Tuesday, 3 February 2015


Incredibly, in my advanced state of age and decrepitude, I sometimes find myself looking back on my schooldays with a certain amount of wistful yearning.  I'm not quite sure why, because I never much liked school at the time, being an inveterate daydreamer who gazed through the classroom windows at the wider world beyond with a longing to be out there and enjoying myself.

My least favourite subject in school was PE (physical education - or exercise), and I was forever 'forgetting' my shorts or gym-shoes in order to avoid what I saw as pointless exertion.  A healthy life may be a happy life, but I was unconvinced of this philosophy, much preferring a state of restful inactivity and thoughtful contemplation.

The PE teachers were an odd mix, the chief perpetrator of officially sanctioned child torture being an overweight baldie by the name of Mr. MacDOUGAL, who had a stogie permanently protruding from his facial orifice.  He wore a blue tracksuit which showcased his distended stomach, ample and ironic testimony of his own far from ideal physical condition.  (In memory, he bore an uncanny resemblance to actor WILLIAM MERVYN from ALL GAS AND GAITERS, a once popular TV sit-com.) 

Mr. MacDougal's favourite 'sport' was sadistically tweaking the nipples of any pupil who incurred his disfavour - something he seemed to take perverse delight in. Nowadays, of course, this cruelty wouldn't be tolerated and he'd be fired faster than a fart from The FLASH, but things were different back then.  Such behaviour tends to confirm the long and commonly-held suspicion that all PE teachers are perverts of some description anyway (allegedly). 

There were two other guys (and at least one woman - to teach the girls, presumably), one of whom had a perm and moustache that HARRY ENFIELD's Scousers would be proud of.  (The other one may well have been similarly styled - they tended to conform to the same 1970s pattern of what was then considered the epitome of manliness, but now seems overwhelmingly 'camp'.)

On the particular occasion which I am now about to relate, I had recently been legitimately excused from a few PE periods on account of a sprained ankle.  One afternoon, I was limping along the corridor outside the changing rooms on my way to another class, when I was suddenly sent sprawling onto the floor by the extended foot of the moustachioed instructor - who'd quite deliberately tripped me up, the b*st*rd.

He then proceeded to berate me for wearing gym-shoes (ironic or what?), proclaiming that they weren't suitable footwear for school (outside of the gym hall, obviously), nor part of the approved school uniform.  I explained that I was wearing them because of a sprained (and bandaged) ankle and they were more comfortable to wear in my less then flexible state.

That night at home, I recounted the event to my father, who visited the school the next day to speak to the headmaster about the instructor's behaviour.  When the teacher next saw me, he summoned me over and snarled "Next time, tell your father to come and see me, not the headmaster!"  What a pr*ck, eh?

My father originated from a rough area of Glasgow, so it must have been an effort of will on his part to resist taking up the offer, but he registered his annoyance at the school.  Whether the instructor was ever spoken to about his second mis-demeanour I never found out, but I don't recall any further incident from him.

I think it's obvious that much of the trouble which teachers have encountered over the last couple of decades can be traced back to incidents similar to my own (which were by no means unique), which started a trend of resistance to any perception of unfair discipline in the minds of then-future parents, who'd be automatically inclined to take their kids' side in any confrontation between pupils and staff, due to their own experience of injustice at school.  Now, of course, things have gone too far the other way.

So what have I learned from looking back at my schoolboy escapades?  Merely that I still hate any form of physical exercise - unless it involves a nubile nymphomaniac with a penchant for old middle-aged men who look remarkably like myself. (Although I'd probably settle for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.)

Any schooltime scandals of your own that you'd care to relate?  The floor is all yours.


    One day in the school biology lab, our master walked in cĂ rrying a plastic tank under his arm and told us all that he had something magnificent to show us! The lab assistant had been on holiday abroad and had brought back a live black widow and he had it there in the tank to show us! "This magnificent specimen is the most deadly spider in the world!" he told us,"and see underneath her belly, she is carrying her basket of eggs!" He then continued, "But listen carefully", he warned us, " before I get her out, if she gets on the floor, I will yell, 'Everyone up on the benches!' and you must all do so immediately, because one bite from this and you're a gonner!"
    I remember thinking, " Could I just have a TINY little nip and then I could gain its powers?"
    Anyway, he took the lid off, but the very second it put one foot on his bench, he panicked!
    "EVERYONE UP ON THE BENCHES - NOW!!" he yelled and we immediately complied, as he covered it with an upturned specimen jar.
    "No, it's too dangerous," he said, "I'm going to have to kill it!" and he soaked a piece of cotton wool in chloroform and pushed it under the jar, which put it to "sleep", and I remember thinking, " What a pointless waste of its life! Bringing it all this way, just to ececute it! Why didn't they just leave it where it wa"

  2. Apparently their bite isn't quite so dangerous as once thought, JP. I wonder if that master was winding you up about killing it?

    1. No, he actually did kill it.
      We all witnessed its death throes.
      It was pitiful to watch.
      The last thing it did was to drop its clutch of eggs.
      Then it slumped down.

    2. Sounds to me that he wasn't right in the head, JP. What a 'bar steward'.

  3. There was a boy in my school called Tony something and he was about two years older than me. One day he brought in a tarantula in a box which he let us see but I can't remember if it was alive or not. I have the same attitude to school sports - a complete waste of time. Didn't the man who popularised jogging drop dead aged about 42 - a fat lot of good his healthy lifestyle did him. If kids are overweight they should eat less - running around a field for an hour a week won't make any difference.

  4. He did indeed, CJ. I'm not sure what age he was, but he had a heart attack while jogging. Yes, you're right - less exercise and less pies, that's the solution.


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