Friday, March 16, 2007

Music and Movement

In the beginning there was Music and Movement. Forty of us, give or take an infant, stylishly dressed in vests and knickers, in the school hall. One of those reel-to-reel tape recorders, crackling out a Posh Lady Voice of the kind that says Bet instead of Bat.

“Now then, children, I want you to curl up in a tiny little ball as small as you can. And when the music starts, I want you to pretend that you are a little dormouse waking up after a long winter sleep. Stretch your arms in the air, and then stand up, and then run all around the room looking for something to eat. And now - - off you go!”

“Excuse me,” I wanted to ask, “why am I being asked to do this extremely humiliating activity? I may only be five, but I have my dignity.”

But nobody ever explained. I suppose it was firstly to give us Healthy Exercise and secondly to expand our little imaginations.

Well, I didn’t need the exercise – I got lots of that at playtime, playing whip and top and skipping, and after school, building dens. And, as for the imagination bit, I didn’t like cutesy stories even then.

It didn’t get any better. We graduated to proper P.E., with shorts and shirts. We jumped and ran and waved our arms about and tried - unsuccessfully, in my case - to leapfrog over each other. I don’t know what else we did because it was so boring I have erased it from my memory. Very, very occasionally we could get the apparatus out – ropes and climbing frames. I loved the climbing frames but they were such a rare occurrence that I stopped even hoping for them.

With Girls’ Grammar School came Greek Dance, in royal blue satiny tunics and knickers which our long-suffering mothers had to make. Thank goodness Emily never had to possess such things – I would have said “Tell them to get stuffed” and an Unpleasant Incident would have followed.

All I remember of it was the unbelievable tediousness and the rather overenthusiastic female teacher shouting “ A little one - - a BIG one - - a little one - - a BIG one!” over and over again. A little what? Can’t remember. Didn’t care. Get me out of there. Even double maths was preferable.

I wasn’t good at P.E., but then I wasn’t terribly bad at it either. I wasn’t very fat, or very thin, or bullied in any way by other children because of it. I was just average. And bored out of my skull.

What did all this school P.E. do? Make me fit? – Well, I was pretty fit already – lots of walking, swimming, cycling and general Playing Out of the kind that, sadly no longer happens, now there are cars everywhere and a paedophile lurking behind every bush.

No, all it achieved, apart from teaching me the meaning of the word “dull” was to put me off any form of exercise in a class for a while. By “a while” I mean several decades. Walking, swimming, even tennis, fine. But judo? Get lost. Karate? No chance. That Eighties go-for-the-burn stuff in legwarmers? Oh, please. Yoga? Isn’t that all very knit-your-own-lentils?

But, a few weeks ago, I joined a yoga class, because it’s run by the mother of one of Emily and Gareth’s friends, and I liked her, so I thought I’d give it a try. And it’s interesting. And I’m really enjoying it. Amazing.

It is, of course, entirely possible that I have missed out on a number of great exercise-class experiences over the years, because I was put off so much by school. Draw your own conclusions.


Anonymous Ruth said...

First you get a cross trainer then you go to a yoga class. Where will it all end? Fun runs, mini marathons, lycra shorts... it's a slippery slope. The Olympics in London are only a few years away, have you decided on a sport to enter?

11:07 pm  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

School: It puts you off.

As a slogan, it's lacking something...

11:44 pm  
Blogger John said...

Music and Movement! My god, you wouldn't be allowed to do that sort of thing today, what with what lurks in the shrubbery and all.

The indignity! Boys in y-fronts with white vests tucked in, girls in big flannel knickers, hoiked up to Empire Line, with their white vests similarly tucked in. The whole fetching ensemble made by Cherub if my memory serves me right.

I can remember the hard, polished, close jointed, parquet floor and the fuzz of the radio where the source of our embarrassment emanated.

Running round on tip-toes with arms outstretched and Michael Chatterton, getting a bit over enthusiastic to bump into Alison Fitt and thereby strike-up an intimate relationship [that was how boys did romance in those days - if you fancied a girl, the best way to any sort of physical proximity was usually violent] slipping in his socks and sliding to the feet of Miss Collins whose admonition was something we all feared.

For years Michael suffered, any thought of love being accompanied as it was by the picture of Miss Collins baring down on him and dragging him off to "cool down" on the horse-hair sofa in the conservatory red with shame and passion.

3:06 pm  

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