Friday, February 05, 2010

Girls' Grammar School Sports

In amongst all the swotty stuff - and there was plenty of swotty stuff! - we did rather a lot of Games.

There was tennis in the summer and I liked that. The school, being a girls' grammar school, had leafy lawns and tennis courts. In my first year at secondary school I had some after-school coaching and I enjoyed it. I was never going to be very good at tennis - -I gather that, in general, you have to be able to run and I never could, really - but I was quite good at whacking the ball over the net somewhere where my opponent couldn't get at it. Practising serves on a sunny summer's evening after school - - ah yes, I enjoyed that.

Also in the summer was rounders. Again, it helped if you could run. This running thing tended to be an ongoing theme in PE, which seemed to me most unfair. I could hit the ball and would lope along to first base and there stop. However, it was quite fun, once you were out, lying in the grass and making daisy chains. Or fielding - supposedly - chatting to your friend and seeing how far you could drift away from the action without the teacher noticing.

In the winter there was hockey. My mother loved it - she was once Captain of Leeds University hockey team - but I hated it. Nasty vicious game, and always played in temperatures well below freezing. One year, when they decided to keep British Summertime in the winter, we played it first lesson, in the dark. This suited me fine - the less the teacher saw of me, hiding by the goalposts, the better.

There was also netball. This too was generally played in freezing temperatures. You had to wear your Games Skirt - a short, navy blue pleated affair - and your huge, thick navy blue knickers. I think these were designed as some primitive form of contraceptive device - if all girls and women wore these, there would be no underage sex. Probably no sex at all, in fact, just a lot of men with looks of bewildered horror on their faces. Along with this you wore your Aertex Games Shirt, which was in your house colours (Tudor (red), Stuart, (yellow) Plantagenet (green) and Windsor (blue). I was in Stuart. Yes, I'm afraid I remember just about everything from my childhood, no matter how dull.

On the front of your Games Shirt your name had to be embroidered in chain stitch, so that the PE teachers knew which ones to blame. Over it you had to wear a kind of tabard with initials on it which purported to show which position you were playing in - - of course, mine was generally Left Behind. Though I didn't mind netball too much. There seemed to be rather a lot of standing about in the cold but it was quite fun trying to get the ball into the net.

Once a week, there was swimming. The school had its own - rather elderly - pool. I loved it. Of course, swimming was the only sport I was any good at, since running didn't seem to be a major issue here. I was never particularly fast, but I was a confident swimmer so was allowed to do my own thing in the Deep End whilst the PE teacher yelled at the poor non-swimmers in the Shallow End. I did my lifesaving qualifications and learned how to rescue a brick from the bottom of the pool whilst wearing pyjamas. I still hope that this skill may prove useful one day.

Sometimes, there was athletics on the field. I draw a veil over this. Every little bit of it involved running and some of it involved jumping too and I couldn't do that either. Hurdles are cruel and unnatural punishment and I don't like watching them to this day.

And then, in our first year, there was Greek Dance. Our mothers had been provided with a pattern to make a tunic for this, in shiny Royal Blue material: for in those distant days, all mothers could sew. Plus we had the obligatory matching knickers which of course went over the thick navy blue ones to make absolutely sure that any lustful males who might happen to catch a glimpse of us would remain soundly untempted.

It was possibly the most embarrassing thing I've ever had to do. I have no idea what steps we did or what music we danced to - - - I just spent the whole lesson trying to zone out of it whilst the teacher yelled - as she often did - "A little one, a BIG one, a little one, a BIG one - - " No, I've no idea what she was going on about and very much doubt that I did even then. I tried to dance with my eyes closed so that I couldn't see us.

So - - have any of these become a lasting part of my life? I think you know the answer - the swimming. But I loved that well before I went to secondary school. I remember the rest, though - some good memories, some not so good. Except for the Greek Dance. I have tried to forget it completely - - - and, mercifully, have nearly succeeded.


Blogger Katherine said...

Ha! Very funny post... I had a lot of that the same. Replace rounders with something called longball, that involved wacking (or in my case trying to whack) a tennis ball with a cricket wicket, and change the Greek dancing to country dancing. But we also had Marching. Now I look back it was very Military, and done to the crackling strains of "Colonel Bogie" or "Good old Sussex by the Sea" over the loudspeaker.
I'm still good at daisy chains.

7:13 am  
Blogger Michael said...

Boy's Grammar School sports: 1) It's 1973 and I am standing in the muddy goal area in Tongue lane, Meanwood, wearing my football kit and a pair of yellow/green/red plastic platform shoes. My excuse that 'I left my football boots at home sir' has not been accepted.
2) Stonegate Rd playing fields, in horizontal driving snow. Twenty minutes into our football game, the sporty school chaplain finally accepts that the risk of exposure for 22 shivering blue 12-year-olds exceeds that of 'missing a game'.
Grammar school instilled in me such a hatred of sport that it took two decades to realise that it could actually sometimes be fun.

9:54 am  
Blogger Jennyta said...

I can empathise with almost all of your memories, Daphne and for the most part, they echo my own. In hockey (which I also hated with a passion)I used to try and get to be goalkeeper so that I wouldn't have any running to do. The problem was, that I would then stand there daydreaming and let the ball in - time and time again. ;)

2:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a memory jog, our school had 6houses, the 4 you had plus York & Lancaster, I was in Tudor. Strange how girls' grammar schools across the country chose similar ideas isn't it? My feelings about hockey are much the same as yours Daphne, my favourite position was Right Back (preferably behind the goal)

4:05 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I have said before on more than one occasion that I am not an athlete, just an athletic supporter.

I stunk at baseball, stunk at soccer, never wanted to try football, my dad wanted me to learn to box -- BOX! -- but I demurred. The one time I was ever participated in a team sport was in 8th grade on the boys' volleyball team. This was a suspect, borderline sport in the days before it was added to the Olympics.

I much preferred being in the marching band.

4:40 pm  
Blogger Diz said...

Our houses were Ceredigion, Powys, Dyfed and Gwynedd - yes - a school in Wales - although a stuck-up English one, sadly. I, too was useless at all sports, including swimming. I can't run, jump or hit a ball - my only saving grace was the discus.
I didn't find a sport I enjoyed until I started sailing in my 20s, then martial arts in my 40s, sadly an unrelated injury put me out of that.

6:24 pm  
Blogger WendyCarole said...

you have reminded me that we had our initials embroidered on our PE shirts as well as our name embroidered on the front of our black plimsolls. The initials had to be in our house colours ( in my case blue for Neptune )

One particularly cold winter the student PE teacher made us play hockey outside until she saw that me aand anothe rgirl had bright purple hands and she decided it was too cold and we all went in.

Word verification is tagger LOL

11:22 pm  
Anonymous Writeous Indignation said...

Ah, grammar school... ;-)
We had to have our first initial and our surname embroidered on everything, chain stitch, bright yellow thread.
We played hockey whatever the weather, even in snow, and I often think that the pain of being hacked across the knuckles with a hockey stick when your hand are puce from cold is like no other.

Like no other - yes. Worse than have a caesarean without a working epidural - no. That still beats everything hands down, and I'm kinda hoping not to break that particular record! ;-)

10:19 pm  

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