Re: OT. Freedom Of Speech
- From: real-address-in-sig@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Rowland McDonnell)
- Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2006 19:18:30 +0100
Whiskers <catwheezel@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
On 2006-07-05, Rowland McDonnell <real-address-in-sig@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
See? The schools know what the problem is. But just how much of a risk
is it? Is enforcing the wearing of goggles sane? Anyone hear ever see
or hear of anyone suffering significant eye damage from playing conkers?
Not me. I suspect that the risks are trivial. But on the other hand,
would you like to explain things in those terms to little Johnny's mum
when she comes to pick up her now one-eyed son from the hospital?
... with compensation-seeking contingent-fee lawyer in tow.
That too. But y'know, you don't expect to send your children off to
school and for the school to send 'em home in bits, do you now? But
something's gone wrong recently with the whole mess.
When I was a kid, we played both official and spontaneous games on the
lovely concrete, cobbles, and tarmac, 'school playground'. Our out-door
'PE' included use of a tall 'climbing frame' of steel tubes, standing
firmly on concrete. The swings and roundabouts in the public parks were
mostly on concrete because the parents complained about the mud when the
grass wore out. The indoor 'gym' had a highly polished wood-block floor
laid on solid concrete. The climbing ropes and wall-bars went all the way
to the 20-foot ceiling. We learned not to fall off.
Ditto. The outdoor climbing frames we had in the playground did result
in some broken limbs, until the head teacher banned kids from climbing
on it in `normal' footwear - you had to wear what we then called
The all-weather cricket pitch and council tennis courts were surfaced
with asphalt on top of the concrete, because otherwise the balls wore out
Our rugger boots had aluminium studs, or leather ones held on with steel
nails. Running shoes had steel spikes, to grip the cinder track.
Just aluminium in my day, and before a match, the ref would check your
studs and file down any that he considered dangerous. They introduced
nylon studs when I was a lad - *they* got banned PDQ, 'cos they frayed
themselves sharp very quickly and tended to cause really horrible
lacerations. Rubber's all that's allowed now, IIRC.
But many of the rule changes - affecting scrummaging, for example - that
they've introduced to rugby (union) for safety's sake did need
introducing. Collapsing scrums has long been outlawed, but they had to
get deadly serious because too many teams were deliberately pulling
scrums down anyway. For those who don't know why this is a problem: it
tends to break necks.
Cuts, bruises, fractures, and the odd worse injury were 'part of growing
up' and 'only to be expected'.
Yup. We had a trampoline in the back garden (home-made - or rather,
mostly made on the firm's time in the firm's workshop by my dad). One
day, one of my brothers accidentally dropped it on the youngest
brother's leg and broke it (just don't ask, okay? 'twas partly my
fault, and we were all very very young, but even so I'm embarrassed that
I didn't stop a lad 18 months younger than me from doing something I
knew I wasn't strong enough to do). This was the same brother who'd
also had his leg and arm broken on the school crossing by a dopey
motorcyclist (the fault was the lollipop lady's, who'd not checked that
the traffic had stopped before waving the kids across). One day, I was
on the `tyre swing' dad had erected in the back garden - a tyre on ropes
hung off two huge 12' tall beams set in concrete, with a cross-bar at
the top. The uprights had rotted - the whole lot fell down. No worries
(I just sat down with a bump on the grass as the wooden frame fell over
well away from me - something that I'm sure (hope...) dad had predicted
would be the likely failure mode). And then there was the aerial runway
we had - oh boy... *That* one - well, get it wrong and you'd flip a
heavy steel `hanging bar with bearings' high into the sky, and you'd
better make sure it didn't land on your head when it came back down
Erm, yes, it was quite a big back garden. Over a dozen fruit trees.
Two lawns. Next door had an even more humungous back garden, but that
was because the original owner had been married to the sister of the
developer of the estate, who built one house `just so' for his sis (inc.
big fancy brick garage, an amazing patio out the back, and possibly the
hugest garden ever to be attached to a 3 bed semi).
If a boy cried over a grazed knee he'd
quite possibly get his ears boxed by the teacher 'for being a cry-baby'.
That had died out by my day - but some would certainly give you earache
if they considered you were whinging too much.
A boy was killed by a javelin on a school sports day one year. 'Well he
should have known better than to stand there, shouldn't he'.
Well, yes, but... I'd rather not rely on that kind of example to get
the message home, y'know? Okay, so everyone *else* gets the lesson that
reality really bites and you've really got to pay attention, but...
Someone was running that javelin session, and that someone should have
made damned sure no-one was stood anywhere dangerous.
But when I broke my collar bone at the gymnastics club, well - no-one
including me thought that was anybody's fault but mine, although I
wasn't at all happy that I had to wait overnight before anyone took my
complaint of it being broken seriously.
At school, we had the chemistry teacher demonstrate all sorts of fun
things - like alcohol distillation. Heh. Passed round the beaker.
`Don't drink this - it's bad for you'. Of course someone did - but the
teacher took the line that having drunk maybe 50ccs of 98% pure ethanol
was probably punishment enough for drinking 50ccs of 98% pure ethanol.
The culprit was obvious: *that* back row CSE kid with the really red
face, caused by the suppression of all sorts of choking and coughing
that he clearly wanted to do. Explosions? Of course! And of course he
made damned sure we were far enough away not to get hurt - well, aside
from a bit of ear damage.
were represented at the funeral, of course. The parents sent a nice letter
that was put on the notice-board.
Of course the teachers habitually threw chalk, or wooden
blackboard-rubbers, at miscreants in class. The steel ruler was a
favoured instrument of chastisement.
That had died out too, mostly - corporal punishment was used sparingly
(but there was one middle school teacher who used to hurl chalk and the
occasional board rubber, but he was generally considered to be a prat).
I do recall the day when Miss Doublet (think French pronunciation), the
mad witchy history teacher, picked up one lad and put him in the bin -
not feet-first as she usually did, but head-first this time because he'd
just been *incredibly* annoying. One PE teacher did like to wallop lazy
kids in the gym with a size 12 trainer he kept specially for the
purpose. And there was Ratcliffe, the even madder economics teacher,
who used to clobber, batter with chairs, and hurl other teachers around
at the school Christmas entertainments. He could be quite
entertainingly destructive, but he tended to limit himself to attacking
other teachers and generally hurling things around *not* at pupils. I
watched him break a large stack of assorted china crockery one day in
school, by hurling it piece by piece around the room. Heavy school
canteen plates being frisbeed at the back wall when you're sat at a desk
under the flight path is, erm, yes. Bang! (bits of china everywhere) -
there goes another one. I saw Ratcliffe set off a fire extinguiser and
hose down the head of maths during a lesson the bloke was giving me.
During the drought summer of 1976/7 (forget which one - this was before
I was at the school), the aforementioned head of maths had been taking
the government advice to limit water use rather too seriously, and was
far too smelly and greasy due to not washing enough (certainly a
credible claim). Apparently Ratcliffe then hosed him down with the big
4" hose from the swimming pool (a practical proposition, and - yes, I
think it really did happen).
However... One day, there was a `big ruck between the 3rd year and 4th
year hard lads'. I watched, curious, from a safe distance. I saw the
door to the gym open. I watched three or four (I forget now) PE
teachers charge down the steps outside wielding hockey sticks, and
watched them steam into this huge ruck of large (you'd better believe
*that*), violently fighting young men, belting them with hockey sticks.
There were no reports on the school grapevine of any injuries, and the
ruck dissipated in about 15 seconds. Corporal punishment was still
allowed back then.
(and there was the day that one senior member of staff threw a large
teacher-sized desk onto the school stage in a fit of anger and nearly
hit the head teacher with it, who didn't bat an eyelid.)
Schools are *boring* nowadays. I recall Lt. Col. Venn (CBE)'s tale (he
was the geography teacher - ex SAS, apparently. No, he had no trouble
at all with any kids kicking off in his classes) of the day he was
walking through the school and smelt a faintly familiar unpleasant smell
which he couldn't at first identify. He recalled it after a brief delay
- it has been some decades before in the Korean war when he'd last smelt
burning human flesh, but he started running as soon as he twigged. Some
lad had nicked can of lithium from a chemistry prep room and stuck it in
his trouser pocket, where it had come open. Oops. So there was the
deputy headmaster, tearing the trousers off a schoolboy on the main
staircase right in front of the main school entrance... He got his
hands burnt clearing the lithium off, but - well, you would, wouldn't
My middle brother watched a kid in his chemistry class take a good deep
breath from the gas jar full of chlorine that was being passed around
(not allowed to pass chlorine around any more) - and this was after
they'd been taught about it's use as a poison gas to kill people in the
First World War. One wonders at times, one does, whether it really
might not be better just to let evolution take its course. Luckily,
it's only about 400 yards from the school car park to the entrance to
A&E at the local general hospital (Northwick Park - famous for being
where the recent disastrous drug trials were held), and the teacher next
door had quite a quick little car. Process (from bro's report):
chemistry teacher picks up stricken pupil, charges next door (much
crashing of doors), yells `Chlorine poisoning', and there's even more
charging about and crashing of doors. Eventually, car bounced up the
ambulance ramp, driver got told off by a nurse, driver responded with
`Chlorine poisoning'. Nurse stopped complaining and yelled for oxygen
while pulling pupil out of car. He made a full recovery, luckily. It
turns out to be quite difficult to take in a really deep breath of
chlorine, 'cos your lungs really don't like the stuff at all (on contact
with water, it turns into, if my chemistry still serves, foaming
sulphurous acid or somesuch - and you drown in your own internal
There was a recent example of how things have changed in the last 30
years, on the 'Blue Peter' childrens' TV show.
A presenter went to the top of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square to
'help' with the restoration. She was kitted out with high-visibility
jacket, hard hat, 'safety boots', and rigger's gloves, and reached the top
by climbing the stairs incorporated into the safety-netted scaffolding
that goes all the way to the hero's hat.
(Rigger's gloves might well make sense - but who needs safety boots for
that kind of thing? And what's the point in high vis gear when you're
up on something like that? Is it to make sure aeroplanes don't hit you,
or what? Madness. Hard hats - well, cavers wear 'em and so do some
rock climbing types. They have a place - not sure if that was one of
The programme then showed clips of a similar visit made by an earlier
presenter in the '60s or '70s; it involved climbing a rope ladder up the
side of the column, then transferring to a rope to get around the
over-hang of the platform at the top; "the overhang makes this bit tricky
and it's a long way down, so I don't want to let go". No special safety
kit, just the same casual clothes as would have been worn for a stroll in
the park. (The unseen hero being of course the poor sod who did all that
carrying and filming with a nice portable film camera about the size of a
suit-case, and not wobbling at all).
Ah, those were the days!
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