Table Tennis is Not An Art

This half term I’ve been reacquainted with an old nifty friend: the table tennis table. We dragged it from a dark corner of the garden, releasing it from its cobwebby hovel. Tufts of moss had almost sealed it shut, whilst an elderly snail had made it its home. We let the snail stay. 

Once it was in the middle of the patch of grass, the table tennis table looked very proud. Next up: the table tennis bats. Like slices of thick ham, the bats were peeled from a cupboard one by one. They felt greasy and the little orange ball that followed them felt hollow. Although table tennis balls are supposed to be hollow, don’t you know. 

I’m not sure what made us want to resurrect this old machinery. Perhaps it was the British sun rearing its sweet little head. Perhaps it was half term with its false feeling of finite freedom. But nonetheless, we played it. Oh, we played it. There’s something so automatic in a game of table tennis. You have to react very quickly, there’s no time for overthinking. Flick of the wrist, twist of the bat, heave of the body. Bend over, pick up the strewn ball and start again. I think someone might call this mindfulness. I don’t think I personally have the authority to label it such a thing. But someone who does definitely would. Have no fear, Steve Harrison, I am not about to leap into a monologue on ‘The Art of Table Tennis’. Table tennis is in no way an art. Not quite.

Yes, table tennis is an Olympic sport. But I’m talking about the home grown kind of table tennis. A tea time hit about. Warm beer bottles teetering on the table’s surface. Careful not to hit them. Or careful you do and then it becomes beer pong. Midges and stray cats. Sirens going by. There’s a BBQ going on next door. They’re playing music, house music, I think I just heard ‘I took a pill in Ibiza’. I think I did too. Life feels very suburban. Everything is background noise beyond the table tennis table. Table tennis is life, table tennis is love.

Playing table tennis is an incredibly productive way to waste time. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel rabid, erratic, powerful, messy and superhuman. It’s very hard to be awful at it unless you miss the table every time. Ahem. And it’s a two player game, it’s basically a conversation. Hold on… ‘The Art of Conversation’??? That’s for another time, yes?


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