First Steps in Phys Ed (UK)

Recent sad events in CN set us thinking about our own ‘elementary school’ days. More specifically, about our first introduction to a ‘proper’ gym in the first days of my English High School. Age 11.

Of course, I did not know Dave then. I did not know I was gay. My best friend Colin and I had spent an idyllic summer – one of those rare hot ones in UK – skinny dipping in a secluded part of the Cherwell River near Oxford, teaching ourselves some elementary gymnastics which we both had an interest in after devouring books about it, and soaking up the sun. Again mainly naked following the swimming. We wrestled one another like that on the bank of the river, too. Absolutely nothing ‘sexual’ about it – far too young – and, anyway, Colin turned out as hetero as they come and went on to marry a fantastic gymnast called Natasha and quickly produced a family.

swimmin hole mud

‘Physical Education’ was scheduled in our third day at the High School. On day one we had palled up with another sporty guy called Roger who was also keen to learn gymnastics. No-one really knew quite what to expect. 22 other lads were either interested only in football or of a more nerdy nature and were seriously apprehensive. Gosh, having to change their clothes in front of other boys! OMG! The three of us, however, were keenly anticipating the event. A ‘uniform’ of gym shorts and vest had been specified and duly supplied by our parents. We three rushed into the changing rooms, whipped off our clothes without a thought, and pulled on the shorts. A smell of unwashed feet emerged around us, but we three were prepared, and ‘clean’. Colin held out his vest thoughtfully. ‘I wonder if we need this, if we’re going to do sports?’ Well used to going shirtless, and with the temperature still quite warm in early September, we pushed open to the door of the gym shirts in hand, to be confronted by the teacher, the formidable ‘Chalky’ White.

He glared at us, muttered something about ‘You ready to sweat, then?’ and yelled through the door at the rest of the class, all nervously donning their crisp white vests, to get a move on. ‘We warm up with British Bulldog. These three are ‘on’. When they catch you, get your cissy vest off and help them…’ About half of them had no idea what he was talking about, but we soon showed them! Colin more or less took over the class, organising them to  run en masse back and forth and try to avoid getting tagged.

organising the gym

That was Chalky’s style. Abrupt, seemingly brutal at times, but with a grudging respect for any boy with an obvious love of phys ed. A man who, later in my life (in the ‘Dave’ era!) would engineer some life-changing opportunities for us and for whom I have always held the greatest respect. I value him now as a close friend – he even intervened in my difficult ‘coming out’ episode with my parents, to smooth the path. See The Power of Love’!

From that day, the three of us never looked back. There was an after school gymnastics club which, strictly, as first-formers we were ineligible to join until the first term was over. That was a general rule about any after-school activity. But we pleaded our case strongly and had a try-out the following week. We must have done well enough, because we were admitted to two sessions a week and, before long, were spending our Saturday mornings there as well. All of which led, indirectly, to Colin and Roger winning lots of competitions in artistic gymnastics and to me setting out along the acrobatic pathway as described in ‘Loving the Boy’. And a few good scores in artistic too. So now, as this blog foretells in great detail in previous posts, I teach artistic and acrobatic gym and regularly perform in cabaret-style shows and occasional circus environments with an act which extends into a little fakirism too.

getting the line straight

happy gymnast

‘Hard bodies’ – thaht’s what we young schoolboys all aspired to, and effectively that’s what we got. And when Dave met me, five years later in Tennessee, I obviously met his exacting standards and, as they say, ‘the rest is history’…


The adventures beginWe tour, we expand, and we meet a few problems along the way...…history, but hopefully entertaining history too and set up ready to be the perfect ‘stocking filler’ for your partner in gay love this coming Christmastide…

…upon which, “commercial” over, let us resume our series of

Bonus Boys

‘Tis the season (etc…) – so why not do our weight training shirtless in the snow?


Check out the progress?


…or just bask in your success at body shaping in front of your mates…


One more for luck…

7978462 (2)

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading.

Black-ribbonNewtown CN. RIP.

About tonycavanagh

Born Northampton UK; school Oxford UK and Oak Ridge Tennessee, where I met my wonderful partner Dave, also from UK. Oak Ridge is our main training base for acrobatics and circus stuff, but we also established a base in Wales (UK) to serve us when we are working in Europe. Our 'story', of finding gay love, learning the acrobatics trade and then of how we got shot at during our show (and worse was to follow - just to prove that the risks of being an acrobat are not always the most obvious ones!) are now available in my three books 'Loving the Boy', 'The Power of Love' and 'Against All Odds'. Links available on most blog posts. Actually, waiting for the imminent arrival of the first printed copies was far scarier than anything we do in performance. A fourth book - not about us but exploring the sadness of a gay Native American boy denied his true identity - is currently with an agent for evaluation. watch for 'Let The Future Find Me' in due time. And now to book five... another boy, another quest... seems its always boys...
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