STEVE CANAVAN: Those memories that make you squirm and wince

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There have been many embarrassing moments in my life, but I believe I surpassed them all this week.

I play for a badminton club in town – well, when I say play, I mean they call and ask me to fill in when they’re desperately short of players and can’t locate anyone else.

I’m fifth on the list of those they ask, just behind Bill, who turns 80 this year and suffers from acute arthritis which means he struggles to hold his racket properly.

If he can’t play, I get a game.

I’ve always been slightly ashamed of playing badminton.

I mean, it’s not very cool is it?

Indeed I’m pretty sure it is the reason why, as a youngster, I had great trouble getting a girlfriend.

I remember once being asked out by Tracey Kettlewell, the girl all the lads at school fancied, not because she was a lovely person who did a lot of charity work but on account of the fact that she never fastened the top two buttons of her blouse.

Unfortunately, she asked me out on a Thursday, ’I’m sorry Tracey,’ I replied, solemnly, trying to make sure I maintained eye contact, ‘but I’ve got an away match tonight and I’ve got to re-string my racquet before I set off.’

It would have been much easier to attract members of the opposite sex had I been able to tell them I was into motorsport, or bungee-jumping, or tightrope-walking.

Alas, it is hard to impress a woman when the best conversation you have is, ‘have you seen they’ve changed the scoring system in the badminton league from 15 to 21 and you now only get one serve?’

Anyway, I went for my usual weekly knock and noticed a young girl I hadn’t seen before, clearly a new member.

It’s always nice when a young person comes to the club because badminton is an activity that, much like crown green bowls and morris dancing, seems to struggle to attract the youth market. Indeed it is rare to see anyone under the age of 100 playing these days.

So midway through the evening, and being the sociable type and wanting to encourage our new member, I wandered over to say hello.

She was quite small, so I bent down and said, in the manner of someone reading a bedtime story to their baby: ‘Hello there, it’s lovely to see you – what school do you attend?’

She looked at me in a way which suggested she was weighing up whether to kill me with a knife or whether a rifle would be preferable, and replied: ‘I work as a surgeon at the hospital’.

I turned a kind of tomato ketchup shade of red with embarrassment.

I had her down as 12 years old, maybe 14 tops.

Instead of apologising, flustered I mumbled: ‘Are you sure, I mean you’re not old enough are you?’.

To which she replied: ‘I’m 31 and married with two children’.

She then turned away to play a mixed doubles with Terry and Dennis, and I spent the rest of the evening avoiding her.

Oops.

It just about beats into second place the other hugely embarrassing incident in my life, which happened while trekking on holiday in South America.

I joined a lengthy queue of sweaty people waiting to use one small and very basic shower at the camp where we were staying.

There was no door on the shower, just a flimsy blue plastic sheet that you pulled across behind you after you’d got in.

When my turn arrived to use the shower, I got in and began scrubbing my body and face with shower gel and then, eyes closed, stepped under the shower to wash it off.

It was at this point I heard a growing commotion nearby and a lot of giggling.

Rubbing the soap suds away, I opened my eyes to discover the wind had blown the plastic sheet back and that my puny naked body was on show to the 15 other people in the queue. It was, incidentally, a very cold day and a very cold shower, which did me no favours.

Rarely have I exited a place more quickly.