Saturday, 27 January 2007

Competition time

The children have entered a story competition, for World Book day. They've all dutifully sat down and typed up their stories and we've printed them out and filled in the application forms, all nice and neat and appealing.

Shark's story is quite good. At least it has a plot and a clear narrative voice. Squirrel's story just rambles on and on and on without direction. I could say she's experimenting with a stream of conciousness style in homage to James Joyce. But she's not. She's just in her own world where birds have parties, cats eat cake and everyone's followed by a fairy, but they just don't know it.

Tiger has high hopes for hers. I over-egged the praise pudding to boost her confidence, and unfortunately we seem to gone past the point of no return. She's got herself down as a winner and will be asking about the mail for days to come. I may have to be a desperate parent and mug up a letter that bursts out with 'Congratulations! You're the winner!' I could do a false letterhead and signature, no problem, and enclose a book token and post it all properly. It would be a disaster. I'll have to remember the deceit for the rest of my life and never blab some Christmas time when she's aged 17, got her boyfriend round, and I've been on the cooking sherry. I could mug up a 'Thank you, you're not a winner' letter. It would be no good. I'd still blab.

Tiger feels the pressure, of course. Both sisters have won competitions. Shark's still delighted over the Christmas card she designed which got printed by the national charity. I knew it should be a winner the minute she did it. I snatched it out of her hand just as the black paint was coming down on it, and I hand delivered it with ten minutes to go on competition date. As I leapt out of the car I banged my head on a road sign and had the blood dripping down my forehead to show for this parental dedication. And when the receptionist saw the masterpiece, she snatched it too. With a big sigh, she exclaimed, 'Is that a competition entry? Oh, good!' So in any event I guessed we'd saved the in-house designer from the brief to draw a Christmas pixie in the style of a six-year old.

In fact Tiger's the only one so far not to have won a competition. I couldn't believe it when Squirrel won one. And for a short story at that. She won a family trip to a theme park thanks to a piece of rambling nonsense she poured out last year. They must have thought she really had read Ulysses. We never took up the prize because it was miles away and would have cost us a fortune to go. Squirrel was thrilled with the letter and tee-shirt, anyhow. And if we ever do go, I'll have to arrange payment out of sight, and proclaim it Squirrel's treat.

The first competition we all entered as a family, we won. And that seems to have laid down some sort of marker in Tiger's mind. We won Best Costumed Family the first year of our local town carnival. I wore a crown, a pair of battered jeans and a tatty jumper. Dig wore a green curtain and a circlet of holly as some sort of green man. Squirrel went as a flower with a lovely flowery hat. Tiger wore a cardboard box that we told the judge was a lorry, and Shark disguised herself as a zebra fish by wrapping black and white crepe paper around herself. Forty pounds to spend at the local toy shop was quite a coup. But the next year, things got tough. Another family entered. We spent the whole carnival walk looking at them, and them looking at us. I think their win was political, actually.

Will Tiger do it? I doubt it. But if by some bizarre quirk of fate, or a hallucinogenic drug clouding judgment at just the right moment, and either Squirrel, Tiger, Shark, or Grit wins, of course I'll let you know.

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