Sunday, 19 August 2007

The 2007 Games

Well the summer rain is not stopping the Grit family, so off we go to the 1883 Sports Day. That's how far ahead with the times we are here in middle England.

Actually, only half the Grit family goes to this spot of living history because Tiger's at home, with Dig, grounded. Tiger's explosions of anger are terrorizing us all right now. No-one knows when they'll come or what prompts them. But when they come they cause us all to scatter and go into hiding. When we come out, Tiger's exhausted and the puffin's been strangled.

So half the family is at Stowe landscape gardens, back in time in 1883, feeling lousy, which is just as well, because the Sports Day is lousy too, which is almost comforting, in a strange sympathetic way.

First I don't get past the staff desk without a £1.00 contribution each for Shark and Tiger, which gets me the information that Wheelbarrow racing's off, because the ground's too slippy, and Three legged racing's off too, because there aren't enough participants. There certainly aren't. We're the only ones. The last family just finished throwing hoops about and has wandered off to find a lake to look at, or a landscaped valley to run about in.

All the games are 2007 versions of games held in 1883 or thereabouts, with lots missed out. There isn't a pipe smoking competition in the 2007 versions. Nor is there a competition to see who can eat most cakes in the shortest possible time. Bobbing apples has turned into magnetic fishing for laminated pictures of apples, probably for health and safety reasons, so we have a go at that first.

Of course we have to ignore the rules, because if we followed the rules the game would be over in a trice and there'd be only one winner. In Grit's 2007 world, if you play, you win. You might think that's impossible with Hop and Pop, where you have to get the counters round the circuit and back home first. But no. You can win at being second. And then you win at coming last. Look! we tell Tiger, before she picks up the Hop and Pop and throws it across the room. You won! No-one else came last!

Anyway, off we go, fishing laminated apples from a paddle pool. The lady staff responsible for fleecing me of £2 comes over to see how we are doing. Pointing out that we are not following the rules doesn't help and sets me off about how my tennis ball was confiscated here in 2003 when it was not just a tennis ball it was a key part of triplet toddler management technique. How do you get triplet toddlers to walk in the same direction at the same time? I quiz her. Clearly, she doesn't know. You roll a tennis ball along the path in front of them and they all run after it. That way we can make the car before nightfall. And don't let anyone catch the ball because then it would turn into Rugby and a trip down the A&E, and we don't want that.

Well, back to the games. We discover we are no good at getting hoops over poles stuck in the ground with numbers on unless you are Squirrel and cheat.

Third game, the jingles. Basically you blindfold everyone, sit them on a mat and then proceed to beat them about the head with a bell tied to a piece of string dangling from a pole. Someone, probably fed up of receiving sharp blows across the temple with the jingling bell, grabs the bell and gives it a sharp tug, so the bell holder slips on the wet grass, falls over and cries.

Next, there's knocking over a tennis ball with a length of nylon rope. For added difficulty, the tennis ball is perched on an unturned plastic cup. This game is the 2007 version of getting a ball out of a hole in the ground with a coachwhip. Those 1883 coach drivers were probably pretty good, because even going to within kicking distance of the tennis ball we still can't do it. Eventually the wind obliges and sends the upturned cup and ball flying off. Which is just as well because Shark is close to tears and has got her foot tangled up in the rope.

Is there anything else asks the excited Grit family? No, replies the lady staff. Oh we all say. No versions of pipe smoking? No eating cakes? No.

At this point Shark and Squirrel look at each other and set up their own amusement by robbing the other games of equipment to build their own obstacle course. This would be a sorrow to anyone if they wanted to use the equipment at the other games, but no-one does. Perhaps it's the £1 that puts them off. Or perhaps it's the fact that the drizzle is setting in. Or perhaps it's the sight of Shark and Squirrel starting to have a squealing match over who gets to put the stick in their obstacle course as 'the thing you must carry'.

Grit waits patiently for about an hour while this all goes on with just a bit of grumbling about how in 2003 I was not playing games with the tennis ball when it was confiscated. It was management. And when Shark and Squirrel have finished with all their obstacle courses and are worn out, run about, and all pink in the cheeks, we go home to Tiger.

And I'm sure it was not much more fun in 1883.


HelenHaricot said...

did you ask for your pound back?? what a good idea = the tennis ball.

grit said...

hi helen! if the kids had just done the games set out, i would definitely have felt cheated... when s & s started nicking the equipment to build their own game, then i reckoned we were paying a hire charge.