How to play … ball games

MY ball!

“My ball! MY ball!” The toddler waddles across the scorched grass of Villa Bellini – one of Catania’s few green public spaces – as fast as he can. The ball in question is being dribbled away from him by a blissfully unaware boy of about nine or ten years old; the older boy is being called by what appears to be his grandmother from the benches on the far side of the grassy area. As the older boy and the ball move away and the toddler falls ever further behind, his insistent cries turn to wails. “MYYYYYY ball!” His dad – a tall hipster with tousled curly hair, matching beard and a chilled-out demeanour – turns from the conversation that he was having with another parent and lopes towards his son with gentle laughter. He crouches down in front of him. “Pietro! Eyyyy, Pietro! What’s up?” The toddler turns his wobbly-lipped face towards his dad. “My balllllll, Papà!” His dad smiles and ruffles his son’s hair. “Pietro, it’s not really your ball, you know.” Pietro opens his mouth to wail again but his dad forestalls him by calling the older boy over. “Francesco!” The older boy looks over his shoulder and Pietro’s dad beckons him closer. “Come here a minute, can you?” The older boy nods amenably, picks up the ball and ambles across the grass towards cool dad and little Pietro, whose eyes never leave the object of his affections. Cool dad puts his arm around Pietro’s shoulders and asks the question that Pietro, in his tiny, wound-up state, doesn’t quite have the words to formulate. “Francesco, would it be OK if Pietro plays ball, too?” Francesco shrugs and smiles with non-questioning acceptance. “Sure, if he wants.” He turns to little Pietro, who can hardly believe his luck. “C’mon, Pietro. Let’s play.”

everybody loves lassie
Everybody loves Lassie …

On the other side of the park, a group of adults are out exercising their
dogs. Or, rather, they’re out with their friends letting the dogs run about on the grass while they chuck a ball for the dogs occasionally and indulge in a good, long chat. The dogs – a couple of Jack Russell terriers, a cocker spaniel, and a Lassie dog – are, in the main, more than happy to fall in with this plan and are racing about amusing themselves playing chase with each other. All, that is, apart from Lassie. While the terriers and the spaniel run about like mad things, tongues lolling joyfully, Lassie stands at her owner’s heels, quivering with frustration. Her owner – a woman in her late thirties with an ample bosom – looks down at her and laughs. “You want to play? OK, let’s play.” She picks up the ball from where it’s been dropped at her feet by one of the other dogs and launches it across the grass towards the trees. She then starts to run after it. Lassie is beside herself. She gambols along next to her human, her long coat swishing at her sides as extravagantly as her mistress’ bosom bounces around her chest. The other humans fall about laughing, but Lassie and her mum don’t care: the grins as wide as their faces speak as clearly as words: “This is our game. Let’s play!”

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About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
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