Wednesday 1 July 1987

…Another morning at Woodbrook for the induction, and it began with us having
to do some French.
AU REVOIR!
It was actually quite good.
I have learned “Je m’appelle…”
This doesn’t mean “Seems like hell” but “My name is…”
Then we went down to the science labs for some science with Dr Something Or
Other, it sounded a bit like Dr Zopatzo.
The entire subject of the lesson was how a Bunsen Burner works.
Unfortunately then it was time for PE which was boring and afterwards we were
MADE TO HAVE A SHOWER.
Except I “forgot” my towel…

Yes, the tried-and-tested bogus memory lapse. But there was no way, absolutely no way, I was going to go into a communal shower with a load of strangers. It was enough of an ordeal being around them fully-clothed.

Later in the year, when I was at secondary school for real, the post-PE shower was enforced more rigorously. A teacher would patrol the changing room, drawling a little-too-enthusiastically: “Come on boys! What are you, nancies? Drop that towel! I don’t know why you’re shy, I’ve seen it all before!”

He’d also threaten not to return our valuables, which we’d had to hand over before the lesson to his tiresomely unoriginal cry of “Baubles, bangles and beads!” and which he kept in a Tupperware container.

If absolutely everyone had been forced into the showers, and absolutely everyone had shared the indignity and embarrassment, it might have been a little less unbearable. But the cheats cheated, the skivers skived, the bold ones answered back, and the remaining minority of us did what we were told and just felt even worse.

5 thoughts on “Wednesday 1 July 1987

  1. I never had an issue with the showers (perhaps coming from being an “early developer” as they called it), despite generally being shy. It was the actual “exercise” part of PE that I hated: overweight, asthmatic, thyroxine-starved, already a 20-a-day smoker and generally not a fan of getting hot, cold, sweaty, dirty or injured, I couldn’t see the point. Eventually (by age 14), I just refused to do it and threats and punishments failed to work so the teachers soon enough gave up trying to force the matter.

    • Eventually I got out of it too, shortly before my 15th birthday. A timetabling clash allowed me to persuade my teachers that I was better off doing something I actually enjoyed (an extra music lesson) rather than something I couldn’t even pretend to like.

  2. Our PE Teacher didn’t watch us shower, but would “check” afterwards. It meant that we would turn on the taps, then run in and dunk our heads underneath so we had wet hair. This was only in the first couple of years; later he couldn’t even be bothered to do that.

  3. My first PE lesson in big school was horrendous, one of only two occasions I came home from school crying (the other was a particularly unpleasant technology teacher and his patronising and aloof manner at my inability to fanny around with a circuit board), because I was used to a simple game of rounders or kwik cricket, all unisex of course and with a teacher who knew full well I had other qualities, and here was an all-boys lesson (which brought back memories of that boistrous scout meeting), plus also pan-House (so full of boys I didn’t know), revolving around rugby which is a hideous sport. fridiculously competitive and with a teacher who only taught me PE and therefore didn’t care I was really good at English and Maths, he only knew I was shit at PE and he shouted at me too much (although later I warmed to him as he turned out to be quite laid-back and was pleasingly tolerant of hopeless kids like me, and had other strings to his bow as he taught Welsh as well).

    I’m amazed anyone was able to get out of PE, though, I had to do it for my entire school career, at one point at nine o’clock on Monday morning which is surely the worst slot imaginable.

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