Monday, 8 July 2013


The weather was glorious for my daughter's special school sports day. As usual, I slathered the kids in sun-cream and forgot to slap it over my ample surface area. Consequently, I'm ever so slightly singed. I have a sunglasses-shaped white 'mask' on my face, outlined in pink where the sun has caught me. I look like a chubby, overheated Zorro.

I knew it was going to be a good day, from the moment the tannoy blared out The Stranglers' Go Buddy Go followed swiftly by What Do I Get? from the Buzzcocks. Punk seemed an apt musical genre: the do-it-yourself punk ethos is embraced by kids, staff and parents alike at these kind of school events. Anyone can take part, 'join the band' of wonderful, wonky atheletes, and have a go. Thankfully, there wasn't much spitting.

The races were haphazardly organised, with late entrants dashing across to join in, and the starting gun only firing when it felt like it. The Whole School One Lap was a particularly chaotic highlight. There were cheers as the more physically-fit pupils raced across the finishing line, and even bigger cheers as the stragglers appeared (sometimes minutes later) being guided by members of staff. The participants were mis-matched in height and ability but equal when it came to the width of their smiles.

Meanwhile, at the back of the field, children who weren't taking part in whichever sprint or egg and spoon race was being contested were free to wander around in little class groups, trying out activities including tennis, skittles, golf, frisbee, and javelin. You'll be pleased to know that plastic, not metal, javelins were in use. I looked at my son who had tagged along for the fun after finishing his morning at nursery and realised in a few years time, terrifyingly, he might be using a proper spear at his school sports day. God help us all.

My girl, the one with Prader-Willi Syndrome, and poor muscle-tone, and a pathological hatred of running, joined in. She stuck together with her little buddies in her class, a tight-knit little team of day-dreamers, pottering about, ambling from one activity to the next, taking part. And all this was after a morning visit to the orthodontist to have her bottom brace fitted. It was a lazy, hazy, amiable effort. She was never going to win any events today, but she still finished the afternoon proudly clutching a shiny medal.

Every child got one. I know this annoys some people, who think medals for all devalue sports days and stop children from learning how to strive and achieve and be competitive. Well, two fingers to them. Some of these kids have to be wheeled across the line. Some can't walk unaided. Some can run, but have no idea which direction they have to go in. One, who was about to cross the finish line in first place, stopped, clapped her hand on her forehead, turned round and returned to the starting blocks to pick up her hat, before running the race again at full speed, alone, and now last. She didn't care. Neither did we.

The boys and the girls are all dancing around 
Dancing all night to the crazy sound 
It's the newest thing to hit this land 
The boys and the girls are holding hands 

I said 
Go Buddy

Go Buddy 
Go Buddy 
Go go go

Video is The Strangers - Go Buddy Go

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