You probably wouldn't think of archery as a likely hobby for a nine-year-old girl, but it so happened that a friend of my parents' introduced us to it, and for several years it was what we did regularly. Thinking back now, I wonder whether it was legal to own a bow privately, it was after all a weapon that could kill or at least injure. But the old Soviet Union was a country where everything was prohibited and anything was possible, and at that time I never contemplated where the bows came from. We started shooting at home, in the corridor of our flat that was perhaps fifteen meters long, fixing the target, painted on a large cardboard box, on the front door, which wasn't very wise, because at one point my granny came home just as we were practicing, and it could have been a bad accident. I was strictly told never to point an arrow at a person.
I was always allowed to participate in the grownups' games, and although I had difficulties straining the bow – it was as tall as I – I eventually became quite good. On weekends we would go to the country and practice in the fields; in summers, when we stayed in the country, the target was always there for me to shoot. The shooting gloves were too large for me, but I didn't mind.
This time coincided with my passionate interest in American Indians, kindled by one of my favourite children's books, Ernest Thompson Seton's Two Little Savages, about two Canadian boys who played Indians and learned about living in nature. In school, we all read adventure novels and watched movies, and the boys made bows and allows of sapling trees, but I was the only one who had access to real bows. I never heard of anyone else having a bow.
Then it stopped, and the bows disappeared. It was sometimes like that with my parents: they got enthusiastic about something, bought equipment, made grand plans, and nothing came out of it. They once bought a sailing boat kit, with an intention to go sailing in summer, but it never happened, and the boat stayed for many years in a cupboard before it was sold or given away. We also used to have a crossbow, mostly for decoration.
I never tried archery again, because it isn't something you just do; I suppose in Sweden or in the UK you need to join a club (there is, I have just looked up, an archery field very close to Cambridge). It isn't something I would pursue seriously even if I had a chance. It's just another example of things in your life that come and go.