“Now then, jellybabies. In a minute, we are going down to the field to practise for our Sports Day. I want you to take off your jumper or cardy and put it on your chair. Then slip on your PE shoes. Then come and sit back on the carpet. OK?” Heads nod. “So, just to check – we’re not taking off our trousers are we?” A chorus of Nos. “And we’re not taking off our skirts?” No! “Or our summer dresses?” No! “And if you take off your skin, fold it carefully in your shoes, so you don’t lose it.” Howls of laughter. An easy audience – next week, the Glasgow Empire.
I slip off my own shoes and lace up my trainers. By this time, Colin has taken off his uniform and is standing, inexplicably, in his pyjamas. He looks bemused; so am I. Three children have put their PE shorts over their trousers. Four have put their PE t-shirts over their jumpers. John is sitting cross-legged on the carpet, quietly looking at a book. Absorbed in the story, he is oblivious to the fact that he is wearing Jennifer’s skirt.
“Perhaps he thinks we’re going to toss the caber?” suggests Miss Sugarsprinkles.
By the time we have sorted out everyone’s clothing, it feels like we’ve already run a marathon. I bet Danny Boyle didn’t have this trouble. Eventually, we traipse out of the classroom, each clutching a teddy bear as a sports buddy.
We are blessed with a beautiful field. Just beyond the back fence runs a river, shaded by mature oak trees. To the sides, we are bordered by woodland and meadows. The field itself has a steep slope on the right, and the children spend many a happy summer playtime simply rolling.
But no time for rolling today. The site manager has marked out a track and the kids sit beside it for ‘running-in a-straight-line’ lessons. Today, we will be carrying the teddies, who can then take the blame if things start to go bear-shaped.
Miss Sugarsprinkles and I demonstrate how to run between the lines and stop at the end. Sometimes our teddies get it wrong and make us run in front of each other. Sometimes they start before the whistle. Sometimes they stop before the end. Sometimes this does not feel like a job for a grown up. Then we line up six bears and their owners at the start line to give it a try.
“Ready … teddy…” and I blow my whistle. Three children and their bears scamper towards the finishing line, as straight as dies. Two children run across the tracks, heading for the hills. Alex stands stock still.
While Miss Sugarsprinkles retrieves the children who are rolling their bears down the slope, I ask Alex why his bear didn’t run. He gives me a withering look. Alex. Not the bear.
“Well you see, Mrs Jellywoman, when you’re at school and a teacher blows a whistle, you have to stand still. I thought you knew that.”
Next, we are going to work on the obstacle race. Oh Joy!