When I was at school it was clear from about second year juniors (no idea what year that would be in new currency) that I had an aversion to sporting activities. There were only ever two sport options for boys: football or football. The girls at junior school were spoilt for choice with such crafts as sewing, Scottish dancing and menstruating. As I hated football (soccer) then almost as much as I do now faced with a limited choice I had no option but to grin and bare it. Football bored me. It still does. I was always one for more cerebral activities, chess, scrabble and the like. My one crowning glory in the field of sport was the day I’d watched Flash Gordon before I’d gone to school. I felt inspired enough to mimic the American Football sequence, you know where Sam J Jones bops Ming’s minions with that egg shaped thing? “Forget it Ming, Dales with me!”. I ran up and down the field like a man alive, kicking the football past everybody only to be told I’d broken rules and that every time I scored a goal it was void because I didn’t genuflect at the goalie or paint my nose blue or some other obscure cock arse made up on the spot rule.
So after that, football and sport just made me feel alienated. Of course, being the odd one out at that age meant that I became the focus of unwarranted attention. I became isolated, withdrawn, moody and possibly what would now be termed “a problem pupil”. One enterprising young teacher, Mr Poland, decided that the reason I was withdrawn was because I wasn’t involved in after school activities. He suggested I joined the school football team. I did. For one match. Standing round in the fog, cold and wet from the rain, in my shorts waiting for the other children to return from the lower end of the pitch with the ball. Really not my idea of fun.
When I got to secondary school it was not much better and I had to endure 3 years of sport until I could finally drop it for music. Which I did. I thought that I would share with you, dear reader, two examples of secondary school teachers. Maybe this will be part of a series about the various teaching characters that taught at my school. Dunno, I’ll see.
So anyway, there were two specific sports teachers that stick in my mind. Mr Farrington and Mr Pedder.
Mr Farrington always wore blue. He had a shock of black curly hair. The kind of man that had devoted his entire life to sport and felt that his calling was to now pass on skills and the like to younger boys. Sadly his method of teaching involved standing in the nice warmth of the school sports pavilion shouting random orders at various students. Perhaps this method was approved by the Teaching Standards Council or maybe it had done him well for the 20 odd years he had taught there. Personally I thought he was a bit of a fuck wit. But hey.
Farrington never interacted with anyone that wasn’t sporty. Short quips and retorts to those less sporty than say the legendary Anthony Warner was all that he could muster. But the likes of Warner and Colin Campbell (of which British tradition dictates that there should be at least one at every school) would often be communicated with in long discussions about how they were to represent the school with their sporting prowess at local competitions. Indeed, Campbell would somehow get on the school cricket team. Not that cricket was EVER offered at sports. How he managed to get trialled for cricket I have no idea. But I suspect Farrington had a hand in it.
Something else Farrington famously had his hand in was his tracksuit bottoms. In this day and age of paedophilia and suspicious men, shoving your hands down your tracksuit bottoms is probably frowned upon. However when I was at school, paedophilia was something that only happened on council estates and children could quite happily play out until all hours without fear of perceived threat. Therefore, shoving ones hands down the front of ones pants was probably acceptable and encouraged. Maybe. I dunno. But whenever I think of sport I think of Farrington. Standing there pitch side, with his hands trenched into the front of his pants while shouting orders at sweating pre-pubescent boys. Maybe this proved to be a traumatic experience for me. Probably not.
Furthermore, come summer, sports would change from running round in the piss pouring cold rain soaked mud after some leather sphere to the joys of athletics.
Athletics was another of Farrington’s favourite times. He would again shout orders, this time via the PA system, at “lazy” boys struggling to keep up with the rest of the class who were running round the sports ground breathlessly. I hated sport. I hated football. I hated athletics and I hated Farrington. He knew it. Often he would bark “Gnomepants! You fat lazy idiot get a move on!”. Often I would dream of pummelling his face into the wall of the changing room while shocked on lookers observed and learnt not to push me. “Gnomepants! Keep moving”.
After lessons would come the showers, Farrington and one of the Brothers (if you recall my school was run by a community of holy brothers) would patrol the showers ensuring that each and every boy had a shower. Though some would probably suspect that they were looking at the young boys widgies. None the less, that is what they did. There is another story there, maybe for another day….
I hated the cunt. Him and his goolie feeling ways. Fortunately for him, he would, for some reason, be sidelined by another teacher. He wasn’t retired, he kept standing there with his hands down his pants. Even in the corridors. When I got to sixth form Farrington would converse with me, he would still stand with his hands down his pants, but he would pass civil conversation, enquire how I was doing with my studies and what I was planning to do when I left school. I warmed to him. His successor however……
When Andy Pedder was at teacher training school, someone gave him a copy of the film Kes. It was from that moment Andy Pedder would fashion a lifetime career on Brian Glover’s sadistic sports teacher character. If you haven’t seen that scene it is here.
The sporty types loved him. I hated him. I hated his neo-fascist ways, I hated the way he imaginatively called me Perry. I hated him with an almost psychotic passion. If you ever came last during a running session (we would be sent running round the running track as a warm up) you would be sent round again. Sometimes on your own. He would pick your sides for you. Making an issue of selecting the less sporty kids and nearly always me last. Now don’t get me wrong, I was not the fat kid. I was lean, keeping fit by cycling and walking to school. I just couldn’t be arsed with sports. I couldn’t be arsed. I would much rather have been learning something, studying or crafting something. I didn’t like being sweaty or dirty and tired. I preferred to be just…normal.
When I got to third year I dodged the draft. My linguistic skills were recognised and I was allowed to do Spanish instead of PE. Games periods were already taken up by Music. So that meant I didn’t have to do any sports. Except, I was too clever. I was moved up a class mid way through my term in third year. Because the brainy kids didn’t have to worry about foreign languages, Spanish wasn’t an option and so PE was back on the timetable.
Fuck. I remember the look of sadistic glee on Pedder’s face when he saw me. Weeks passed, and with them Pedder’s sadism increased. His taunts, his put downs, all because I probably challenged his pea brain. Why would a thin fit boy not possibly want to be part of the sports? Surely that is what boys did. They got involved with sports. They ate, breathed and shat football. This anomaly, this Gnomepants must surely be an anathema, something that needed ridiculing, made a laughing stock, so that the confidence, if they had any, could be whittled out and maybe then they would find some interest in the game of soccer.
Pedder. You sad pathetic man.
I arrived at school late one morning, I forget why, I didn’t have anything with me, my homework was the wrong books, my pencil case was elsewhere and I’d forgotten my Swimming kit. I forget why. It was genuine. All the other teachers were sympathetic to the cause. All the teachers, that is, except Pedder who immediately switched into Brian Glover mode when he realised I didn’t have my swimming kit.
“Well then Perry” he said sadistically, “Time to get stuff art a stig bin”
The Stig Bin was were all the left over stuff was kept. The lost property, the soiled property, the stuff kids were ashamed to take home because of the state of the garment. Pedder foraged into the stig bin and drew out a pair of blue nylon football shorts.
“These will do for you Perry”
They bloody wouldn’t. For a start they were about 3 sizes too small. Any attempt to climb into these shorts would no doubt have incurred some sort of physical injury in the testicle department. Aside from that, the sanitary conditions of the shorts left a lot to be desired. From the look of them the previous occupant had not washed or wiped their bottom that day. Really. You wouldn’t even give these garments to the Oxfam clothes bin at the recycling centre.
“Put them on Perry”
I refused. He became more and more insistent. But no. I’d had enough of this pathetic sadist. I stood up to him. A crowd had gathered. Some of the kids were jeering at me, laughing because I was standing my ground on decency. Most though were jeering at Pedder. They had felt his acid tongue, they were glad to see him actually having somebody stand up to him. I snatched the garments and cast them into the pool. My insolence was then scolded by being given detention. I smiled and said I wouldn’t do it and that instead I would go to see the head master.
I did. I told the head everything. I told him about Pedder and his nasty little ways, I actually complained about a teacher. Had it been modern day, no doubt I would have snook in some hints of “suspicious behaviour” and “improper suggestions”, but it wasn’t. It was 1988. Such activities had not been invented.
My telling the head got me out of PE for the remainder of that year. Moreover I was able to avoid Pedder. That day became legendary and some say that the council erected a blue plaque on the wall of the swimming pool in commemoration of the events. I believe that Pedder got investigated, he toned his act down after then.
Some years later, I was working in a bar in Liverpool. I heard a familiar voice pipe up “Perry, I’ll av a pint” as I turned I noticed it was Pedder. Grinning at me like I should forgive him for his twisted little ways. I looked at him. Smiled.
And said “Sorry mate, you’re barred”