This week it struck me, that with no competitions taking place, I’m still officially the ‘Yellow Todd’.
I have to admit that I’m not sure about the title of ‘Yellow Todd’, it either sounds like I have a serious liver problem, or I ran away from the convoy when the injuns came to town in an old fashioned western movie.
“Who’s that at the bar by himself?”
“That be Yellow Todd, a craven and a coward!”
But since neither Iain or I speak French, officially, as both of us achieved the lowest possible mark it was possible to achieve at secondary school French, a mark so low that my teacher’s main criticism was: “You couldn’t even pronounce the English words right,” Yellow Todd it is, and not the more exotic sounding Jaune Todd (as per the Maillet Jaune or yellow jersey).
(Though Jaune Todd, does sound like John Todd and John is the English version of Iain, so perhaps it’s with some irony that I will talk about the Todd Championships and a jersey that’s named after Iain but one he rarely wins.)
Competition is important. It started in school with the rather healthier competition of academic achievement. Who could win the most prizes at the end of year prize giving?
One year, I won two – English and Technical Studies. Afterwards, walking along a corridor, a teacher stopped me and said “Congratulations on your award.”
“Awards,” I said, holding up two certificates because I won the English prize and he’d used the singular “award” when clearly he’d meant to use the plural.
I don’t remember Iain winning any awards – but who remembers losers? I bet James Cameron, after winning umpteen Oscars for Titanic, couldn’t name another nominee. He didn’t need to. He was king of the world.
Our sporting rivalry didn’t start until university. Iain played squash because he went to Edinburgh and that was the kind of thing you did in Edinburgh while waiting for your turn on the real tennis court or, when you couldn’t play croquet on the lawn.
We had two squash courts in Stornoway, both in a single building with a shared balcony where people could watch. As the balcony stretched across both courts it meant that anything said on one court could be heard on the other. Which was okay, for the first five minutes. And then Iain would claim a ball was out, or below the line or I’d blocked his shot or any of many other minor rules he claimed I’d broken. After 10 minutes, he would introduce a some random swear words to emphasise how strongly he felt about me breaking the rules. Then I’d introduce a few more, then voices would rise, racquets would be gripped with white knuckles and then next disputed point would lead to shouting so loud you could hear it on the mainland and not just the balcony or the court next door. After a few months we had to abandon our games after one angry father barged onto the court and told us exactly what he thought about our language and the words his two young sons could hear. An argument which was validly made but undermined by him teaching us a few more swearwords too as told us exactly where we could stick our squash rackets.
Either way the Todd Championships were born and every year we race for a symbolic yellow jersey given to the Todd with the most victories over the year. And, since I hold the jersey from last year, with no events, I’m still the Yellow Todd.