Uttoxeter to Kingsley
Small mishap last night when I dropped my toothbrush into the toilet. I bought a new one in the neighboring BP station and they gave me a free newspaper which I needed to dry my boots.
Today was a truly awful day and I’m not even in the Pennines. The rain lashed down all night and this morning the Premier Inn was an island. It was still pouring down as I waded towards Starbucks for breakfast. It was empty so the two girls gave me a lot of attention, warmed my croissants etc. I had to give my real name and telephone number because of track and trace. Normally I’m Arthur in Starbucks because it draws attention. No one has ever met anyone called Arthur.
The rain continued as I walked. My feet were soon wet. I’m looking forward to my bag of Pennine gear which is waiting for me next week. I stopped in Rocester and found a village shop with a coffee machine and I bought a Twix. I sat outside the Police station for a rest. There was no sign of any policemen.
I walked on through the woods and there was a loud crack as a smallish branch fell onto the path just behind me.
Lunch arrived just in time. A gorgeous pub, two gorgeous bar maids and a half price quiche, sweet potato chips and salad.
Once again I didn’t see a soul all day in either direction. I started to tire and for some reason thought about my old sports master who had the necessary sadistic streak for the job. Perhaps I heard his voice egging me on. I hated sports at school. In fact it wasn’t until I left university that I finally found pleasure in exercise. I started running in the days before it became popular and had to go to a shop on the Kings Road to buy imported Nike Roadrunners.
The thought of my school sports master brought back the memory of the time I represented my school at rugby. It’s a long story so you can stop here if you’ve had enough for today.
We were not allowed to play football at school. Instead we had to play rugby which I detested. I still refuse to watch it on TV. I did as much as possible to avoid it and as little as possible while playing it. That approach worked until sixth form (age 17) by which time most of the boys had taken up employment at W Simms, the local car parts manufacturer or were already in prison.
It was the annual rugby tournament but there weren’t enough boys to form a team. The sports master said I had to play. I refused. My head of year was Mrs Shaw but to me she would always be Miss Warrington-Evans. She looked a lot like Sandie Shaw (no relation) but with longer legs and she was now married to someone in the film industry who often picked her up on a very powerful motorcycle.
Miss Warrington-Evans wore the tiniest miniskirts ever seen. She called me into her office and begged me to play. She crossed her legs and uncrossed them several times and she put her arm on my shoulder and I relented.
Next day I represented my school for the only time. It was a Saturday and my mum asked where I was going. “I’m in the school rugby team”. “What?? You??”
I kept away from the action and we were already well beaten when our team got a break and we were running towards the goal line. The ball was passed down the line as we met opposition until it reached the guy next to me. He should have scored the try but ran into a wall of thugs. In desperation he looked at me. I was at the end of the line and there was no one else to whom he could pass the ball. He hesitated for a tragic moment then threw it at me and shouted something which I didn’t hear.
I set off as fast as my legs could carry me, less concerned about scoring than getting rid of the ball before the enraged opposition full back caught me. I raced for the corner flag. He raced for me. There was a bone breaking collision and I fell the wrong side of the flag. It was the closest I ever came to scoring a try.
I retired from rugby straight afterwards but Miss Warrington-Evans was there to console me, despite the mud. “I’m so proud of you, Tim” she said. There was a flash of her red knickers as she got up and gave me a big hug.
We lost corporal punishment and hugging at the same time and while the former was properly consigned to the bin I feel today’s kids have lost a lot by not being hugged at school.
That was 1972. The miniskirt went out of fashion and Miss Warrington-Evans moved on.