P.E.

By Mary Sharron Devine, @@

How I hated P.E.!


Oh, the embarrassment of jumping “over” the horse…only to get stuck on it.


No one would listen to a wee lassie, “You’ll be fine”, “You’ll soon master it”.


They lied.


Cross country running? Dear God, it was a form of torture.


How can you possibly look good in a pair of brown shorts, a shapeless Aertex shirt and trainers?


Short answer: you can’t.


I needed heels, I still need heels; even today I do not own a pair of trainers.


I decided in second year there would be no more P.E.


The problem with rebelling against something when you are fourteen is you can’t tell anyone.


“I’ve decided that I am not suited to Physical Education, my dear parents, so I am no longer attending the classes”. This would have led to me being punished, probably by being made to listen to Jim Reeves records – what a punishment that was.


On Tuesday’s I got off the bus and went for a wander; I always went in for my other classes though.


It was a good feeling. I was rebelling against the horrors of P.E. Little me making a stand in my own quiet way. I wasn’t designed to jump a horse, climb bars, play hockey or run around the school.


I would rather write short stories, poems or letters to magazines. Ideas for stories were always swirling around in my head.


One day my Mother asked me why my P.E. kit never appeared in the washing basket. Oh no! What could I say?


“Someone must have taken it by mistake“, was all I could think to reply.


 No escape, new shorts and top were purchased. Off to school I went, new kit in my bag. I had to mess it up a bit and put it in the washing basket. Ha – rebelling again!


Being a rebel makes you a wee bit braver. I wondered what to do with the despicable trainers. How I hated them. Flat, blue and white – Adidas no less – still I hated them.


The mere thought of them being mine made me feel uneasy. That thought was pushed to the back of my mind rather sharply. One day I was walking along the corridor with my friend – who also hated P.E. – when who should be walking towards us but the P.E. teacher. She said “Hello girls”, we managed to mutter “Hello” and kept walking, we were aware that she had stopped walking as would no longer hear the manic squeak of her trainers on the cold floor.


“Girls, come here a moment please” she said.


Oh God! We were terrified. Was the game up? I would be forced to listen to Jim Reeves in the house where I would spend the rest of my life as punishment?


“I haven’t seen you two in class for a long time; I thought you had moved away” she said.


“No Miss, we have been here but we are no longer in your P.E. class, we are in the other one” the words tumbled from my friends’ mouth with ease.


I stood there completely silent; I could hardly breathe.


“Oh. Right girls, on you go” she said, and the menacing squeak from her trainers trailed off.


Too close for comfort.


It was as if everyone loved P.E. and we were the only ones who hated it. Posters were all over the school “Join the gymnastics club today!”, “Join the running club!” No thank you!


People on the school bus would ask me why I wasn’t in P.E. that day. I told them I had a doctor’s appointment…from second year I think I had around a thousand doctor’s or dentist’s appointments actually.


It was easy in the days before mobile phones and social media.


Silent rebels – the only type of rebel you can be at school unless you want to end up in detention…or worse.


I wanted to make a statement, do something about it. But what? Write to the Dear Deidre column? Stage a protest? There would probably only be two of us there.


Then it came to me. I would burn my trainers. It would be a healing process, help me to forget being stuck on the horse and having to get lifted off it.


The following Tuesday my dear friend and I went to the local park. I had my trainers in my bag, a box of bluebell matches in my pocket (purchased from RS McColls) and a great feeling in my heart.


The park-keeper was hovering around us – could he sense the rebellious air coming from us?


Maybe not. He left with a thermos flask, probably going for a cup of tea and a sleep. He wouldn’t know how to rebel.


I took the trainers out my bag, hating them and all they stood for. I laid them on the ground near then bin. It was me in charge. Not the school. Not my parents. I lit the match and threw it onto the trainers. The laces began to burn.


It was a great moment.


I savoured it.


No more P.E.


No more pain or humiliation.


It was the end.


I had won.


It was me against P.E. and I was the winner.  


I went home feeling fantastic.


“Why were you buying matches in RS McColls?” demanded my Mother. (Before Facebook people relied on their neighbours to spread the word and the Campsie grapevine was faster than you could imagine.)


I didn’t say a thing


My Mother decided I had been smoking cigarettes; I let her believe that. Jim Reeves was played as I cleaned the house. But I didn’t mind; I was the winner.


Like the women in the sixties and seventies, I felt liberated.


I didn’t burn my bra, I burned my trainers!


teenage rebellion, physical education