My daughter-in-law asked whether I’d mind attending my 11 year old granddaughter’s sports day, as she and my son were unable to get the time off from work.  I’ve never been very sporty and could barely stand my own sports day at school, let alone anybody else’s.  Nevertheless I smiled through gritted teeth and agreed, and arrived at the school just before kick-off at 09.30.

The first thing I noticed was that the front playground was inaccessible until one of the teachers could come out and unlock the gate.  The children were, in effect, locked in.  What a sad sign of the times, I thought.  All my schools from infants up until seniors always had open gates.  I know this because as I grew older and wanted to ‘bunk off’ from the hated sports day, I would sidle out of the gate and either sit reading in the library or sneak on home.  Nobody ever missed me – there was too much going on.

We were led like lemmings around the back of the school and given a lecture to the effect that we could not take any photographs of our child/grandchild, in case somebody else’s child was in the background.  Apparently some of the children could not have their photographs taken.  Hmm…. another sad state of affairs.

Then the children arrived and were split into groups.  My granddaughter’s group started by throwing the javelin.  When I was at school, juniors or seniors, we had real javelins with pointy ends that stuck in the ground.  These kids were hurling what looked like an innocuous plastic stick.  The boys were terribly competitive and threw it as far as they were able.  The girls stood around chatting, and gently threw it a few feet before resuming their conversations.

After this they had to throw a shot put.  At Sam’s mixed-sex school there was a special cage for the kids to stand in and throw the genuine article (I went to an all-girls’ school and shot put was not on the curriculum – we had tennis instead).  These children had a small ball to throw and had to pretend.  Even then, there was warning after warning from the teacher in charge not to stand in the way of somebody throwing the ‘shot put’.   Again, the boys put every effort into hurling the ‘shot put’ further than their male peers, while the girls had a go but seemed more interested in sitting around talking and giggling whilst awaiting their turn.

The penultimate activity was a ‘standing jump’.  Here the girls had an advantage, as many of them were at that pre-pubescent age where they had longer legs than the boys.  There was an 11 year old girl who was about 5ft 5 inches tall with legs like long sticks of celery.  She managed to jump quite far, and believe me, when it was the boys’ turn they almost busted a gasket trying to beat her (they couldn’t)!

The last activities of the morning were the hurdles and the relay races.   There were girls’ hurdles and relays, and then the boys had a go.  My granddaughter is not the world’s fastest hurdler and runner, but nevertheless received a stick-on badge for coming third.  Unfortunately however, there were only three hurdlers in that particular race!

Oh yes I almost forgot…at our sports days we were given half an orange to eat about halfway through.  The kids at my granddaughter’s school were given a big slab of cake about an hour before lunch time.  Healthy, eh?

This is the second sports day I’ve had to attend in a matter of weeks, sitting in the broiling sun  (it’s very hard to say no when you have a day off work and nobody else from the family is going – I wonder why?).  My grandson’s sports day stretched out interminably for three hours that I’ll never get back again.  Please Mums and Dads, try and get the time off next year…