"Oh, you're a southpaw!"

And with that comment, my day was made.

According to wikipedia, left-handers in many sports are referred to as 'southpaws' but the only place I had heard it used was in the Prince of Tennis Japanese anime series. Well hey, it was just like walking into the show! Apart from the small point that I was completely talentless at tennis. This was unfortunate since, at that moment, I was standing in the tennis court at the Astronomical Observatory preparing to begin a doubles match. What was perhaps deeply unfortunate was that this had been all my idea.

I had assured my competitors that I was a beginner. Repeatedly. Revolving through as many words as I could for low-level / just learning / no obvious potential / bad / seriously bad / awful / terrible / downright crap. They had assured me they understood and they were no better themselves. I was unconvinced.

My complete disbelieve in my coworkers comes not from a view that they are all lying swines, but rather from the cultural difference surrounding good manners. Japan is a very polite society and I've been doing my best not to inadvertently cause grievous offense (although as a foreigner, I'd almost certainly be forgiven). Shoes, for instance, are removed at most opportunities: before you enter a house, at the door of many restaurants and even before walking into someone's office. Chopsticks, meanwhile, should not be used to stab food, no matter how desperate you become. You should also always understate you own abilities when talking to other people.

So when my new friends told me that they were all beginners too, I was preparing myself for anything between vaguely-competent to a Grand Slam title. Fortunately for me (and even more so for their sanity) it transpired that the level was the lower end of that. We had a couple of good players and then rest of us just wanted some practice. With the old telescope dome rising behind the tree lined court, it really wasn't a bad way to spend a Thursday evening.

"15 love!"

Oh right, I really shouldn't be admiring telescopes.