Primary School Shenanigans

14 Jul

During Year 7 at primary school, volleyball was introduced to our PE lessons, much to the delight of most of the class as it meant we had an hour in the warm assembly hall (which doubled as the gym), rather than outside in the cold, playing rounders. At the time, a few of us had started to discover the opposite sex; some boys walked around the playground at lunch time with their arms around their ‘girlfriend’. Some would even snog, much to the disgust of the other boys, who preferred to play Cops and Robbers and ‘Tag on the lines’ during lunch break. I remember these times well; it was during one volleyball session that I learnt the term ‘Sheep-shagger’, and although I didn’t know what it meant, it became the basis of my vocabulary for the next couple of weeks (until I learnt ‘jam-rag’, which caused my mother to spit out her tea when I asked what it meant)

There was a girl in our class named Heather and she was the one girl that every boy wanted to ‘go out with’. She was pretty, intelligent and very flirty, and her beauty caught the eye of two lads in particular in my class; Will and Martin. Both had a reputation for being disruptive in lessons, but good with the girls, and although they were mates, it was to be Heather that came between them. The events of one volleyball lesson during which their friendship ended have gone down in folklore at my old primary school.
Will was a beast of a 12-year old; nicknamed Rat Catcher, because he once fed a rat he found half alive (after it had been poisoned on the school premises) some crisps, he was someone you didn’t mess with. What he said, generally went. The girls would flock round him; I couldn’t understand it, but nothing ever makes sense when you’re young. Will had been pursuing Heather for quite some time, and she was finally beginning to crack. She would spend some lunch breaks with Will sat on the bench in the playground, just talking, and her presence definitely had a sort of calming effect on him – he was improving in lessons and spent less time putting itching powder down the back of the shirts of classmates. Will’s mate at the time, Martin, was a charmer – quite a skinny lad with a bit of a strange face, he used the gift of the gab to snag his girls. Unbeknown to Will, Martin also had a huge crush of Heather, and seeing her spending time with Will was killing him inside. When Will found about the secret crush, he warned Martin off, but this seemed to fire Martin up. One lunch break, Martin was seen by Will, who was in detention, with his arm around Heather’s neck, smiling and joking. Will was livid. Although he wasn’t officially going out with Heather yet, she was his, and besides, Martin was supposed to be his mate.

That same afternoon, we got changed and went into the hall for our PE lesson, which was volleyball. The teacher split us into three teams by lining us up and numbering us from 1 to 3. Will and Martin usually stood in the line when teams were picked so that they were on the same side, and their team inevitably won; but not today – they stood shoulder to shoulder, barely looking at one another, to ensure they were on different sides. We were to play ‘Winner Stays On’, with one team sitting out, who would then replace the losing team after every seven points. I was on the team sitting out, and on this particular day, we never got to play a game. The two other teams started their game, with almost everyone in the lesson seeing it more of a Will versus Martin game. Will served the ball for his team, but Martin’s team were equal to the task, and the ball came back over and the point was won. Neil snapped at the girls on his team, and was visibly angry. Looking up, he saw Martin high-5 Heather, and I could see him shaking – veins were visible on his forehead. With Martin’s team now serving, Will came forth to the net, face to face with Martin who was in a crouched position, ready for any return.

The serve came over, and Will’s team mates did well to return the ball to Martin’s team. Back it came again, at a good height for Will, who jumped up ready to smash the ball downwards. As he jumped, Martin jumped with him, arms spread, hoping to block the attempted smash at the net. The ball left Will’s clenched fist at a ferocious speed – straight into Martin’s nose, which spread outwards across his face. Martin collapsed to the floor, bawling, clenching his nose tightly. I remember hearing the crunch as the ball hit him. The girls in the class screamed, a few of the boys laughed. Will sat down on the piano stool at the side of the court and smiled. ‘What a bastard’ I remember thinking. Amidst the commotion, the teacher managed to get Martin to his feet and lead him to the matron’s office. The class was cut short – we were made to get changed.

You’d be wrong to think that Will had the last laugh though. Unimpressed by his show of strength, Heather went out with Martin for “being really brave”, and Will went back to being disruptive. His reputation with the girls soon waivered after the event, and Martin never fully forgave him, even though Will insisted it was an accident

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