Artistic Discoveries in European Schoolyards

We called him Rugby Ball...

ANDEW SIDDALL Director, United Kingdom

We called him Rugby Ball… Rugby for short. He had
the oddest shaped head of anyone in the school… like a rugby ball waiting to be kicked. An unfortunate look for anyone: but particularly unfortunate for a kid who was
a couple of sizes too small for his age; a kid who really looked like he needed a good feed… and a bath. He was short, and skinny, and had a head like a rugby ball waiting to be kicked. So we did. We kicked it, and him, almost every day for the whole of the first term.
At first he sort of squealed, like a pig. High pitched. Over time it became more of a whimper. Eventually he stopped making any kind of noise at all. Just the soft ‘whump’ or ‘phlump’ of our feet on his blazer or the ass of his school trousers, and the laughter of the crowd.
There was a strange slowness to the attacks, almost a ritualistic process which had to be got through… the intent, the moving in, the first push, the gathering crowd, the first kick. Someone catching him and almost gently putting him back in the circle ready for the next kick. The next kick. The next kick. And the next.
We all helped. We didn’t all kick, but we certainly helped. Adjusting the circle so he was always in the middle. Lifting him to his feet so he could be kicked over again. Laughing, so the kickers felt better about kicking.
We didn’t punch. Punching was reserved for proper fighting, where pride had been injured or territory fought for. Rugby was too small for punching, and too insignificant. It was more satisfying to use the flat top or side of your foot to just unbalance him. A good flat kick on his ass could send him flying across the circle into the arms of the crowd on the other side. A gentle push, another well aimed kick and he’s flying across in the opposite direction. Back and forward, round and round.
The circle would move from one side of the yard to the other and back again, moving like an amoeba across the open tarmac. When the bell went for class, if he was lucky we’d be in the middle of the yard and just disperse in several directions, moving quickly to new destinations. If it was an unlucky day we’d end up just by the railings along the open side of school. And Rugby would end up hanging by his blazer high up, feet wriggling, iron railings stuck starkly up from his armpits. His oddly shaped head glancing from side to side. His eyes blinking.
The last day of term we left him there. Hanging, wriggling, blinking. Someone got him down eventually I guess. A teacher maybe. He wasn’t there when the new term started.