Forty minutes of full on and frenetic fun

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You may have been passing the Mill House Leisure Centre the other day and caught the sight of someone coming out looking tired out and dripping with sweat.

That was me, getting my breath back after a hard stint on the squash court and a narrow 2-1 defeat.

The winner was my 12-year-old grandson Joshua.

It started with my coaching him and getting him to chase around the court, but the tables are being gradually turned.

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It’s been great getting him into the game and seeing him enjoy it, but the whole squash scene has changed a lot since I played regularly at a decent level a bit back.

For a start, it’s much easier to book a court – and cheaper too, now that my Active Card has the discount for chaps of a certain age.

For some odd reason, squash seems to have slipped out of fashion, unlike years back when it was really unusual to get the court time you wanted at the first attempt.

As far as I know, we now have just the two Mill House courts left to cover the whole of the town.

When I used to play league squash, it was usually at the old West Hartlepool Rugby Club site in Brierton Lane.

Of course, that base is long gone, with housing where the squash courts were, and West have moved to their new and flourishing base on Catcote Road.

In those days, back to the Seventies onwards, it seemed that just about everyone I knew played the game, and booking a court was a real challenge.

The four courts were up for booking for the week ahead at the pretty ungodly hour of eight o clock on a Saturday morning, and there would be quite a queue to get your name down.

More recently, approaching veteran status, I had a few regular opponents and we always had cracking games as we were of a similar standard.

One regular opponent was former Pools boss Chris Turner and, whenever I beat him, he used to go home and kick the dog.

He was such a professional competitor that he had an analysis made of why I pipped him and then he started beating me – so I kicked the cat.

Before the letters come in, no dogs or cats were harmed in the writing of this column.

It’s a pity that more young people aren’t encouraged into playing squash.

Team games are great, and there are few towns in the country with the set-up we have for kids to play rugby, cricket, football and the rest.

The only snag is that you need quite a few people for a team game, and squash only needs you and a friend.

It’s a great workout too – 40 minutes of frenetic exercise, a welcome shower, and you are back at home or work within the hour.

It’s great for mental health too – your mind gets a kind of rinse while you are concentrating on a squash ball – and bashing it hard is wonderfully therapeutic.

I’m enjoying giving Joshua a game while I can – and he has a little brother coming up behind him!