I GREW up in Dumfries and as a kid I was always playing tennis and badminton. This was partly due to having a dad who just hated football and also that very nearby there was Maxwelltown House, which had fantastic tennis courts.
Me and my mates would jump on our bikes to go there and play for hours. Who knows, if only my mother had seen something in me I could have been the first Andy Murray!
As it was – and still is – I played for fun. Being 6ft 6in, my serve was always pretty good. In fact, it was the only part of my game I could say that about. Because I’d perfected this weapon, there was always an element of surprise if an opponent managed to get the ball back over the net. At that point I’d just sink to my knees and hit the ball, as if I was serving again. It was quite successful, if slightly restrictive in terms of movement. Getting back to the baseline while crawling is difficult.
Latterly, I spent money on proper coaching lessons and realised how much I’d been doing wrong, although it’s a bit late to carve out a career. My dad, being English, thought it was also a good idea that I should play cricket, as you do. No football, but tennis and cricket.
I really think there was some religious-sect thing going on with him. I played at Symington-Tinto and Lanark, up on the old racecourse, the windiest place in the world, where everyone was constantly hunched over. You could see rain clouds from other continents coming your way. The best thing about cricket however was the lunches and teas.
As a kid, I was denied sweets and cakes, you know, the nice things normal children have. In hindsight my parents could have been part of some cult. But at the cricket you were exposed to all the evil things; sandwiches, pies, Mr Kipling cakes, biscuits. Sod playing. I just went for the feed.
Was I good? I was 12 years old, growing at the rate of about a foot a week and with zero coordination. Walking upright was challenging. So I became a specialist fielder – who ate a lot. The height thing has always bothered others more than me.
Actually, it does get to me when people ask if I’m a basketball player. Do I sound like I come from central Los Angeles? It’s as if you are tall and skinny then you must be a basketball player. It’s like assuming short, fat people must play rugby or something.
Of course, you can’t be Scottish without having some interest in football. So I am a Celtic fan. This is based on two things; firstly, the school I went to and secondly, if you didn’t support Celtic you got a kicking. If I’m being honest, I turned out to be more of a Lazio supporter.
I loved watching Gazzetta Football Italia with James Richardson on Channel 4, when he had hair and really cut a dash, sitting there sipping his cappuccino. It was the soccer equivalent of being back at the cricket. The football was just magical. Teams passed and moved, didn’t just hump the ball up the pitch to see if it bounced near someone. All the best players were in Serie A. But the programme presentation style made everything that had gone before – like Match of the Day, Sportscene or Scotsport – look outdated. It really did set the benchmark for how football should be presented.
I still play a bit of sport. I boxed for a bit. Getting walloped on the head wasn’t too bad, but taking one in the ribs was just a killer. You just go dippy; it totally numbs you and you cannot breath. It’s safer playing tennis.
There are some courts where I am in Hampstead you can rent for a fiver. I toddle down there with my knitted woollen Riviera-style sweater, draped over the shoulder. I’m all the talk. Although that might have something to do with the half-dozen cans I take with me. Forget energy drinks and healthy shakes; cucumber sandwiches and a few cans of Special Brew are just as good. Thinking about it, a lot of sporting events are just excuses for getting drunk. Which to be fair is no bad thing.
So having failed to make it as a top sportsman, I became a criminal intelligence analyst, working on national security stuff. Aye, you didn’t expect that, did you? Ideal preparation for becoming a comedian. The ‘Hate ‘n’ Live’ show we did last Saturday – which is improvised and based around suggestions from the audience to do with hatred – was mental.
The MC nearly ended up battling with a member from the audience. We were considering just making it cage fighting after that. Might have sold a few more tickets.
Talking of fighting, I can’t wait to see Floyd Mayweather against Conor McGregor. Much as I like boxing, this contest has a bit of a freak show element to it. It’s like a tiger fighting a bear – which is one of the few things they haven’t yet tried to flog on pay for view.
Leo is appearing in “I Can Make You Tory.” 7:30pm at the Three Sisters (Gothic Room) on Cowgate every night until the 14th, then from 16-28 August. It’s a pay what you want, stand-up comedy show ripping into Jeremy Corbyn, global warming and liberal snowflakes and showing why it’s right to be right wing!