Sunday, 10 February 2013


I am at Secondary School.  We are on the top playground, being taught tennis.

Mr Knight, resplendent in maroon nylon tracksuit - just a single white stripe on the sleeves, no super-fly Adidas break-dancing tracksuit for him - is alternately encouraging, then berating the class.

We are instructed to hold the racket in our right hand, lift it high, then throw the ball up with our left hand to serve.  Mr Knight looks at the lines of children facing each other across the nets and realises that the picture he is seeing is not as pleasingly symmetrical as it should be.  A pause, and then:

"And for the CACK HANDERS, THIS is how you do it".

And so it continued.  Rounders, cricket, hockey.  One set of instructions delivered normally, then a second set of instructions that began with taking the piss out of the left-handed children.

To be fair to him, I didn't take offence then, and I don't now.  Of all our teachers, he was probably one of the most fun to be taught by, and probably because he did so much stress-busting exercise that the experience of teaching thirty largely disruptive, disinterested, kids did not leave him feeling like he was having a nervous breakdown, and us feeling like we were a wrong answer away from being beaten to death with his Dunlops.  

I'm left-handed and proud and very much enjoy the fact that in some cases it unnerves people.  Left-handers are folks to be suspicious of.  Just look at them; with their hands concealing their writing, what are they writing about?!  This is amplified by the use of mind-mapping.  A left-hander taking notes in the form of a diagram?  Burn the witch!

Around ten years ago I was part of a management team that consisted of three left-handed people.  When the next person to join the team was similarly 'blessed', fellow colleagues suspected we were planning a coup.  If only it were that exciting.  We were actually trying to decide how best to manage the merger of two businesses acquired by Microsoft in the UK (how exciting!) and so carried on writing our plans on a white-board.  Plans that would enable the business to make progress and leave us with the 'mark of the leftie' because we could wield neither marker nor ink pen without leaving a smear down the side of our left hand.  We forged ahead while the rest of the business considered throwing us into the lake at Thames Valley Park to see if we would float.  

There are a quite a few things I can't do well that may well be down to being a 'South Paw', particularly in the sporting arena but could just as well be down to lack of practise or inclination.  I am also a bit of liability when it comes to sharp knives and meal preparation (see 'Oliver's Army' for more on that); fortunately my husband is a right-handed kitchen magician which means that we eat well and rarely visit A&E.  But there are some areas where I am more dextrous than some of my right-handed cousins.  And husband.  

I can paint, sketch, draw, write a story as tall as you like, and tie a bow tie (more frequently needed than you might think), and when I went to give blood on Friday, whilst the vein in my right arm was not up to the job, the one in my left arm was declared to be "Marvellous!  Twice the size of the other!"  Half a litre delivered in ten minutes - boom!  Being left-handed may rule me out of mixed-doubles, but if on top of the normal stuff, I can entertain, and give, to others then that's alright by me.

So next time you meet a left-handed person.  Don't run in the opposite direction, suspect foul play if they're writing notes, or laugh at their inability to hold a tennis racket.  Shake them by the hand.  But not the left hand.  That would just be weird.

Soundtrack: Leftism by Leftfield


  1. From a "rightie" my boys are all left handed and this causes me no end of grief ...simply because the schools don't know how to help them. My middle boy, who is nearly 7, writes no better than a doctor and I fear will always write poorly. To be fair, he can hardly hold a pen. He kicks a football like a genius though, with his right foot......

    1. Sounds like he has a couple of good career options there Nina :) Interesting that it's just your boys - in my lot it's me, my mum, and my sister but both of my children are most definitely 'right-on'; husband's genes much stronger than mine!

  2. I am also a leftie and have 1 leftie and 1 rightie daughter, funnily enough the left hander has the better hand writing. My husaband hates to see me with a sharp knife but I haven't done too much damage to myself so far.

    1. The handwriting is an interesting point, I wonder how much of it is determined by what hand you write with vs how you're taught or whether you like to write. Mine varies from neat and tidy to frankly shameful!