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Zap Ball

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

My grandparents always liked their house to look well, and it always did. Every time I visited there was a new chair or a new footstool, soon to be destroyed by me or my cousins. I am the eldest grandchild on that side. It is a difficult reputation to live up to. Not only that, but I am also the only girl. There are seven years between me and my next cousin. This may not sound like a lot, and it isn't at all, but by the time I was seven I started to run out of ideas. I had already gotten up to so much mischief with my uncles that there seemed to be no options left. In fact, the most revolutionary occurrences seemed to happen to me at age the age of five or six.

My family used to fight over which chair belonged to who, often leading to rows. There was only one armchair with a definite owner; the biggest armchair in front of the television was my grandmother's (many a time it was referred to as 'her throne'). Every Sunday after mass my uncle and I would head to the local shop and come home with a bag of crisps and a styrofoam airplane. By the time we reached home, we were back to fighting over seats. I managed to score my favourite armchair beside the fire and closest to the door of the parlour. You can imagine my grandmother's delight when from my comfortable position I threw the styrofoam airplane at her, only for it to land in her cup mid-drink and tea to spill all over her throne. This forced her to sit somewhere else for the rest of the day as her chair dried.

She may have been annoyed, but not near as much as the day of the infamous Wexford sticker. My grandmother had just redecorated the walls of the front room with a beautiful purple wallpaper. The wallpaper had detailed sketches of birds and flowers. Wexford had just won the All-Ireland Camogie Championship, there was a write-up about it in the paper including an A3 poster and a sticker. I was under the impression that my grandmother, as a native Wexford woman, would appreciate a sticker on her wallpaper just to celebrate the win. However, she was not impressed in the slightest. When I tried to scrape it off, the wallpaper underneath had disappeared. We came up with a solution; there were leftover sheets of this wallpaper in the shed. The days turned into weeks, then the weeks progressed to months. Eventually, we grew to love the sticker with the peeled doggy ear in the front room. After all, it did have a story behind it. Needless to say, a sad day was had when fifteen years later we decorated the front room again and had to cover up the Wexford sticker (it didn't match the new grey wallpaper).

I had damaged, stained or destroyed enough of my grandparent's furniture. I had gotten up to enough mischief. That was until my younger cousins came along with a new method of causing havoc. A game so daring that it has been trade-marked. A game so destructive we needed far more than a towel or a few scraps of wallpaper.

Zapball did not necessarily have any rules, but it did have a simple structure. My cousins and I would hide in the door jamb at the edge of the back hall as my uncle marched down the hallway; his humming inaudible over our giggles. He would then throw the ball towards the glass door at the bottom of the hall. It was our job to grab the ball before he could and reach the top of the corridor with the ball in our arms performing a try (just like rugby).

The damage started with the radiator. One day my youngest cousin burst with such excitement that he sprinted towards my uncle. This three-year-old was determined to take down a six six-foot-four man, and the boy did have some vigour! He climbed up on our uncle; using his knees, stomach and elbows as steps until his legs eventually dangled above the giant's shoulders. My uncle knelt down to ensure that there would not be a dangerous fall while still attempting to get the child off him. Meanwhile, the two remaining cousins were willing to fight our side and pushed the man in every direction. We pushed him harder. Until he backed into the radiator and the radiator let out a wheeze, then a squeak, then crashed onto the ground beside us, water spilling all over the carpet. That may have been dramatic, but at least it wasn’t as terrifying as the time my uncle‘s great throw of the ball smashed the glass of the door at the bottom of the corridor.

This still didn’t put a stop to Zapball. Even when the carpet had skid marks and patches missing from the years of running. Not only did we need a towel or some sheets of wallpaper! We needed new doors, a new radiator and a new carpet all because of a game we played in our corridor. There I was convinced that I had ran out of ideas, but that was far from the truth, and I only have my younger cousins to thank.

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