I'm sure you wouldn't, but:

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Tuesday, 16 June 2009

in which an awful lot of brackets are used. (but i don’t bladdy care)

Back when I was a grown up, and not a mere dishrag of a person sporting light wounds (thorny bushes … stranded tennis balls), I coulda been a contender, I coulda been someone. (Well, so could anyone, I’m reminded by The Pogues).
I “worked with” (by which I mean lunched, drank, bobbed around in the background) names. You know, people you might have heard of, from Michael Caine to Ken Livingstone to Bob Flowerdew. Being a lip curling iconoclast, I naturally saw through the lot of them. Well, not Anthony Hopkins, what a sweetie, sigh.
Now I am reduced to boy-handling, dog-handling and glaring at the hoover – not much love lost there: it’s sullen, claiming under-use; I’m sullen, claiming the opposite.

I seem also to have accrued quite an impressive crop of enemies, from the already mentioned Mrs Playmobil and Nasty Troll Goat Woman to, in a quick shuffle around, the biggest of them all, the games teacher at F10’s school.
Here I can but quote the mad old Nan in Catherine Tate. What a bladdy cow. Fack me.

My own PE teacher was a terrible old bag – my mother had her, too. Two generations of non-optimum sports people occluded by the same sneer, scared rigid by sturdy thighs ‘neath a flapping skirt. Cold indifference and a belief in their legs must be something they learn at PE college.

Now, you know me, moderate and easy-going to a fault. And I would really rather my children were never picked for anything sporting, since being selected lands you as parent in a particularly nasty nest of anxiety – need I but say “goalkeeper” to any other mother out there? But F10 was selected, for the rounders, and was thrilled.

Normally the after school conversation goes something like this:

Me: Howdy, F10. Good day?

F10: Yeah, well, no.

Me: Oh, anything happen? (my maternal antennae casually a-frisk for Moments of which I Need be made Aware)

F10: No. Well, I scored.

Me: At lunchtime? Great!

F10: Yeah, it was nearly a hat trick actually.

Me: So you scored twice?

F10: No. Once.

With the day despatched, there’s then the happy trudge home through the field, a small paw slotted into mine, Lolly stuffing her snout into dubious damp patches of long grass. But this time there was the joyous news from F10 that he had been picked to play, and the cry of glee when he told me, his reliving the experience three, four times, all but broke that shrivelled little walnut I’m stuck with calling a heart.

So we go to the tournament and there I’m not best pleased to see that it’s presided over by Vile Bag Cow Teacher. What a slappery trout that creature is, unfit to be in charge of dogs (though I wouldn’t quibble if she insisted I hand over the lead). She hates me. My chum Mrs Northern Posh, whose child was treated badly by her last year, asked me to go to the headteacher with her, in protest. She knows me to be brutal (she kindly calls it articulate) and anti-bullying of any sort, and felt too wobbly to go it alone. In assisting a friend, I got my own card marked.

During the first match F10 and his classmate C10 are both subbed. Someone has to be, this is fine: 11 kiddies, 9 places; I’m mellow with this and it gets it over and done with. Although, it goes without saying, that if our team has to lose, it’s quite pleasing that they lose heavily. Bad luck everyone! Well played! Better luck next time!

Actually, I’m wrong, apparently they come second. “That’s silver,” the father behind me says. I shoot him a look.

F10 plays match 2. They lose again, though – can I be the only one to notice? – by a narrower margin than the first match.
We all remark on how enormous the children are from the other schools. The boys have beards, the girls maternity bras. F10 stands a head shorter than everyone there. He flicks me the thumbs up, his enthusiasm already the stuff of nostalgia, and readies himself with confidence for match 3, cavorting with the others.

But which foul creature is this with her clipboard? Why, it’s VBCT. Yippy-doo. She consults her notes. God? Aren’t the few facts already seared onto her small rabbit dropping of a brain? Seemingly not. She confers with her Sour Sidekick who nods the nod of the executioner. At one with the pain she causes.
F10 totters my way, his face a riot of suppressed tears. C10’s lower lip trembles. Subbed again.
The other children jump around heartlessly, fit with the confidence which the permanently selected find their due.

Hope then comes in the unlikely form of a stout lass, bearing another school’s colours, staggering over, “Not playing 4 girls,” she splutters.
F10 is reprieved.
2 girls are plucked from the squad and told to sit out. Yes, shifting arcane ruling dictates that while some games demand a patronising quorum of 4 girls, in others they can be kicked to the kerb. They sit and make daisy chains and talk about horses.
We win the game. Small stirrings of that odd emotion ‘triumph’ stir in my unimpressive bosom.

The final game, game 4 beckons. VBCT is surprisingly on the ball, attributable to the fact that there are no male PE teachers with whom she can flex her dismal flirting techniques (believe me, not a pretty sight). Her stumpy finger follows the little list of names, her lips moving as she struggles to read.
“Right, year 5, same team as game one,” she says.

She throws me a look, rife with fat spite. “Just rotating everyone,” she says. Although this is exactly what she is not doing. F10 crumples. C10 looks like he might give up and die on the spot. He clutches his asthma inhaler as alibi to his exclusion.
In the long run, it doesn’t matter, it’s petty. But if they’ve been selected, they should have a go, and a fair go. Otherwise resentment breeds (lessons given here). It’s not a nice thing to see, this ritual process whereby one or two children are always singled out despite being of much the same standard as the others. It is divisive and humiliating. For the parents as much as the child. At secondary school, one thing. Not at primary.

Had the tournament meant anything I would have understood. Had it been a Cup match, ditto. Had the other kids not dropped endless catches, botched throws, cocked up on making it to second, I wouldn’t have said a word. But, hand on heart, though he wasn’t the best player and he might not be a Rounders Ronaldo, F10 sure as anything wasn’t the worst. Bang slap in the middle. C10 was one of the best. VBCT must really hate his parents.

What’s a mild mother to do but go and concoct a wax doll? If it’s stuffed into a short skirt, possibly clutching a clipboard and smirking, would anyone really judge me as it burst into glorious flames?


ChrisH said...

Another body to wait for as you sit by the river. Karma, Milla. She knows what she has done.

Milla said...

classic. Needed a cackle, CH. Jaunty service will be resumed. Meanwhile, the river sounds a fine place to sit.

Exmoorjane said...

Why is it that children from Other Schools are always so vast?

Gym teachers nearly always foul (apologies to any reading). Mine were sadistic and lascivious (nasty combo).

Schools never seem to play fair with team selection. I've sometimes driven for two hours to watch James go on for two minutes before the final whistle. Sickening. But sounds like F10 played good....

Er, coming second? silver? Perlease - how deluded is that?

Fennie said...

Can so understand the frustration. But there is a lesson here and it's not a bad one. This is what happens in life - sometimes the result of deliberate sabotaging action (as in this case) sometimes it's the result of bad luck, sometimes it's the result of one's own incompetence. It's not always easy to tell which.
That however doesn't really matter, for whichever it is the response is the same - just to get on and do your best in whatever situation fate has cast you. And to do it with a smile - particularly one directed at the real or imagined tormentors. Of course this is hard to do, but who said life was easy? And it's the price of success. In fact I wish I had learned it myself.

Preseli Mags said...

I love your descriptions in this. ('Slapperly trout' really made me chuckle.) It reminded me so much of my own lack of sporting prowess at school. Why are opposing school's kids always so massive?

Jennysmith said...

Great post, M. How well you write. Intelligent and full of wonderful detail

Going to follow you from now on

Edward said...

@Fennie - wonderful comment, but are you a saint or something? Still, you give us mere mortals something to live up to! @PM - well, you're making up for it now.

Personally, I liked "fat spite" best. As a description, of course, not on a wish list.

Pam said...

0oh, please, please do the burning thing - if not for you then for the rest of us.
P x

Carol and Chris said...

There is definitely a certain type of person that becomes a PE Teacher!! The one I had at school used to make us do cross country running....in shorts (the really attractive ones with the elastic that was so tight it cut the circulation off to your legs!!)...in the snow AND she used to drive along next to us shouting from her car window!!!

Poor F10, his teacher sounds like a shrivelled up old trout who has nothing better to do than pick on kids. Praise him for how well he did in the game he was able to play in and tell him that she's obviously giving others more time on the pitch (?) because they obviously need the practice :-)

C x

Pondside said...

In with the bits of good and questionable heritage that is ours from the Mother Country, the Gym Teacher has to be one of the worst bits. You've described every one I had until the blessed eleventh grade when I could 'drop' gym. I hated sports and any organized games and watched in amazement as my children signed up, participated and seemed to have fun.
If F10 is stil enthusiastic after all that then he is developing the requisite tough skin and may go on to be good at games - in the meantime, make that wax doll.

Potty Mummy said...

I certainly wouldn't (judge you). And 'iconclast'? Great word.

Calico Kate said...

My two gym mistresses who were both married to the gym masters, left me sitting in the changing room with a broken foot because they had forgotton about me!
Jolly good rant Milla. Hope F10 hasn't taken it to heart.

The wife of bold said...

Hehe i certainley wouldn't judge you......i love the pogues reference by the way!
P.S Who the hell iBob Flowerdews?? x

Maddie Grigg said...

It sent shivers down my spine just thinking of my PE teacher. She only liked you if you were good at sport and a lesbian.

jackofall said...

If nothing else it will teach F10 (as if he hadn't learnt it by now) that some people in life only get their jollies from making others suffer and the best solution to that is not to give them the satisfaction of seeing the suffering.

Still, hard for a 10 year old to deal with - just make sure he knows that she'll die before him, sour old trout.

Brown Dog said...

Gym mistresses are always horrid - sort of goes with the whole realm of cold showers and ritual humiliation. Poor F10 - still, as Chris so wisely says, she knows what she'd done. (Still, I don't suppose the odd wax doll would do any harm...)

By the way, almost giddy with excitement at the realisation that we've both now met Bob Flowerdew.

Anonymous said...

Maddie touches on one of my fave topics - lezzas. It's likely VBCT is on the bus going the other way. Why no have some fun and try and set her up with Mrs Playmobil HAir or the Goat woman?

SandyCalico said...

Some people are so miserable, they're like the Dementors in Harry Potter.
Reminds me of my childhood. I wasn't sporty. On sports day I was in the tug of war team, that's all.
I was bullied too, one evening after school, when I was about 14, I was attacked by a group of girls. As I was being punched the PE teacher drove by in a minibus full of jolly hockey players. I looked to her, pleadingly. Please stop the minibus and help me. Do you know what she did? That's right, drove off. Cow.
Great post.

Ladybird World Mother said...

Grrrr. And more Grrrrr. Aren't some adults just the pits... more about winning than all playing together as team. Grrr. Our school is great... head teacher lets every one play. We never win, ever, but everyone gets to have a go. Middle son gets a bit frustrated. 'Mum, we never win, its hopeless.'
And I say, its not hopeless at all, its practising being a team.'
He has the rest of his life to 'win'. Team work is the real lesson.
Love love love your writing! x

Victoria said...

My PE teacher at school was also vile (called Mrs Vile, believe it or not!) and used to insist on us wearing barely any clothes in mid winter, while she was all togged up in multiple layers. She also used to drive 100 metres from her house at end of school drive to playing field and see no irony in calling us 'lazy lumps of lard'. Yes really. Vile by name, vile by nature. Thanks for giving opportunity to get that off my chest!