Get Your Laughing Tackle Around this
I was twelve years old when my parents decided that, in order to achieve anything resembling an education, I had better be packed off to boarding school forthwith.
They waved a hearty goodbye, shouting, “See you at Christmas!”
I stood there swallowing deeply, as I tried not to cry. This was my seventh school in as many years.
I was told to go to the dormitory, put my clothes in the locker beside my bed, and then to appear in the dining room for supper. “How will I know which is my bed?” “It will be the only one not made,” the prefect laughed. “First night away from mummy? You’d better put the rubber undersheet on the bed before you make it!”
When I got to the dining room, everyone else was already sitting, waiting to eat.
“Sit over there, boy!” came a booming voice from the master’s table, and I saw a finger pointing at a vacant seat at the far end of the room.
I nervously sat and said a quiet “Hello” to the seven faces staring at me.
“Quiet boy! You may not speak before the grace has been said,” the voice boomed again.
We went up to collect our food. I looked at the plate before me. On it was a pile of salad - mainly lettuce, with some slices of tomato thrown in for good measure - and a piece of bread with cheese half-heartedly melted on it.
Five minutes after we sat down, the Booming Voice called “Silence!” A sudden clatter of cutlery on plates, then total silence.
“As you are all aware, we have a very important football match coming up this Sunday. Our 1st Eleven will be playing All Hallows at home.”
The Booming Voice was interrupted by a spontaneous cheer.
“I would like to see you all practicing hard tomorrow afternoon. Let’s see what the new boy can do, hey Smith?”
“Are you any good?” the boy sitting next to me asked.
“Completely useless. Is it possible to do cross country running instead?”
“No chance. Everyone plays football here.”
After lunch the next day, I donned the appropriate garb, a blue and white striped jersey, and walked out of the changing room. I stood on the edge of the field and looked at all the rest of the boys enthusiastically kicking balls to each other, showing off their dribbling skills, or taking aim at the goal.
The whistle blew and the sports master shouted in a strong Scottish accent, “Smith get on the park!”
All eyes focused on me as I walked towards an unattended football and made like I was going to kick it.
A shrill little voice shouted, “Where did you get those knees from?”
I clutched at the hems of my shorts, suddenly wishing they reached my ankles, as a chorus of “It’s Georgie Knee Caps!” and laughter filled the air.
I kicked the ball with all my might. I missed, but the toe of my boot connected with a clump of grass. I lost my balance and fell backwards onto the turf.
The practice got underway with everyone running about trying to prove their ability and hoping to be picked for the 1st Eleven. Everyone, except me. I just stood there watching the ball as it traveled from one player to the next, wondering what it was that I was supposed to do.
Suddenly, the ball was heading through the air straight for me. “Go for it Kneecaps!” The ball sailed right past me, bouncing as it hit the ground.
“Kick it to me!” someone shouted as I ran after it.
I turned and took aim with my right foot, hoping I would not fall over again. I kicked with all my strength, but completely missed the ball.
The referee ran past me and shouted, “Get up front, lad. Don’t just stand there!”
I turned to watch the ball as it landed at the goalie’s feet. “Tackle him!” I ran towards the goalie as he kicked the ball a few feet in front of him. I got to the ball just before he did and took aim one more time. This time my boot connected, sending the ball high in the air - and straight over the crossbar and out of play. Exit pitch, stage left.