The Athletics Field Of Our Youth

During the summer term at Leeds Modern School the afternoon “Sports” lesson was split into two distinct groups, those who could play cricket and those who couldn’t.

I can only speak for the ones who couldn’t for of course that group included me and most of the dorks in the class and for us our Carnegie trained sports masters had a special summer term sport to practice – it was loosely called “Athletics”.

I say loosely because “Arsing Around” could also have been used as a viable descriptor, it being what we did for if you weren’t playing cricket then the Carnegie trained sports master generally didn’t want to know, he’d line up a dozen of us hapless miscreants and look inside a big wooden box for things that could loosely be described as “athletic things”.

“You lot can do Athletics” he’d say, “You four, take these down to the cinder pit and throw them around for a bit” and he’d hand us all a cannonball weighing several dozen pounds which we’d be expected to lug down to the bottom of the field where the aforementioned huge pile of cinder from the school boilers awaited, apparently we were to emulate an athletic shot-putter and throw these heavy rusty steel balls as far as we could in order to make ourselves very athletic and keep out of his sight for an hour and a half.

Of course we’d throw them at each other for a bit, then get bored and sit on the big pile of cinders for a rest, its hard work being athletic. Someone would be hoisted over the school fence and sent down to the sweet shop in his gym vest and pants to buy wine gums, and later a cinder fight would ensue, much, much later the Carnegie trained sports master would appear and surveying the sweet wrappers and scattered cinders all over the nearby football pitch would ask what the hell we were doing,

“Discus” we’d all snap to attention
“I gave you the shot putting not discus” he’d point out quite correctly
“That as well sir, we’ve been putting the shot, oh yes”
“Well lets see you then”

And we’d all retrieve the heavy cannonballs from the long grass where we’d last thrown them and show him what we’d learned about throwing a heavy cannonball into a big pile of cinders – not much was always the answer and to this day cannot ever equate those hefty men and women in shot putting competition with what we did although judging by the size of some of them I think they probably nipped over the fence for wine gums quite a lot too.

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