Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Creative Writing: Autobiography: My Sporting Life

My secondary school was a grammar school whose motto was With God on My Right. Leaving aside the arrogance which would place God on the school's right, rather than the other way round, it was in any case inaccurate, or at least incomplete. It should have read With God on the Right Wing, or With God as Centre-Forward. The school was, you see, obsessed with sport.

This came as a shock to both myself and my parents, since all of us had been avid sports-avoiders for as long as I could remember. We had been labouring under the misapprehension that grammar schools, unlike secondary moderns, were there to develop your mind. In fact, my one assumed that your mind had already been developed, and conducted its affairs on the understanding, that I was able to articulate only years later, that every battle had been won on some playing field or other.

Thus sport, and all its cousins, such as gymnastics and athletics, were deemed to be the be all and end all. You could be completely useless at everything academic, but if you had a good bowl, or could take a penalty, you were destined for great things as far as the school was concerned.

I loved sport. Not the activity itself, which I hated with a loathing I couldn't begin to describe without sounding unbalanced, but because of all the learning opportunities it gave me.

For example, every so often we would have to go on a cross-country run. This was about 5 miles long, and was circular. The teachers, not being complete idiots, always declined to accompany us. Instead, they would send us off and then wait for us to return, stop-watches at the ready.

One of the things they could never understand was how I always managed to be one of the first five or six pupils to return, bearing in mind my complete inaptitude for, and disinclination towards, anything which involved more than the minimal amount of physical activity.

My prowess at cross-country running would have been readily explained by a quick reconnoitre of the route, followed by the consultation of a bus map. Half-way round the course stood, oasis-like, a transport café. There you could have a steaming mug of tea and beans on toast, all for under two shillings (10p or approximately 15c) -- which left just enough pocket money for the bus fare to one stop short of the school.

Sprinting the last hundred yards or so was, I admit, rather more effort than I would have preferred to exert, especially on a full stomach, but the gains in terms of the admiration of the teachers and the acrimony of my fellow pupils were well worth it.


John Sutton said...

At some point in the future there will be a slew of public enquiries in which people come forward and complain about the damage that grammar school cross-country running did to them. I too am scarred by the experience ;-)

Terry said...

LOL. I think it was intended to make men of us. All it did for me was make me hate athletics and sport even more!