We celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in grand style and great vigour. It had been decided that we would have old-fashioned fun of the kind enjoyed in 1952. This involved music, song and dance and also races. Judy asked me if I’d like to help run the children’s games.
“No,” was my smart reply. I have spent years working with children and now write for them. I think I was hoping that this was going to be a day off. Judy sounded disappointed.
“Well, if you can’t find anyone else, I’ll help out as back up,” I agreed. Tom says that this is where I went wrong. At this point they stopped looking for anyone else. My name was on the list.
Can you put small children into sacks these days? Are you allowed to use real eggs or would a risk assessment decide that the resultant risk of salmonella poisoning would be too high? Bob had resolved that one with his offer of rubber eggs, but Hessian sacks are hard to come by these days. I pondered putting children into heavy duty plastic sacks. How many would put them over their heads and suffocate? How many parents would complain that the sacks had held fertilizer first? Had they been my own children that would have been fine; it would have been my risk, but could I take that chance with other people’s children? When I discovered, on Friday evening, that no-one else had been willing to take control of the races, I dug out the sewing machine and some old calico.
Lots of children were away on holiday, but, to my disappointment, not enough to cancel the races. When they were announced it instantly became clear that everyone wanted to join in. I abandoned Hoover and my camera to Jay’s tender loving care and dug out the equipment. Geoff came and knelt behind the five year olds.
“Can I join in too?”
“Under 12s, not over 21s,” I replied. Geoff is in his 60s.
We started with relays of sack races. Shoes were abandoned with glee.
“I’m eight!” declared a five foot beanpole.
“Really!” I grinned. “You’re in with that lot, Ben,” I told him, putting in with the other 12 year olds. The little ones had to be helped into their sacks. Anxious mothers checked that their children weren’t disappearing out of sight under the calico. I explained that jumping was the only permissible way, and runners would be disqualified.
Once the rosettes had been handed out we had come to the egg and spoon races. The little ones took it very seriously, pacing themselves and wobbling down the track, eyes glued to their eggs. The older boys were keen to be allowed to turn their spoons into catapults, or to create other inventive ways of carrying them. Girls became reluctant to join in. I explained that only eggs that made the journey on spoons would be winners. The girls decided that they could manage that fine. Jay discovered that the button that turns the camera off is very close to, and easily confused with, the button that takes the photograph. Hoover bounced, tried to help and made friends with a visitor from Weston-super-Mare.
The wheelbarrow races gave a chance for eager parents to get in on the act. Practice runs showed that the biggest hazard was that parents could crunch their wheelbarrows into a heap, somersaulting over the top. One father decided that the easiest way was to drag his daughter after him on her back. By now I was rather enjoying it all and glad that I’d been bulldozed into taking part.
“OK! Hands behind the line! Are you ready?”
The tiny, wee children wanted a race too; so there was an under threes stagger. Someone was rather frightened by so many people all around him, so he ran via his mother’s arms, his face buried in her neck. Who cared if it was trying to rain? And anyway, it never actually managed to.
During a break for more music, tea and cakes beckoned – you should try Sarah’s apple and maple syrup cake – I’m going to get the recipe. Hoover sampled the paper napkins and I had to rescue them before they disappeared down her gullet. Whilst we munched and supped we inspected the children’s royal illustrations. We admired Richard’s aspirant drawing of King Richard The Third, and Elise’s enthusiastic 500 toothed Queen.We staggered out planning to head for home.
“It’s the adult games now,” Judy told me as I headed towards the road.
“I’m not doing that!” I protested. “Childen’s games at a pinch,” (I wasn’t prepared to admit how much I’d enjoyed them.) “Not adult games!”
“But there’s no-one else.”
“But I’ve given back the markers to Bob,” I told her, pleased with my excuse.
“Never mind, I’ll help,” she announced.
“But you’ve just had a hip operation; you should be resting,” I reminded her.
Five minutes later the adult races were announced. Hoards of adults came paired up for the three-legged race.
“Can you tie me up!” chortled Nick and Dan.
“Us next!” called Carol and Laura, as I warned Pete that he needed to take off his boots if his partner was wearing flip-flops. Judy went to mark the end of the race standing to one side with the Union Jacks in position where Bob’s conical markers had previousy stood.
The racers thundered down the track, beer slopping out of glasses held aloft. Cameras clicked, voices cheered. Judy, waving her flags, decided to leap into the centre of the track to mark the end as Nick and Dan raced towards her. Nick went left, Dan went right, their legs were tied. Judy went down like a ten pin under a bowling ball, as the flags arched through the air in graceful curves.
Reluctantly she agreed to let someone else hold the flags to mark the end of the wheelbarrow race, but she was still cheering, despite the ice pack held to her nose.