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?

Thursday 29 January 1987

…Last night I had a nose bleed.
Nose bleeds can be so annoying, especially if you have them at night
which is when I had mine.
It lasted about 40 minutes from 5.20am to 6am.
I was nearly awake [when it started] anyway.
This morning and this afternoon we had to do a workshop at the drama
centre, which is in the Fearon Hall [across town].
The theme was about two Americans trying to take over an
imaginary valley and we had to try and stop them.
I was one of the people who owned a windmill in the valley…

As usual, I’m not particularly forthcoming in my diary about just what all this role-playing was precisely in aid of. I have no memory of it whatsoever, and that’s perhaps just as well.

Although none of us were at a particularly self-conscious age, I’d imagine there was already a stirring of a precocious kind among certain members of my class* along with parallel feelings of shyness among others.

It was probably an occasion that was mostly inoffensive if a little bemusing. However I believe there’s another of these events coming up in a year or so, if I get that far, by which time I was at secondary school and hormones were very much a-bubbling. Euucch.

I’ve just realised that the theme of today’s role-play sounds like Once Upon a Time in the West. If you think that’s a bit highbrow for a bunch of 10 and 11-year-olds, be thankful we were spared something along the lines of the event that my sister, who’s two years younger than me, had to attend later in 1987 which was based on the Hungerford massacre.

*Apologies if you’re skim reading this and the only words that caught your eye in this sentence were “stirring” and “members”.

Wednesday 7 January 1987

…Today was the day I proved myself a complete failure.
In PE we did the first of many ‘super gym’ exercises
when we all had to do certain exercises for a minute.
The exercises were:
Shooting at a basketball net
Press-ups
Sit-ups
Squat thrusts
Leg raises
Catching balls running
and bench aside jumps.
I was a complete and utter flop at all of them.
Compared to the others my scores were like what an
egg-laying hen is to the Ministry of Defence…

When it comes to simultaneously raising hackles and lowering self-esteem, there’s little that outranks enforced communal physical exercise.

Wednesday 26 November 1986

..You can hardly describe this afternoon.
Imagine you had to play football in the torrential rain,
the pitch filled with mud, and at the end your clothes
were looking like wet suits.
Well, it happened to me.
This afternoon AS WELL we had The Road Safety Quiz.
The top five scorers from each school will go to
Woodbrook [secondary school] to fight it out in a semi-final,
then on to Leicester to do the final…

I’m pretty sure I preferred learning about the end of the world.