My toes hear far too much television. As an unwelcome result, my daily exercise routine now finds them social distancing from my fingertips by an increasing amount. With a bit of a shove, however, they still meet up. The fact that I have a daily fitness regime, however, is all thanks to George Watson’s and, in particular, my school gym teacher Butch Fleming. In the mid 1940’s, he was an important part of our young lives. Twice a week, we trooped along to the gymnasium and he taught us ten exercises to do before the fun with ropes, ladders, and vaults began. He suggested we do them at home as well.
Because we ignored his suggestion, the first gym session of each term was a painful affair. The first five were done standing up, each ten times. Legs apart, we reached for the sky with both hands. Next we stretched both arms to their limits sideways. Third, we pushed our arms, alternately, down the sides of our legs towards our ankles. Then we twisted the top halves of our bodies as far as they would go in both directions. Finally, we bent to touch our toes. The next five involved getting down on the floor and doing things like press ups, mock hurdling, and horizontal toe touching. They are no longer relevant to those who inhabit a world where descending to the floor is all too easy and getting back up well nigh impossible.
Those first five exercises have stayed with me through life. In my 30s, they kept weight off after sport went its way. In my 40s and 50s, they helped when country walking was exchanged for weekend working. In my 60s and 70s, they helped, particularly after an aortic valve needed to be replaced. Now, in my late 80s, they have battled Stay at Home. I can still walk up a wee hill near our house but one doubts if the flexibility would be there without Butch’s five a day.
Many Watson’s teachers had a lasting influence on folk’s lives – some for ill and many for good. In the 1940’s, I never dreamed that an immaculately white flannelled Butch Fleming would be the most important for me.
David Donald, Class of 1951