Sadly, our school favoured athletic prowess. To this end, we would all file out onto the school field once a year, and parade around as if we weren't a complete embarrassment to our parents, who had taken a day off work to attend.
When I am Prime Minister I shall ban Sports Day. Tough luck if your only talent is running really fast – you'll just have to learn to read like the rest of us.
Our primary school was divided into four 'houses' (think Hogwarts but full of losers) – Thoresby, Sherwood, Clumber and Rufford, named after various local places of interest. Clumber contained all the cool kids, although for what it's worth, I would rate it as Slytherin. Thoresby and Sherwood were somewhere in the middle, and at the bottom of the pile came us – Rufford.
Rufford was always filled with the overweight (me), the lazy (again, me), the underachievers and the kids with rude sounding names (see: Michael Boulstead). It's as if the teachers were deliberately testing the theory of natural selection on us. In this vein, I don't remember much attention being paid to the houses in terms of academic skill – it was usually all about how fast you could run at the end of term. God help you if you were good at sports but happened to be placed in Rufford due to an administrative error (the teacher thought your glasses looked funny).
On Sports Day, this mild attempt at eugenics really came into its own. Really there was no point having a Sports Day at our school. The time and effort spent organising it could have been put into a Clumber house motorcycle display team – at least then I could have found an opportunity to put a stick in their spokes.
We would arrive at school in the morning, then to add insult to injury, we would have to have normal lessons until lunchtime, like our nerves would let us do any fucking work. Lunchtime would generally be spent shitting yourself, then at around 1 o clock you would file back inside, change into your PE kit and your house coloured 'bibs', then back outside to perform the walk of doom.
When you weren't racing, you would sit cross-legged on the grass with the rest of your house, while the parents got to sit on chairs like Roman emperors. That reminds me – if at any point in the proceedings a parent didn't like a child's performance, they would give a 'thumbs down', and that child would be swiftly executed.
The race would be announced, then you'd sit and watch everyone else in the entire school race before it was your turn. As you watched, everyone else in your school would win their race, defying all logic. Then, just as you've shat yourself for a seventh time, it's your turn to race. This is it – the moment to give it your all, do your best – and ultimately lose.
The various races in any given Sports Day tended to be similar in most schools -
1. Sprint -
Otherwise known as 'how fast can you run/how slow can you read'. I never even hoped for a 'well done for trying' ribbon in this.
Chance of success – 0/10
2. Sack race -
Sack races are actually quite good fun, or they would be without the pressure of knowing that YOU MUST WIN. At least I remembered to go forwards, instead of just jumping about on the spot like some people.
Chance of success – 2/10
3. Wheelbarrow race -
Designed by Satan himself. One year I was paired with the aforementioned Michael Boulstead, as the wheel end. Before five seconds had elapsed, Michael had pushed my face into the ground with enough force to actually break my face. Obviously I beat him up afterwards, when he blamed it on my having “big legs”.
Chance of success – 1/10
4. Egg and spoon race -
Let's make one thing clear – even now, at 29 years old, I cannot carry an egg in a spoon. Ingenious methods like sticking your egg to your spoon, or carrying a quail's egg in a ladle (both learned from Rainbow), were swiftly foiled by the teachers, who replaced your egg/spoon combo with the equivalent of a football and a cocktail stick. Not fun.
Chance of success – 2/10 (if I tripped up/poisoned everyone else)
5. Three legged race -
This wasn't always bad, because you could sometimes choose your partner. If you got paired with your best friend, you would just have a leisurely stroll down the field, chatting about how much you both hate Sports Day. Still always came last though.
Chance of success – 3/10
6. Obstacle race -
Obstacles varied, but usually included -
a hoop that you had to put over yourself (the people putting out the hoops just “happened” to put a small hoop in my lane. Right.)
bean bags, three of which you had to throw into a bucket
a skipping rope, with which you had to skip three times without falling over or dying
a traffic cone, which you had to hold while travelling round in a circle three times, again without exploding or dying
sprint to the finish (see #1)
Chance of success – 1/10
Know what I'd do if I was running a Sports Day? I'd make all the 'winners' line up and try to recite Shakespeare from memory, or do a really hard sum in front of the baying crowd (mums and dads). That'll teach them to be better at things than me.