Thursday, 13 September 2012

WE COULD BE HEROES AND OTHER SPORTY TYPES

Gold medal winner
Egg & spoon race - London 2012
I have to admit, I really enjoyed the Olympics. I didn't think I would, but I was completely wrong. I thought we were going to make a right pig's ear of it – a glorified, rainy sports day held together with two bits of string and a Boris, but we didn't. GB pulled it off; we did a pretty good job and we felt good about ourselves. We liked each other; we were all in it together after all and if we were happy it certainly wasn't down to any politician of any hue. In fact, politicians were better off keeping out of it altogether (as the booing by one or two of the audience proved). I am happy to say I was wrong about my low expectations and how proud I am of all those involved, from the athletes, right across to the people who painted the golden postboxes or directed the queues.

The paralympics however, were a little difficult for me to watch. Heaven knows, I admire the athletes no end, yet it still made uncomfortable viewing, witnessing such amazing feats of achievement when I am feeling guilty about not achieving very much at all. Here is a double amputee swimming up and down the pool in record time (and a zillion times much better than I could ever do as an able-bodied person) – here is me crying with shame and frustration because I need help putting on a pair of knickers. Here is a 16 year old girl with CP running 200m around the track – and here am I, wincing in pain because I've hobbled from Debenhams to W H Smiths, hardly an Olympian task in anyone's book. They have much more going against them than me - if they can do it, why can't I? Why can't I be inspired? Husband looks over his glasses and says “well, for a start, you've never really been the sporty type have you?”
Tiara circa 1976 


He has a point. Roll back a few years....ahem...alright, a quite bit further........ a bit further still......that's enough! Stop! State High school in Saaarf London and 5A are having a Games lesson on a cold and windy October afternoon. Nightmare. Picture if you will, 1970s child, lanky, all skin and bone, legs like matchsticks, navy netball skirt (shockingly rolled over at the waistband to make it shorter), white airtex shirt (too tight), white plimsolls that had been cleaned with some sort of plimsoll whitener (bit like gloopy paint; it came out of a tube with a sponge on the end),  hair from Charlie's Angels and a touch of lip gloss. Strolling around the school playing field with group of friends, debating about the virtues of David Cassidy versus the Osmonds.

PE Teacher (aka Mr Vlad the Impaler): Come on girls this is supposed to be cross country – start running.

US: We are running sir.

Vlad: No, you are plainly walking. Most of the class have finished. We haven't got all day - get to it.

Ms Tiara: But it's muddy sir and I've just cleaned my plimsolls.

Oh, no..not 5A again!
Ms Julie: And my mum says I can't run too fast coz I've got asthma sir.

Ms Debbie: And I've got to stay with Julie because she's got asthma sir.

Vlad: Then you should have brought a note Julie.

Ms Julie: I did sir, I gave it to Mr Hollsworth (gormless supply teacher)

Vlad:  (sighs everytime he hears the name Hollsworth) Well, I haven't seen it and it doesn't take 2 people to look after you.

Ms Tiara: It does sir, coz one can stay with her while the other one goes to get help. It's Health and Safety.

Vlad: Tiara, do you always have to have an answer for everythi.......

Ms Debbie: Sir, sir? Should Dennis Winterburn be doing that? (nods to far side of playing field)

Vlad: (does a 180) Oh bloody Norah! DENNIS! Put that away this instance!

top of the range sports equipment
  always available
Sports was tortuous for me. We were taught the same things by the same methods as our parents were over 20 odd years before us. Netball, hockey, cross-country and basketball, balancing on a beam, chucking a medicine ball (what the hell was that all about?), bean bag fights (double points for a head shot, but you also got detention, so not really worth the effort), green or red canvas sashes deciding the team you were on – nothing had really changed in a generation. It was tired and tiresome and frankly, so were 5A.

Because I was tall, Vlad instantly surmised I would be red hot at high jump. Reality? I was total rubbish at it. I couldn't do it for toffee and it was mortifying. Smack! Straight into the pole and face down into what little sand was left in the pit (it was mostly dirt and weeds and the occasional cat turd if you were really unlucky) - every time. Free entertainment for the meangirls in the 6th form and bitter sweet revenge for Vlad.

Swimming was even worse. The posh school down the road had an outdoor pool and an agreement was struck whereby us poor state pupils could walk there every Friday afternoon to sample it's icy delights. We were thrilled.

Sir, Sir!  I'm not going in there Sir! It's got leaves in it.

Soon the sicknotes came flooding in.

No, Sir I can't go swimming this week because it's the wrong time of the month: this was a particular favourite amongst us girls who really should have been put forward for medical research – after all, half a dozen teenagers all having 6 month-long periods at the same time was quite a gynaecological phenomena.

Sorry sir, my mum says I can't go swimming this week, because I have a giant contagious verruca that needs to be kept covered up: I kept this particular gem going for weeks. Poor old Hollsworth never asked to see it – I mean who would? They are disgusting things at the best of times, never mind one that was camping out on the foot of a spotty teenage girl who had been on her period for 6 months. In fact, my verruca was quite legendary and a star in it's own lifetime. If it had gone on any longer we could have called it Brian and given it it's own chat show.
It'll be fine once you get your shoulders under

No Sir, I can't swim any faster – because I can no longer feel my legs/testicles/arms/general body: Once the children started crawling out of the water with blue lips it was obvious something was amiss and eventually the agreement between the posh school and the poor school was brought to a frosty end. The water was simply too cold. Each week more and more sick notes were produced until the ratio of those sitting on the side was far greater than the last brave souls who couldn't coerce their parents into getting them out of it. We caved in. The posh kids were obviously made of stronger stuff. Vlad marched us all back to school, not noticing the stragglers who had dived off into the local newsagents to buy a bottle of Tizer and a packet of fags (this being the 1970s you could easily buy 5 cigarettes “for your dad” while wearing a school uniform). 5A didn't mind giving up the pool one jot, they simply went back they what they did best – lobbing bean bags at each other.* I wonder where Vlad is now...... probably still employed as a 70 year old supply PE teacher; still dressed in a tucked in tracksuit and ordering hapless kids to throw medicine balls at each other. As for poor old Hollsworth, I expect he quickly went into a career that did not involve children, sport, gynaecology or warts and fungal growths. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't end up as a lighthouse keeper in Alaska thanks to the horrors that were 5A.**

So I suppose husband is right. Sport was never going to inspire me.  I need to look elsewhere........

*Despite Vlad's best attempts, one member of 5A did achieve giddy heights in the sporting world and went on to play 1st team football for Chelsea and Arsenal. I won't embarrass him with a name, but a lingering memory (apart from the Rod Stewart haircut and sexy legs of said future defender) is of Vlad, going beetroot in the face because of yet more ill-behaviour from 5A, screaming at us: “APART FROM *****, NONE OF YOU WILL EVER COME TO ANYTHING!!”. The reply was a loud belch from the back of the class followed by sniggers from the rest of us. Point made.

**My high school is now a block of flats, which is probably for the best. The posh school is still there - the pool probably still has leaves in it.




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