Thinking Strange Thoughts - Sporting Humiliation
A lot of people assume that I am a ex- Olympic athlete, but no, nothing could be further from the truth, in fact when I was young I was hopeless at sports, I had no co-ordination and would often attempt to head the ball during cricket. But for me the worst thing at school was when we played soccer. The Sports Teacher would leave the choosing of the teams to his “blue eyed boys” Don and Roy, they were great at everything, the teachers all loved them, the girls loved them, even the school mascot George the Goat was infatuated with them, naturally I hated them.
The rest of us would stand in a big circle, whilst Don and Roy took it in turns picking their teams. I remember one particular day, it had come down to just the four of us left to be chosen, I recall those who had already been picked smirking at us with looks of contempt. I studied a blank piece of paper in my hand , trying to give the impression that it was something of great importance and I was not concerned about whether I got picked or not , but in reality I was dreading being the last one chosen, because lets face it ,if you are the last one chosen, you may as well have the word “LOSER” tattooed on your forehead. Still, as I glanced around me at my three companions, I felt quietly confidant.
Billy Burtonshaw was severely overweight, and remember this was in the days when it was still unusual for a schoolboy to be overweight. Billy had recently had a bad case of head lice, his mother had shaved off all of Billy’s hair and painted his head with purple iodine. Billy wore thick glasses, one lens was covered in plaster, evidently this was to cure his “lazy eye”. Personally I do not know why they bothered because the rest of him was not exactly bursting with enthusiasm. Anyway you can see why I was quietly confidant. Unfortunately Billy was also the best fighter in school and was starting to look slightly annoyed at not being picked. Next moment “blue eyed Don” was calling out Billy’s name, just to be on the safe side.
On my left stood Hilda Ramsbottam, now obviously this was well before “women’s lib”, and whilst the boys played soccer, the girls were expected to make Bread and Butter Pudding or do some knitting. Personally ,I always thought this was a very good idea , it would help a young girl grow into the sort of woman, I might one day wish to marry. Of course, over the years something went badly wrong, and now I do the knitting and Bread and Butter Pudding ,whilst my wife kicks a ball around over the park. Anyway ,back to Hilda Ramsbottam, for some reason she wanted to play soccer with the boys, and since she was bigger than most of the teachers, no one was going to argue with her. Still, I was quietly confidant of getting chosen ahead of Hilda, mainly because she had a glass eye , she had lost her other eye some years earlier when she had been pushing her baby brother Basil on a swing in the park. Someone had called her name, and when she turned the swing had hit her in the back of the head, causing her left eye to fly out. Hilda was in a coma for several days and when she came to, she could speak fluent Mongolian but was blind in one eye. Still she managed quite well, but she did have a problem when the ball was crossed from the left wing, she could not see it coming and would often try to head it with her stomach. Like I say. I was quietly confidant, but I was not to know that Hilda had bribed Roy with a large bag of “Gobstoppers”. Next thing we were down to two, I glanced at Harold Peabody sitting in his wheelchair and felt quietly confident. Harold was not really into sport, he was more into inventing things, unfortunately Harold had blown himself up, several months earlier in a bizarre cheese making experiment, he was severely injured and a lump of Camembert was embedded so close to his spine that doctors refused to operate. I just could not believe it when Harold’s name was called out. Evidently they were short of a goalkeeper and Don had a theory that if Harold rolled backwards and forwards across the goalmouth at great speed, he would take some beating. I suppose it made some sort of sense but the humiliation was complete.
Stephen Ainley.......still bearing the mental scars