"Oliver Cromwell lay buried and dead ..."
Firstly, there was karate (which I seem to remember being rather good at).
Then I tried boxing (which I didn't enjoy so much - who in their right mind likes getting biffed in the face repeatedly??).
Finally, there was football and running (in case the first two options failed).
None of these sporting past-times ever lasted however. I seemed to enjoy most things as a child until it meant taking it to a competitive level and that's when I would go off the idea of continuing whatever it was that, up to that point, I had enjoyed doing wholeheartedly. My nerves would get the better of me and I would back out, excuses at the ready. Unfortunately, my nerves have pretty much been getting the better of me ever since.
Of course, I can get up and talk in front of a large group of people - like a class of 40 kids for example - but even when I'm doing that, I'm painfully aware that I'm not a natural speaker. It's different if I'm acting the clown or saying something funny/silly/pointless though - I always feel comfortable if I'm in the limelight for that reason.
I also remember playing the drums in the school choir. I loved playing the drums even though I was only ever reasonably ok at them. Apart from a couple of very minor parts in various school concerts however, the worry about being in the spotlight made me shy away even from those.
All of the above pursuits usually ended with me looking like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of a very heavy and fast moving vehicle; rooted to the spot, unable to move or function properly, heart beating hard in my chest, hearing my own blood coursing through the veins in my head.
Time is, as they say, a great healer (or maybe it's just that as you get older, you forget more easily) and those heart-stopping moments seem to hardly have happened at all but, if I screw my eyes up tight and really concentrate, I can remember how crippling and debilitating that fear was.
Of course, I now know it was my body going into "fight or flight" mode and, as much as I hate to admit it, I spent pretty much my entire childhood in "flight" mode; I never really confronted anything. It was easier to walk away and start again.
With this is mind, you can understand how proud I was this afternoon and evening when the small choir that Joseph has been singing with, was invited to sing in a concert of other local choirs and chamber music. I had the foresight to get to the venue early and get settled with a great vantage point (the equivalent of the German's getting the poolside loungers early, I s'pose) and from where I was sat, I could look down on the front pews of the large church, to where Joseph and his fellow singers were sat.
As the church filled up, I was joined by M, her Mum, my parents and Annabel, all wanting to see where Joseph was and how he was feeling. And, pride or no pride, I could tell something was very definitely "up". Looking back I should've picked up on the fact that he was nervous. He had asked several times during the day about his songs, what time were we leaving for the concert, would he be there alone, would I be staying with him and so on.
I could see him fidgeting, looking round and up, scanning the gallery for me and even my smiles and waves back to him wasn't helping. It wasn't until a few minutes later that I realised that he was crying and one of his little female friends next to him was trying to console him.
I ran along the maze of corridors to get me around the church and down the old, dusty stairs to him to find him quite upset, worrying that the final song that all the choirs were going to sing together was fairly new to him and he didn't know all the lyrics.
We spoke and I made him laugh, explaining that sharing the stage with 349 other singers would practically ensure he could stand there picking his nose and no-one would notice, let alone missing a few song words out!!!
He seemed calm (er), so I made my way back to my seat.
The running order stated that his choir would be on second, so I relaxed into my seat as the first choir marched smartly onto the stage. As they were about to start singing, I saw Joseph get up, struggle through to the end of his pew, past his friends, and rush off stage right, heading for the toilets.
It took me a couple of seconds of thinking, "should I go or let him just make it to the loo and back" before I took off, out of my seat once more and along the (by now) familiar corridors and stairs.
I had to walk right through the church, albeit along one side, and I slowed my slow run to a respectful walk, all the while, wondering if I wasn't over-reacting and that surely, Joseph would be absolutely fine.
As I rounded the corner to the toilets, I stopped, completely unprepared for what I saw.
There, door open, sat on a toilet and pulling his T-shirt up, all the while sobbing almost uncontrollably, shoulders jumping and his face red with tears, was my beautiful son, more distressed than I have ever seen him.
I ran to him and knelt down, hugging him and trying to soothe him at the same time.
He had tummy ache (I could see he was scared, nervous), he didn't know the words to the final song (sob), he needed a poo, needed to get back out the before his friend's went on stage (sob), had he missed his turn, he couldn't be too long (sob) .....
He managed to calm down (and he really did need a poo!!) and we rushed to the side door to hear the previous choir still singing. They finished, we went out and sat in the wings, waiting for his choir to be called.
M, it transpired, was scanning the scene below, wondering where (and what) on earth had happened to us both but, as the name of their choir was called and the majority of them strolled out, she saw Joseph join them, perfectly released at just the right moment by yours truly.
And Joseph did himself proud.
You could tell he was one of the newest members; whereas most stood perfectly still, I could make out a slight side to side "rock", his eyes fixed unwavering and unblinking on the conductor. But no matter; he sang, he got all the lyrics right and by their second song, he'd hit his stride and he clearly enjoyed himself.
As I'd promised, when it came for all the performers to sing, you could barely make him out at all, which I think suited him just fine.
But I'll not forget the look on his face when I rounded that corner, not in a million years.
I hope I always make it to him for those times.
But I guess that won't be possible.