Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Childhood injustices

Muffin went to bed last night weeping copiously. He had been falsely accused at school of taking another kid's football sticker, and had been told by the teacher to bring another one in to school to give to this kid. Despite the injustice, we told him he had to give the other lad a sticker because the teacher had said so. Cue another flood of tears.

I was immediately reminded of a similar injustice that I faced about twenty-five years ago. I don't recall exactly how old I was, but it was junior school, so I reckon I was 9 or 10. We were playing indoor rounders in the school hall, and whilst fielding, I permormed an amazing sliding stop which took me right into the corner of the hall where it met the main corridor. The school has been razed to the ground and replaced by sheltered housing, but I could draw you the floor plan based on this one skid. As I came to a stop, spreadeagled on the floor, I noticed the grey legs of the Headmaster a few feet away. A terrifying man Mr Ellis. 6ft 6 if he was an inch, always in a grey suit, with grey hair, he was a human crag. He had this way of beckoning you - never a good thing. His fingers, as with the rest of him, were incredibly long and spindly, and he would use all of them, starting with all four extended, pointing towards you, palm up, and sequentially folding them into a fist, starting with the index finger, such that there was this kind of rolling curve of fingers as he stared down at you. I'm sitting here practising the "Ellis beckon" right now, but my fingers aren't really long or bony enough to pull it off. As I looked up, he beckoned to me, and I got this sinking feeling. I had to go and stand outside his office for half an hour. I wasn't told why, and to this day I still don't know. It was a moment of sporting excellence, worthy of praise, not punishment, and the memory of the shame I endured is with me still. It could have been yesterday. Later, at secondary school, I took up latin to avoid PE.

I am sure most of us can recount similar stories. Mrs L has one that to her is also crystal clear, despite the years that have elapsed. I wonder if yesterday's incident will be indelibly carved into my son's memory, and he'll end up telling his kids about it? Or the blogosphere and its descendants? If you feel like telling yours, feel free to use the cathartic medium of the comments box.

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