Although we favoured football as a rule,
PE was comprehensive at our school.
Coached in a bit of this, a bit of that,
When crouching at the crease we did not bat
An eyelid, reckoned rugby worth a try.
But hockey? Don’t the sticks themselves ask why?
At nearby rinks, hunks past it brawled on cue.
Our forebears hefted hurleys it is true…
But skirted round, like netball, this felt tame
To lads too immature to play the game,
Who camped it up pretending to be, ‘Gels’
Named, Gertrude, Pru, Annabelle…Joyce Grenfell’s
Pronunciation, gratefully received,
Made fun of games we boorishly believed
A waste of sweat; yet soon we were in thrall
To hockey sticks deemed jolly after all.
Now taking pride in what disdain mistook,
Those J shaped rods soon had us on the hook,
As flocking to the crook our sheepish bleat
Petitioned foes we lacked the skills to beat.
Abjectly drubbed too struck by awe to scoff,
We learned our lesson from the bully off,
Gormless galoots in want of women’s grace,
Too big for boots we were not fit to lace,
Made queasy by the quibble and the quip,
We practiced ‘double vees’ and got a grip
On ‘drag flick’, ‘reverse spin’, ‘flat slap’, ‘push pass’…
For love, stroke starved, we’d linger after class.
If rivals scholars’ taunts came fast and thick,
I shrugged and smiled, well used to taking stick.
The cudgels we took up, kind lasses lent.
I brandished Niamh’s with amateur intent.
I’m glad, challenging sports were given whirls:
Games played on roughly equal terms with girls,
While hardly ‘existential’, ‘deep’ or ‘zen’ –
Feminine sides helped wee boys pass for men.