Tuesday, 7 June 2016


It is far too convoluted a story to try to tell you what brought to mind the few playground fights I had as a schoolboy.  In fact, describing them as 'few' is really something of an exaggeration.  At least, I think it is.  I hope so.  There are only two that I can even vaguely remember - and I don't know what started either of them!  I think I was probably aged 9 on both occasions.

One fight was with (I don't think I can really say 'against') a boy called Roderick Dolling - but the one which was first brought to my mind was with my cousin David.  He, along with his brother Michael and sister Lizzie Dripping, were not just my cousins, they were my best friends.  Anyway, on that occasion David and i went at each other in the playground hammers and tongs until - I assume - either we got fed up with fighting or we were pulled apart by teaching staff.

That wasn't the only occasion on which David and I fought.

The next time was after he and his family had returned from Singapore where his father, a Naval officer, had been drafted with family accompaniment.  On his return, David - who was officially in the school year after me although only a few months younger - was put in the same class as me.  We would have been 12 coming up 13.

One of the masters at our school should never have been teaching.  He seemed to us to be about eleven pence in the shilling, half a sandwich short of a picnic.  I rather suspect now that he was a shell-shocked WWII veteran who returned to his pre-war occupation, but to us schoolboys he was an object of fun and we played him up mercilessly. 'Dinger' Bell, for that was his name, took us for PE. This largely consisted of us doing a form of aerobics in time to the tune of 'Greensleeves' played on the piano by Dinger.

But one day all this changed.

We were told to stand in parallel lines and taught various boxing exercises.  "On dancing feet, commence!" commanded Dinger.  "Exercise number one, lead!"

"Exercise number two, single punch!" and we all jabbed with the correct fist.

After a few weeks, Dinger deemed our performance of these and other exercises good enough for us to be equipped with boxing gloves.  Four benches were placed in a square to act as the ring and we were told to pair off.  David and I were of similar height and we happily agreed to fight each other.

"When we get in the ring," said David, "hit me as hard as you can."

I obliged by swiping hard - a haymaker, I believe it is called - but failed to make contact.  Indeed, I had no intention of making contact.  Nevertheless, David leaped out of the ring, crashed out of the hall/gym and dashed along the corridor - with me in furious pursuit.  We ran right round the school and back into the hall.  On regaining the ring, David fell flat on his back.

We never saw the boxing gloves again.

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