27 October 2014

Wrongfulness

Every summer an interschool sports day was held in the grounds of Hornsea Primary Schoool. We got to see children from neighbouring villages - Long Riston, Brandesburton, Wawne, Beeford and Sigglesthorne for example. Many parents attended and the sun always shone. We rode the six miles to Hornsea on the same grey hired coach that would take us weekly to the swimming baths in Beverley.

We all wanted to do well for our school and dreamed of winning the great wooden shield with its engraved silver mini-shields around the edge. It was The Holderness Annual Schools Sports Day Trophy. More prized to us than The F.A. Cup, The Ashes or The Open's claret jug

The athletes gathered in their school pens with strict instructions to remain there until called to our events. Of course there were running races and relays, the long jump and the high jump but no pole vaulting or discus for example. Instead we had the three legged race, the egg and spoon race, bean bag throwing and my own specialism - the sack race.

This involved stepping into an old hessian potato sack and either jumping like a kangaroo or wiggling towards the finishing tape with toes pressed into the sack corners. That was my preferred method. I was a wiggler.

One warm evening in early July 1965. It was to be my primary school swansong. I was eleven years old and in September I would be off to the posh secondary school in Hull. The crowd were hushed. We waited in our sacks for the starter's pistol to fire - all East Riding boys - desperate to win for our schools and our villages.

We were off, proceeding between carefully whitewashed lines towards the finish. The key thing was not to fall over as that would result in a disastrous loss of time. The crowd was cheering and I knew that Jennifer Stevenson and Karen Fawcett were watching. Faint heart never won fair maiden. My wiggling run technique was working a treat. I was ahead by a couple of yards. In the next lane, the Brandesburton lad had just fallen over almost taking me out too but I dodged him and seconds later I was bursting through the tape well ahead of the field.

At this point, teachers with clipboards would descend on the finishing line to identify and record the winners. A white-haired didact from Hornsea School was responsible for recording our race. I recall he was wearing a charcoal pin-striped suit in  late Victorian style and had silver rimmed spectacles - like a snivelling clerk from a story by Charles Dickens.

As he began to fill in the sheet on his clipboard, I felt so proud to have been the winner of the sack race and must have been grinning like a lunatic but it was a joy that was very short lived because - in spite of my eleven year old kid protests - the stupid old fool placed the boy from Sigglesthorne in first place and put me down in  third place. "Shut up!" he snarled as I made my last, futile protest. The victory had been clear for all but the line judge to see. To him, eleven year old boys probably all looked the same.

Already the girls' sack race was underway and we had to return to our school pens. Amidst all the cheering and the excitement I tried to tell Miss Ford and Miss Readhead what had happened but they were now focussed on  hopping and wiggling girls and the moment of opportunity passed. 

I felt as miserable as sin as we mounted the coach to come home. Other boys were sympathetic and almost equally miffed by what had happened. It wasn't fair - it simply wasn't fair - though by then we had already discovered that there was much injustice in this world. It is strange that these are the sort of things I tend to remember - not so much the happiness of crossing the line first but the wrongfulness of what happened later.

19 comments:

  1. Clearly scarred for life YP. My sympathies to your 11 year old inner child.

    Whatever happened to those heavy medicine balls we used to roll down the line between each other's legs? And why were they called medicine balls?

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    1. It was called a medicine ball by a certain Professor Roberts who claimed that playful exercise with it invigorates the body, promotes digestion, and restores and preserves one's health. This was in the 1880's in the USA.

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  2. I remember school sports. Any inter-school competition results were dependent on the referee. The score appeared to have little to do with it.

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    1. The same kind of people now referee professional football teams. Who do you support? Derby County? Ross County?

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    2. I must be one of the few people who has never seen a football match from start to finish.
      I have seen bits so I have got the gist of it. If the ball comes near you you give it a kick. Gaze around then hawk gob on the grass. Sometimes it goes in the goal then half the folk seem pleased, the other half seem surprised but everyone clears a nostril.

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  3. I find that reading you over time has had its effect on me. I have come to have certain, even great, expectations. Thus it was that when I read the words "like a snivelling clerk from a story by Charles Dickens" in your seventh paragraph, I fully expected a reference to Robert Brague of Canton, Georgia, to follow. The shock and disappointment I felt when none was made rivaled your own at Holderness Annual Schools Sports Day.

    Still, it was a good read, old chap. A very good read.

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    1. Originally, I had made the line judge look like you Robert but then I thought better of it as I didn't want you to get upset.
      Thank you.

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  4. I found this a bit sad YP. You were so happy to have won and after all your effort, some b***d adult rained on your parade.

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    1. Effectively, he gave me the sack Molly.

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  5. This post is amazing in that we had exactly the same event here. We competed for the same shield. We had the same evnts. I haven't heard about sack races for a long, long time. Thanks for the memory.

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    1. Were you good in the sack Red? Maybe you still are!

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  6. It really, really wasn't fair, YP! I think I'd have been more of a jumper than a wriggler, had I ever taken part in a sack race.
    I loved sports and was good at running and jumping, but I hated school sports days and always hoped to be able to somehow get away with a pretended tummy ache. Of course, my mother always saw right through me. And of course, it was always a cold, miersable wet day.

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    1. With your expert knowledge of English I am sure that you are well aware of the double meaning that might be contained in the phrase "in the sack" so I shall not make any smutty jokes of that nature! After all I am a gentleman. Good on your Mum for being able to read your mind so easily Miss Arian!

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  7. It seems that we remember these incidents from our childhood with great clarity.... often more than we remember good things that happened to us .Perhaps we need to keep this in mind when we are dealing with children ?

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    1. You are right there Helen. Perhaps that old teacher had delivered so much good , so many happy memories, so much learning but in that blind moment he hurt me to the quick.

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  8. Oh, such disappointment...and there some disappointments from our childhood, the memories of which never leave us. How awful for you...that little 11-year lad. A memory indelible in your mind.

    Remember the three-legged races, too?

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    1. Of course I remember three legged races. You had to get into a rhythm with your partner!

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  9. I think of all the things in life about which I feel most strongly injustice and unfairness rank very highly indeed.

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    1. I guess it's just who we are. How our minds select memories seems to be something over which we have no control.

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