Monday, 15 December 2014


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.  (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 misdemeanour 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.


Colin Jones said...

My PE teacher (Mr. Steve Jackson) also had a moustache and a large belly but he wasn't just a PE teacher as he also taught lessons to the more, I mean less academically gifted kids. Long after I left he went on to become deputy headmaster. At the time of the 2008 local elections I was looking at a Labour leaflet that came through the letterbox and who should be standing as a Labour candidate but Mr. Jackson - of course by that time the Labour government was massively unpopular so he didn't get in. The real nasty sod in my school was the metalwork teacher, Mr. Gareth Jones, who fancied himself as a real hard nut - luckily I did woodwork and not metalwork so I never had to endure him. But yes, those teachers would be up in court now for the things they casually did every day. I remember when I was ten and we had to go swimming (which I loathed) one of the teachers tried to come into my changing cubicle as I was changing - when I protested he grabbed my ear and pulled me out of the cubicle and forced me to apologise !! My father also would have been down the school at the drop of a hat if I'd complained to him about any of the teachers but I never did.

John Pitt said...

I have told you in the past that a lot of my old teachers and masters were sadists. I could write a book reminiscent of Tom Brown's Schooldays about the beatings and thrashings I endured. This tale isn't a scandal, but a minor victory for one pupil. Our headmaster, nick-named The Pig, was a REAL sadist, before administering his beatings he would open his cupboard which was FULL of canes and try several out in the air and test them for bendiness - all to try and frighten you! Only when he had chosen his weapon of choice would he have you bend down to give you your stripes. These he would acheive by whipping the cane so that after it hit your arse it would wrap around your thigh. This resulted in 3 to 6 cut wounds on the thigh, surrounded by bruise, which you would later show off to your chums, whilst boasting that it didn't hurt! ( all lies!! )
One day I knew I'd be in for a striping, because the evening before another master who hated me had seen me smoking in the town centre. Sure enough, after assembly, the Pig called my name out and said, " - my office! " But this time I had gone prepared!- I was wearing swimming trunks, 2 pairs of gym shorts, y fronts and cricket whites all underneath my grey flannels! But my secret weapon was my Mother's suede mitts cellotaped toy thigh!! Honestly, I could hardly bend down! Well he huffed and puffed with all his might for 6 times, but this time I really DIDN'T feel a thing! So much so that as I was leaving his office I burst out laughing into the face of a prefect who was entering it!
Yes, for one brief moment in time, I had gotten one over on the Pig! - Ah, schooldays! - the best days of your life! I remember the time........
( I DID warn you before!- Don't get me started! )

Kid said...

Ooer, CJ, that bit about the cubicle sounds dodgy. Funnily enough, I also hated swimming - the amount of times I 'forgot' my trunks was unbelievable. I don't think we had it in Primary school 'though - it was in Secondary school that we were bussed to the baths.


Luckily for me, the cane wasn't used in my school, JP - only the tawse. I say 'only', but it could be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands. Many a time I had strap marks halfway up my lower arm. Kids at school nowadays don't know how lucky they are.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I can't really recall my school days in that much detail, but I do seem to recall our PE teacher leaving and PE being taken by our Science teacher (amongst others) for a full term when I was in second year , so you can imagine how much interest and effort they put into those classes ie long runs whilst the stand in teacher sat in the office on freezing cold days or playing with small coloured bean bags (no idea why we had these in secondary school) ) . I do remember the usual rubbish of having to do PE in our pants (underpants to your US readers) if you forgot your gear, saying that although I wasn't great at sports I did like PE unless it was swimming (to my shame I can't swim) or cross country running.

A story I do recall involved me nearly getting expelled for "stealing " dinner money tickets (I was a rebel me.......not).Not sure if this was the norm in all schools in the mid/late 70s in the UK or just in Scotland (or even just my school) but if you purchased a school meal you first purchased a weekly book of tickets and each day you gave the canteen that days ticket. If you were off that day you handed the unused ticket in at registration the next day to get a rebate - well one day it was a guy called Paul's turn to collect the 2nd year unused tickets for a rebate for my school"House" - now at my School there were only 2 pupils in second year called Paul and the Paul that was to get the rebates on the unused tickets had a dental appointment shortly after 9:00am but as there was a delay in him getting the money from the school office he headed to the dentist with the money and took the rest of that day off.

To add to the confusion this happened on a Friday when I was also off school (as my family was moving house) so on the following Monday (and with the other Paul not being at registration) I was planning to hand in my Friday meal ticket for a rebate (and to buy comics with it as my Mum and Dad said I could keep the money..approx 25p) so to my surprise the Headmaster stormed in asking (well shouting as they did back then) for me by name so I stepped forward and was told "you're in heap of trouble boy, now take your bag and books and get to my office NOW" (always important for them to scream that last word). Thinking I was in trouble because I was off on the Friday I headed to his office where he flew in like a demented bat slamming the office door hard behind him for that added terror effect ( as a 6 foot tall adult in a power situation in a full blown rage just isn't scary enough to a 5 foot 3 13 years old). His next words were "right boy dinner ticket money you think its smart stealing do you " and "get that smirk off your face or I'll take it off for you " - now I can assure you I had no smirk on my face my whole being was solely focused on ensuring I did not void by bowels (I cannot in all honesty say I was 100% successful with that) - anyway long story short I pleaded ignorance of the whole thing wondering if it was something to do with me wanting my Friday meal ticket rebate etc so I told him I was off on Friday etc and wanted my refund money (maybe that muddied the situation) only to be told " a likely story boy Mr Tulloch (my registration teacher and a gem of a man - what he said was " Paul got the money") said you got the rebate money for your House and the secretary confirmed she gave that money to you - luckily it all ended as quickly as it started with the other "Paul" coming to the office (he was late for registration) with the refund money and a letter from his dad saying he wasn't well after the dentist and had to stay home etc - I wasn't even given an apology only told to go to my next class.

Kid said...

An amusing but shocking tale, McScotty (and thanks for taking the time to type it - same to CJ and JP). That was one of the things about 'authority' back then - it could never 'man-up', bite the bullet and admit when they'd got it wrong.

Must say I never had to PE in my underpants - I'd have refused to do it (and, trust me, me in my underpants is not a pretty sight. In fact, neither is a pretty site even when separated.)

moonmando said...

To paint an accurate picture of life, back back then,one only has to look at that wonderful film by Ken Loach called 'Kes'.I could have played the main part of Billy Casper.Bullied by both the educational establishment and by his older brother,he represented life as it was back then,to me, cruel and unjust.
Ah,Mr McDougal,the swine! He was clearly a man influenced by Commando books,(I believe he actually had been one) for he took no prisoners when it came to excuses for not having PE kit.I remember him towering over my wretched former self,shivering in the cold changing rooms whilst he applied rotation to my nipples,the clear intent being that this would make a man of me, only in turn breeding within myself even more resentment towards the whole sadistic enviroment we at that time called school!
I can still recall him hanging from the ropes of his constructed Commando course in the gym,cigar hanging from his lips,with a smug grin on his face.
In all honesty, he was'nt a bad guy, compared to the rest.It was just his way of getting us to 'man up and grow a set of balls'...,or so they say.
Strangely enough I prefered the nipple scrunching to the belt as I never felt it carried the same element of sadism on the part of the administrator.
Anyway gotta sign of now as I'm trying out a new gimp suit today. Lol

Kid said...

I remember my brother seeing Kes when we lived in Belmont, Moony - and getting an actual bleedin' kestrel not long after. Talk about being impressionable or what?!

MacDougal was a commando? Do you perhaps mean that he went 'commando' under that tracksuit with the white stripes?

Enjoy your gimp suit - how many is that now? (And don't forget the nipple clamps.)

John Pitt said...

Funny that - Kes sprang to mind when you were first telling the story! Brilliant film, Ivy Tilsley was his mother and hisbrother , " our Judd "was a rotten sod!

Colin Jones said...

Kid, here's a Christmas-related school story. In December 1976 (I was 10 at the time) we had our school Christmas pantomime of 'Snow White' and I was playing a woodcutter along with about 20 other boys (yes, 20 woodcutters) which required us all to sing a big song together. The panto was performed on 2 consecutive nights - 16th and 17th December 1976 - and the first night went fine but on the second night 'King Kong' was on the TV (the original 1933 version) which I'd never seen and which I really, really wanted to see so I decided to skip the panto thinking nobody would miss me among 20 boys. Unfortunately most of the other boys had done exactly the same thing and on Monday morning we were made to stand in front of the whole school and explain one by one why we had "let everybody down". I wouldn't have missed King Kong for anything though and whenever the 1933 version is mentioned I'm instantly taken back to those few days in December '76.

Kid said...

It's been years since I saw the film, JP. I think I even read the book many, many years ago.


Did any of the woodcutters turn up, CJ, or were the lot of them at home watching King Kong? (Got it on DVD.)

Colin Jones said...

About 3 or 4 had turned up, Kid - when I said there were 20 it might have been a bit less but no less than 15 - it was a woodcutters chorus all belting out a big number so on that second night it must have looked a pathetic sight. Another memory from Christmas '76 is the school Christmas dinner when all the cooks came out of the kitchen and lined up to sing us "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". It's amazing that it's now 38 years ago...sigh.

Kid said...

Amazing indeed. I'm constantly astounded when I think back to events that seem only a few years ago, then realise that 30 or 40 years have passed.

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