Saturday, 23 November 2013

Reasons why Fran and her old Games teacher aren't friends on Facebook ...

I didn't really like my Games teacher at school and I think I can safely say the feeling was mutual. When she saw my name on her register at the beginning of the 5th year, she blanched a little.  I never had my kit.  I messed around, whacking girls around the ankles with the hockey stick rather than playing the game.  And I claimed, week by week, that I needed to be excused from Games, because I had some minor injury, or a blister, or a headache, or was on my period.  Rightly, she challenged me on this last one, saying, 'Not many girls have periods that start in September and are still going by the following March.  You are either a freak of nature or a liar.'

If we did genuinely have a period, we were desperate to get off doing 'cross-country' in particular, because of the nature of sanitary protection in the 1970s.  It was embarrassing to run around in public wearing only gym knickers.  If you don't understand what I mean, try jogging round your local streets for an hour with a king-sized duvet stuffed in your underwear, and you'll soon realise.

I remember claiming one day that I had a wart in my armpit that would stop me playing tennis.  I think my teacher commented that she didn't care if it was a wart or whole warthog in my armpit, I could jolly well go and change into my tennis gear and fetch a racquet.

My parting gift to her on my last day at school was to sneak into the changing rooms, wheel a trolleyful of hockey sticks into the girls' showers and turn on the hot water so that they would warp. I never heard what happened and whether it succeeded.  I wonder if the Games department at the school are still puzzled about why no one has scored a goal with the school hockey sticks since 1978.

Anyway, I wrote this poem about her, which I read tonight at a gig.  Originally, I called it 'A Letter of Apology to my Games Teacher' until, after the gig, a friend pointed out that there wasn't really  a hint of apology in it, so I've changed the title!  I've also changed her name.  Just in case ...

Not an Apology to my old Games Teacher

Dear Mrs White, I felt that I should get in touch, and say,
I hope it wasn’t my fault that you ended up this way.
I trust you don’t blame me that you’ll never be let out -
trapped in that cell - and straitjacket - and foaming at the mouth.

I joined your class in ’78 and saw you purse your lips
As you opened up your register and saw me on the list.
You’d met me on the tennis court several times already
Not practising my backhand, but snogging Kev.  And Freddy.

You made us do ‘cross country’.  You said it would be fun.
I wasn’t keen on standing up, let alone being made to run.
If we didn’t do it fast enough, you’d send us off again
To trudge our way round town, in navy gym pants, in the rain.

Of course we took the short cuts, even though they were a risk.
It was hairy on the inside lane of a packed A46.
Once, we got a ride back in a truck with Mary’s dad.
Your face! as fifteen schoolgirls tumbled from his cab. 

I hope I’m not the reason that your hands are all a quiver
But I knew there was a short cut if we went along the river.
I’d no idea that Sharon Bailey hadn’t learned to swim
If she’d said she liked the Osmonds, I wouldn’t have pushed her in.

In 1978 we didn’t have these mobile phones
So I couldn’t call for help about Natasha’s broken bones.
She said to take the short cut through the building site
And scale the roof that Monday.  Well, they found her.  Wednesday night.
  
It wasn’t all my fault we got lost and came back late.
I got chucked out of Guides.  I never learned to navigate.
But I’m sorry that the police were called that day we disappeared
To find me and Jackie sobbing in a wood in Gloucestershire.

That fish and chip shop incident – I see why you were angry
But none of us had money.  We were lost and we were hungry.
If he'd just agreed to give us free chips then and there
We would have been much nicer – tied him up with much more care.

So, Mrs White, I’m sad to say, you failed to convince
this pupil that to run was fun.  I haven’t moved much since.
But I’d hate to think you blame me that you’re in this tragic state.
Locked in a cell, and dribbling, since 1978.




'Get onto that tennis court now,' she said, 'and maybe one day
you'll look as fit and attractive as I do.'

32 comments:

  1. Brilliant poem! I used to do cross country and run home and have a cup of coffee with my mum until I worked out it would be time to get back to school. My female games teacher had hairy legs and was very butch, my male games teacher had hairy legs and was very hot!

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    1. Ha ha! I bet I know which games teacher you preferred to have taking your lesson!

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  2. HILARIOUS! HILARIOUS! HILARIOUS! Do you understand that I think this post and your poem are hilarious? We called that "class" phys ed or gym. I was thrilled my sophomore year in high school when we had 60 girls in my gym class. The teacher spent so much time taking attendance that we never had to engage in an activity for more than 10 minutes. Best gym class ever. Definitely my style.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. 60? 60? My, no wonder she took the register slowly to avoid actually teaching you. Thanks for your great comment, Janie. You're a very appreciative follower and it warms my little writey heart.

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    2. You're easy to appreciate. I think your posts are wonderful.

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  3. Great poem. I wasn't too fond of my physical education teachers either.

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    1. I think we may be in the majority!

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  4. You would have liked our Gym teacher, she hated cross country and used to take us to the local park for an hour. Love the poem but am afraid I loved David Cassidy!

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    1. It's okay, Charlotte. I was obsessed with David Cassidy too. And the Jackson Five. And Showaddywaddy. And Queen. And Mud. And .... well ... let's just say, you couldn't see any of the paint on my bedroom wall because of all the posters!

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  5. I bet "Mrs White" has either joined a religious sect or has become a script advisor on Shameless.

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    1. ... as have many of my teachers, I suspect. Sometimes I look at some of my students and think, yep, that was me. That was definitely me. I know your world. And then I give them the detention anyway.

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  6. Ha! Loved this - reminded me so much of my school days where I hated PE and the PE teacher too...and yes, the feeling seemed to be mutual when she had to have me in her class. It didn't help my self-esteem that one of my freinds was her 'pet' because she was brilliant at PE. I gave up PE in the 4th year (yes, it was called that not Y10!) and did English Lit instead. Been punished severly having been a teacher for 23 years myself and doing everything I can to avoid PE stillThanks Fran for the laugh, Lynn.

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    1. I think you may be my long-lost sister, looking at this list of commonalities!

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  7. Love it!
    Actually, no, I don't. You've started me thinking about my memories of Games. Cross country, communal showers and the triumph when you couldn't go in because of a verruca... hockey in knee deep mud and all the chafing... Brr. I'd blocked it out.

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    1. Sorry to bring that all back, Helen. Especially the chafing. Ouch. Ouch. And the communal showers! Only good for one thing - wheeling in a trolley full of hockey sticks.

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  8. Yes, and MPs think it's votewinning to promise more competitive games in schools. Ha!

    Mine was called Miss Park and she was lovely. She kept trying to encourage me, saying I just lacked confidence. I didn't have the heart to say that it was more that I didn't care remotely who got the ball as long as it wasn't me.

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    1. I think I had a similar problem with being competitive and still do. I just find it hard to care at all what the outcome is, when it's only a game. Of course, this attitude winds up all the competitive members of the family big-time!! Miss Park sounds nice. I think you were one of the lucky ones there....

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  9. Looking back , I feel rather sorry for Miss Collins ... condemned to spend most of her adult life in a divided skirt with chilblained knees .

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    1. My 'Mrs White' used to wear cheap tracksuits, the type that would give you an electric shock if you brushed against something.

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  10. Oh god the pads from the 1970's. It's a wonder we aren't all mentally scarred from various "incidents" and "malfunctions".

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    1. We may not be mentally scarred, but we certainly walk funny.

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  11. The first friend I made at secondary school & I spent most of out first year in the sick room & managed to avoid most lessons & not just PE or Games... GAMES ? Hockey or Netball. When they introduced cross country running I used to run home.
    Those gym pants were awful but we used to wear them under our games skirts as they were so short.
    Do you remember the incinerators for those ghastly pads ? They stank the girls toilets out.
    I managed to avoid the Hellish communal showers as our PE teachers didn't check. At another school, a friend said her games mistress lingered rather too long around the girls' showers.......

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    1. We weren't allowed to wear games skirts over the pants. Just the pants. You know, looking at some of these comments, I think we could write a book, solely of 'Memories of Games lessons'. There are many common themes here. And yes, I do remember the incinerators. Bunny machines, weren't they called? Don't even get me started on communal showers. We used to have to run through one after the other with our towels over our heads. If you went really fast, you could virtually avoid the water altogether. But not the shame.

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  12. Love the poem! I always hated sports lesson too, often volunteering to keep score for the volley ball games our teacher was so very keen on. Or I'd leave the school grounds at lunchtime and go home to eat, then "forget" to go back.

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    1. I think teenagers are still very fond of that kind of 'forgetting'! It comes in very handy for them in all kinds of situations.

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  13. Hi Fran. PE knickers... communal showers... excuses to get out of P.E.... these must be the very stuff nightmares are built on. And I speak as someone who always came last in the race at the school sports day. Nowadays schools are so politically correct they never force anyone to do anything, and they praise everyone, and no-one wins, because everyone has done equally well by participating... Nothing like the cruelty and torture of my schooldays.

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    1. This is true. I think we may have gone too far the other way. But then no one's sorry to see an end to the ritual shaming ceremonies, I guess.

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  14. Hi Fran. PE knickers... communal showers... excuses to get out of P.E.... these must be the very stuff nightmares are built on. And I speak as someone who always came last in the race at the school sports day. Nowadays schools are so politically correct they never force anyone to do anything, and they praise everyone, and no-one wins, because everyone has done equally well by participating... Nothing like the cruelty and torture of my schooldays.

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  15. I sympathise utterly with all your sentiments re Games, particularly the gym knickers thing. Ours were green and made of thick unyielding material. Most unappealing, to say nothing of the requirement to run in them. Great poem! :)

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    1. Thanks, Deborah. Green? Thick? Unyielding? You make them sound like catarrh ... very unappealing indeed.

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  16. You've captured the time and the type so well in this poem, Fran. Most of my secondary school teachers were war veterans. They saw the play fields as battle fields and the gym, an assault course. Actually, some of them were quite brutal, and seemed to have an unhealthy interest in boxing. Our cross country run took us through farmland, and one particularly nasty stretch called Cow S**t Canyon. Nice.

    I, of course, have no stories of what went on in the girls changing rooms.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Martin. Have you seen the film 'Kes'? There's a particularly unpleasant PE teacher in that - it's a scene I often show at school when we're talking about the language of power. They can't believe that it was a realistic picture of what used to happen.

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