Tuesday 31 March 1987

…[Our teacher] grabbed me and Edward this afternoon and virtually
threw us into the staff room.
He gave us a talking to about sport and our attitude.
He said he wanted to be fair with us.
The results are that swimming will be made a lot easier – we won’t have to be in
the top group anymore.
However for PE we are now going to be expected to help teach the infants
as well as doing our usual lesson.
That increases PE to THREE HOURS A WEEK!
How is this fair?…

Imagine my fury at being compelled to do this, and just days after moaning that the rest of my class gave the impression that all they wanted to do was play sport. Yet here was I getting landed with more PE, while the rest of my peers just carried on as before!

Worse – my “attitude” was supposedly to benefit from helping five and six-year-olds learn to catch a ball.

Had I taken the long view I would have wryly accepted this silly arrangement, knowing it would all be over in three months when I left primary school for good. But I wasn’t good at the long view 25 years ago, and instead merely raged inwardly at having mounting attention drawn towards my inadequacies.

Naturally, none of this improved my “attitude” towards PE one bit. I’d been doing it for seven years and still hadn’t found a sport I was a good at. Surely I’d suffered enough?

Friday 27 March 1987

…Almost everything went wrong today.
First of all Edward announced that I couldn’t go to see his video of Dr No
tomorrow because he was going somewhere.
It’s been almost a week since it was on TV.
I suppose I’ll have to wait ANOTHER week and go through all the usual
stuff I hate – PE, swimming, [school] choir, maypole dancing – until I get to see it.
I didn’t get to have chips from the chippy this evening,
which I had been looking forward to.
Plus Grange Hill had a sad ending, because it was the last one in the series.
Lunch was cheese pie – YUK – tomatoes, cress and coleslaw, followed by
an orange portion…

The sentence “Almost everything went wrong today” must appear in my diaries more than any other. I’ve used it at least half a dozen times already this year*.

Yet the most alarming thing about this extract is that I appear to have started maypole dancing again. The last recorded mention of this was a year or so ago, when I noted I’d been kicked out of the team. Yet here I am back in the fold – totally unwillingly, it must be emphasised. I wonder what had happened.

I hated maypole dancing. The humiliation was total. It forced you into the kind of intimate body contact with fellow pupils that was utterly repulsive for children at the age of 10 or 11. The pole we had to parade around was decades old and falling to pieces. The top part, to which the coloured ribbons were attached, kept toppling off and landing on us, mid-prance. The ribbons themselves felt – and smelt – like they’d been manufactured in the late-1940s, possibly from the uniforms of demobbed soldiers. And then there was the music: ghastly winsome oom-pah tunes on a recording no doubt hailing from some rural free love festival in 1967.

You’ve got the idea that it was not a good thing, right?

* That goes for both 1987 and 2012.

Thursday 26 March 1987

…I have been asked to design a programme for the school spring fair
which will be on a school morning in May.
Terrible really.
I got cold and wet in PE and played a game of chess on a gigantic board…

Here is what I came up with for the spring fair, working together with three of my fellow pupils:

May mourning, more like

I can’t claim credit for any of the design. I think I may have come up with the concept, such as it is. I know I was responsible for the “ACME Cliff” sign. Oh, the hilarity. A bit of cheek charging 25p, though.

As for the game of chess on a “gigantic board”, how I really really hope it was like this:

I am not a Bishop, I am a free man!