Wednesday 28 May 1986

…In PE we did Crab Football.
With a lot of team spirit and co-operation the final score was 10-1.
To the opposition…

Sarcasm alert!

I wonder, though, if there is anything more excruciating than knowing you’re no good at PE, yet having to wait to be picked by a team captain who is well aware, as soon as they’re landed with yours truly, their team has already as good as conceded half a dozen goals.

It had been over two months since I’d last had to play this painful, humiliating game, so obviously it was time to be stripped of my dignity all over again.

Still, at least our team got one goal. Despite me setting up at least a couple for the opposition.

Wednesday 7 May 1986

…Had Spellings and SMP today, as well as doing short tennis in PE…

Yet another bizarre sport to add to the list, and yet another one I had to look up online to discover what it actually was.

Short tennis is apparently a version of the conventional game that uses “a lower net and a larger, softer ball.”

This rings a bell as I have a distant memory of standing in my school playground trying, and failing, to wield a tennis racket in the direction of a giant yellow sponge ball, thereby demonstrating my incompetence at even the “junior” or “idiot” version of standard sporting activities.

I could never understand why, if you were demonstrably not good at PE, you were nonetheless expected to compete at the same level as everyone else, unlike nearly every other school subject where pupils of differing abilities were allowed, indeed encouraged, to learn at differing paces.

As it was, my inability to even play football soon turned into a fierce distaste for all compulsory physical education – though not, as was about to be rather unexpectedly proved, a distaste for watching and writing about it.

Thursday 10 April 1986

…Did SMP. Did Ginn reading as well.
Did 800m running in Games today. I was flattered [sic].
Did some project.
Didn’t do Morris Dancing. I am out of the team…

A few things about my primary school.

1) It had outside toilets. In the winter they would freeze, and the school would shut. They were in a sort of brick-and-aluminum outhouse, with a shared entrance opening on to a row of shared sinks, beyond which was a door to the right for boys and one to the left for girls. There was a cubicle at the end of the boys’ section which was locked and which remained locked for the entire six-and-a-half years I went to the school. It was rumoured somebody lived inside. I hated these toilets.

2) The school had one computer. It was a BBC Micro, and only people in years five (which I was in) and six were allowed to use it, and only then in groups of four for 30 minutes at a time. Inevitably this meant three of the four would do nothing except watch. Inevitably this caused trouble. I loved this computer.

3) Games was done either in the tiny playground or on the council playing fields behind the council flats over the road, an area which bordered land owned and fiercely patrolled by the town’s grammar school. The grammar school pupils mostly hated us, and we mostly hated them. I completely hated Games.

4) There was a Morris Dancing fanatic on the teaching staff, and every summer term a monstrously-sized pole would be dusted down and erected in the playground, around which a bunch of us had to prance naively once a week in an attempt to show the Local Education Authority that our school was very much a part of the 80s*. There was a team, of which from today I was no longer a part, that competed occasionally against others in the county. I loathed Morris Dancing.

5) The school was just five minutes’ walk from the town leisure centre, which is where we were all forced to learn to swim. Lessons were 20p a week, a sum collected at registration every Monday in tiny brown envelopes with our names on. I can’t say I loved swimming, but looking back I’m mightily glad I was made to learn.

6) The school no longer exists. At least, not as a school. A couple of years after I left, the LEA merged it with another one in the town and built new premises for the newly-combined pupil population. My old school became a playgroup, or possibly a daycare centre, and then something else, and then, well, I don’t know. I hope they tore the toilets down. Though not before checking with the person who lived in the end cubicle.

*The 1480s, presumably.