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U3A Writing: The Field Day

Ken Higson tells of days when you could have lots of fun for two pence.

We can all recall the summer days of our childhood. The sun seemed to shine for weeks on end, the tar melted in the streets and we played without shirts and got our backs burned red. At least in our mind's eye this always seemed to be the case, but, I suppose, in reality the weather was just the same as in recent years.

During the summer months one of the big events of the Sunday School year was the Field Day. Obviously, the first requirement for this was a field. At Deane we had the use of the old Vicarage garden. This was adjacent to the Churchyard, enclosed by railings. The entrance to it was through a gate which normally would be locked. In the grounds was an old shale tennis court and clumps of trees, which, to us boys, seemed like minor forests.

So much for the setting, now for the big day. As always on these occasions I was ready far too early and on tenterhooks all morning hoping it would stay fine. At last afternoon came and it was time to go. All the boys at this time still wore short pants. I seem to remember mine being grey, held up, of course, by a cricket belt, which had a buckle in the form of a snake. We also wore a white cricket shirt, knee stockings and black pumps.

The meeting place was the Church Hall and we probably got there an hour too soon. Here I should mention an important piece of equipment, a cup with a handkerchief fastened through the handle and tied to the cricket belt. This, of course, was for the coffee and bun part of the day.

At last, time for the procession to move off. This was led by a coal lorry belonging to Mr. Godfrey, obviously cleaned up for the occasion. On the lorry was a big push ball surrounded by fit looking young men in white flannel trousers and vests.

Behind the lorry came the rest of us, the girls demure and holding hands; the boys fighting and showing off and the teachers trying to maintain order. Already a few cups were minus handles.

Round the houses and on to the field where pandemonium reigns. The boys are up the trees and chasing the girls. Then it is time for the push ball match on the shale tennis courts. Five teams push from opposite sides of the ball. Small boys join in, cuffing their knees when they slip on the shale, with not-so-white shirts hanging out of trousers.

The match ends, but no one is sure who has won.

Now the lorry reappears and this time it is carrying big churns with taps at the bottom. We all queue up with our cups and get them filled with coffee and are given a bun out of a big basket. For a short time there is comparative silence as we consume our refreshments.

Time now for a game of rounders, boys versus girls. More arguing as to who is out and who isn't. Teachers finally get things sorted out, more running about, more climbing trees. By this time the girls are not looking quite so demure and are joining in with the boys.

At last comes the main event of the day - the races. For this we are divided roughly into ages and sizes. The course must have been about a hundred yards long, but at the time it seemed endless. There was much puffing and panting and I can remember getting a small boat when I finished in second place.

Before the day ended a man came with a tin of toffees. I realise now he was a Church Warden. We all gathered round and he threw the toffees in the air. You can imagine the scramble to get one as they came down.

So we went home, dirty, sweaty, stockings round our ankles, shirts awry, tired but happy. A good time had been had by all.

How much had it cost? The sum of two old pence. If your father wasn't working, or your mother couldn't afford the money, it was all free.

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