Monday 21 November 2011

'Push, pull, squat, brace...'

I suppose it had to happen - there's a call for mandatory testing in PE (or, as it's inventively called here, 'physical literacy') in all schools. Hmm... In my experience, PE was less a 'subject' than a regime of physical pain and humiliation, overseen by chippy sadists with more or less repressed homosexual urges. My finest hour on the PE front came when, with a friend, I managed to duck under the radar and avoid PE classes for a whole term - no mean feat in a regimented, sport-fixated school. We passed our time agreeably in a nearby cafe, smoking, drinking tea and discussing the profounder meanings embedded in Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde - much healthier pursuits for a growing lad than all that 'push, pull, squat, brace, rotate, accelerate and change of direction'. Our absence was eventually noticed, and I was summoned to the deputy head's office for a telling-off, but as I peered through the fog of tobacco smoke and observed his impressively yellowed fingers, I could tell that his heart wasn't really in it...
If schools want to teach 'physical literacy', they should switch to Pilates and yoga.


  1. I'm not quite sure about that last point. As the great "lost London artist" Austin Osman Spare so memorably put it, "Bollocks to yoga".

  2. How about dance, Frank? Something elegant and classical, perhaps accompanied by lyres... Very good for young minds.

  3. Oh yes - or a nice walk maybe. Or Dalcroze Eurythmics!
    I spent a whole term of tennis and rounders locked in the cubicle of the girls' toilets with my friend Vivien, stnding on the loo seat so our feet didn't show under the door if a teacher was on the prowl- we were too young to find our way off premises. It was amazing when my report said my tennis had come on nicely that term! I then made the excuse that, as i did ballet, I couldn't possibly do nasty rough things like hockey, so spent the next year in the library every PE lesson. A load of bollocks to pretend hockey might 'harm me' but it worked. Then, thankfully, it was sixth form and PE suddenly became Activities - and much more civilised.
    Seems vital to me that PE should be something everyone enjoys - not an ordeal. School is, or was for me, enough of an ordeal already.

  4. As a lifelong and proud physical illiterate my own 'proudest' hour in PE was being named the Most Improved at cricket. I think that entailed just once managing to hit an undefended wicket with one of my unnamable slow balls. For this I was roundly 'applauded' around the ears by my fellow sufferers.

  5. Oh yes - that phrase 'physical literacy'! Do They know what They're talking about I wonder? Kinaesthetic awareness, propriaception, co-ordination? Do hope They get it right.

  6. Don't worry, Tricia - the teachers won't have it, as it wld mean more work for them. It will never happen...
    Love 'applauded around the ears', Banished!

  7. Tricia, I WAS harmed in hockey - got whacked round the jaw with the stick by an overenthusiastic player (making up for my chronic underenthusiasm perhaps). I liked it in 6th form when you could choose between PE and a community volunteering opportunity - spent two very pleasant years helping out at Scope charity shop in Sutton with my friend Liz. Much better!

  8. Don't think teachers have a say in it really. They seem to have to do all sorts of daft evaluations - paper exercises - these days, from what I hear from my sis who works all weekends and quite a lot of holidays on these pointless ventures.

    Yes - sixth form was great release from horrible, dangerous ball games - Kate.

  9. The last time I won anything was the 'slinging the cricket ball as far you can' competition (now known as 'projecting the teeny-weeny red orb in a safe and considerate manner'). The PE teacher was, as always, strutting about, barking orders in his best SS manner, and acting as measurer of the throws. In his arrogance, he reasoned we puny, under-nourished, idiots wouldn't trouble his safety one jot. He nearly died that day (He never could catch a ball) and I nearly became the greatest hero in the history of the school. Sadly, he side-stepped in a manner that would have won a 9 from Craig Revel Horwood. Shame, really.

  10. Shame indeed, John - great story!
    And Kate, my dad always said lacrosse was the most dangerous game he ever played (and he played them all) - the things you can do with a lacrosse stick don't bear thinking about - the sidelines would be strewn with casualties, most of them clutching their groins...

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