sweat-smelling gyms, followed him on dark early morning runs and accompanied him to teams of doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, even a sports psychologist, as well as to all the country's major swimming pools. It had become a mealtime mantra and from early in his childhood it had replaced his mother's hugs and goodnight kisses.
     “I hate your mum,” a freckled eight-year-old called Jenny had told him. “She's horrible to you.”
     And seven years of meeting at subsequent competitions had not changed the red-haired girl's opinion.
     “I'm good,” she had said to him at a recent practice session. “I might even manage a medal in the Junior Nationals this year. But I know that's my limit, and so do Mum and Dad. But winning isn't enough for your mum. She needs you to be brilliant. But perhaps not quite as brilliant as she was,” she had added. “ She will push you and push you until you are spending more time upside down in mid-air than playing football, watching telly or being with a girlfriend.”
     She blushed and looked away. It had been quite a speech for a shy fifteen-year-old.
     “Perhaps you could be one of the best ever.” She was under full sail now. “And for a short time I'd be one of the cheering nobodies who came to watch you. But if you noticed me in the crowd as you stood on the edge of the high-board you'd see that I was the one smiling, not you. Unlike you, I'd be there because I was enjoying it. You would be there because of your mother.”
     Now, with his first National Championship there for the taking, he curled his toes over the edge of the ten metre board.
     “If you're not the best you're a nobody.”
     He raised his arms and, for the first time in nine years of competitions, he smiled.
     Small among the audience below Jenny and his mother both knew the inevitable results of such a lapse of concentration.
     Jenny looked forward to them.

About the author

I Think I Thought, by Martin Parker.
102 poems designed as a gentle workout for cheerfully mature laughter lines. Avilable from all good bookshops. See details and extracts at

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