I’ve written how I truly hated the weekly sports lessons on a previous occasion.* Summer was bad enough, with cricket and its incomprehensible rules. Winter was worse. Every week I waited, for the coach to turn up. Often I stood in drizzling rain, snow or freezing wind, which was no obstacle to “The Polly Boys”. The hour it took to get to Friern Barnet could have been bearable, except for my other class mates. How could they possibly enthuse about football, for so long, was a mystery to me. The banal chatter was sheer torture, especially, if they’d actually been to a match the previous Saturday at Tottenham or Arsenal. Then of course, the whole coach were treated to a minute by minute replay of those historical events.
My mate Brian felt the same as me about Wednesday’s torture and said so. His comments weren’t appreciated. Brian was a big lad and known for his ability to fight and to actually seek out confrontation. So he was left alone. When players names were dropped into the conversation, as though they were personally known, Brian got really irritated. Once a footballer called Charlton was mentioned, linked to something called “dribbling the ball”. Not thinking, I confused ‘Charlton’ with a famous film star. I said, “I bet he dribbled on Tony Curtis, when hanging upside down when they made the film Trapeze”. Brian thought it was funny and repeated it loudly. Mixing up ‘Charlton’ with ‘Charlton Heston’ wasn’t appreciated.
Worse the teacher in charge was deranged. Not a big man he enthused and interrupted any conversation with gusto, as if he’d also attended the game. Except for Brian and me everyone seemed to know everything about the players and the rules. A huge amount of inconsequential detail was spouted, which was absolutely boring and trivial. The teacher attended the weekly sessions dressed like a sportsman. He couldn’t get to the destination quick enough.
Once the coach was parked, he ran straight to the changing rooms. Shouting at us, “To follow him” and stop wasting time. He constantly reminded us how precious it was to get out on the field and enjoy ourselves. He was the epitome of a man devoted to and infatuated with sport. I know he would chunter on for hours about his obsession to anyone gullible enough to encourage him. There’s no doubt he was fit as he was well past forty. How he managed to run the length of a football pitch, time and time again, whilst blowing his whistle and shouting at boys was a memorable.
It really is quite a pity that I never liked or respected that teacher. He was hapless and was paid to teach geography, but his heart was elsewhere, usually on a cold, wet, muddy, patch of soil in north London.