This story is dedicated to Jana.
It is summer - so sadly no more hockey or netball. How I miss wearing those lovely divided skirts and thick socks held up with elastic garters (actually cut the garters - they were excruciatingly painful) - not for us those wussy shin pads that are now compulsory - we were the Jean Claude Van Damme of hockey teams and proud of it).
Summer meant athletics - which I hated with a vengeance for a variety of reasons. The chief being that we had to wear gym knickers and a short airtex tops - so not a good look for the vast majority of girls - the boys were luckier and got to wear white short and shirts so were able to cover up a bit more - it was not unlike the Degas painting The Young Spartans Exercising. Then the joy of sports day - having to sign up for events you had never done before - generally for a very good reason. Failing to get to the sign-up sheet, within the first ten minutes of it being posted, could mean an afternoon of extreme terror (rather than just the run-of-the-mill sports day humiliation). Inevitably the only events remaining would be either shot putt (not possible - I had no arm muscles- whereas now I could give Madonna a run for her money), javelin (unpleasant to be responsible for the near-death experiences of classmates) and long jump (risk of sand in gym pants - exfoliating, but not in a good way). I would try to sign up for one of the running events that involved going round the track about 50 times - it had a certain Zen quality or hurdles (I can think of no good reason why).
All the equipment was set out for sports day on the playing fields; we had been warned not to go anywhere near it unless with a teacher. It is lunchtime; having listened to the dire warnings my friend Coral and I saunter down the field to 'have a look' at the instruments of torture laid out on the grass. We decide to race over the hurdles. I extremely competitive and determined to win - I jump too soon and fall. My hand doesn't look like it belongs to my arm, it sticks out at a funny angle and hurts like hell.
In the sick room the Deputy Head is called for her opinion (she of the plimsoll which was used to hit bad girls). She grasps my hand - pumps it up and down - says that it isn't broken and I should get back to Latin (as goodness knows I need to get those gerundives sorted). I faint, Mum is telephoned to come and take me to hospital where my broken arm is put in plaster.
I get a starring role in the next day's assembly to my chagrin. The Deputy Head talks about casting out bad apples from barrels so not to spoil the rest and a certain girl who now has a broken arm - as I was the only person sporting a cast it was obviously me and I endured a few days of being called 'hurdle girl' and such. The only positive thing I can say about this experience is that I did not have to take part in sports day.