“No,” I insist. “Absolutely not.”
If one is going to spend one’s Bank Holiday at the Village Children’s Sports Day rather than, say, to pick somewhere completely and utterly at random, the Pub, it would seem reasonable to have some right of veto over the Parents’ Race. As it is, people are urging me to participate. I have built a successful and fulfilling life on the basis of not participating in anything, and I have no wish to start now.
Fortunately I grew out of being susceptible to peer-pressure some years ago.
“Watch it... it can get quite competitive out there,” calls Mrs Short Tony as I trudge sulkily to the starting line. She is perceptive. There has certainly been a smattering of shouting and adrenaline-fuelled dads on the sidelines during the ‘4-7 year old’ category. I resolve that I will stand my ground and not be intimidated by these people. I even make a couple of humorous remarks to a couple of the other competitors as the starter lines us up.
Three minutes later, I am being helped off the floor by the Chipper Barman. “I’m ok,” I assure him. “I'm ok.” Dizziness swirls around my head as I wander back towards who I assume might be the LTLP.
“No, I think you’ll find that it’s pretty bad,” he replies, trotting after me anxiously. “You’d better get something to put on that eye.”
It is a well-known neurological fact that whenever a male sustains any form of minor injury, the brain’s first reaction is ‘how can I milk this?’. As it is, I am just about to adopt my ‘brave soldier’ voice when the LTLP gives me a look of horror and I realise that there is blood and stuff and no need for any milking whatsoever. My legs sit down for me.
“What happened there?!?” asks Mrs Short Tony.
It takes me a minute to collect what remains of my thoughts. I can’t feel my right wrist, and there are grazes down my leg.
“It got a bit crowded,” I begin, “and... I think they call it ‘doing a Mary Decker.’”
The under-fours potato race begins. Somebody hands me a tissue to hold against my eye. I am consoled by the fact that despite the eye thing, the sprained wrist, the bruising and the grazes, at least I went down just on the finishing line and so retained my dignity.
Much later, I discover grass stains down the entire length of my underpants and on to my thigh, indicating that at some point during the incident my trousers were not present.