Get Your Laugh­ing Tackle Around this

The Victoria Standard - - Food / Calendar - GE­ORGE SMITH

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.

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