Friday, August 28th

A memory resurfaced as I was sorting some books. 

When I was 10 I had a friend called Nicholas Bentz. He was taller even than me (and I was tall) and he was athletic in a slightly teutonic way, like a well-bred greyhound. Our tiny school Sports Day rolled around. The event that people seemed to be most looking forward to was the 100 yard dash, and it was even bets between me and Nicholas. I knew I was fast and that I’d probably win.  What made the race so special was that the prize was a full-sized adult tennis racquet, a gleaming wood and varnish item in a spring-loaded press, a top of the line Slazenger. My mother was very keen on me becoming its new owner.

We ran, I came in first, and followed the instructions not to break the tape (I think they hadn’t enough tape, so we were forbidden to run through it). I put my hands around it. Nicholas arrived behind me and put his fingertips actually on the tape. So who had won? I hadn’t touched the tape so could I be considered the winner? After much discussion amongst the teachers he was awarded first place – he was older, he’d be leaving that year and I’d be around next year.  It was stitched up that way.

Nicholas smiled his dazzling smile, held up the racquet and was hero for the day.

My prize was a copy of Charles Lamb’s “Tales From Shakespeare”. I read it, kept it through college, treasured it for its synopses of the plays, and it’s still on my shelf.

Of course, there wasn’t a ‘next year’. This was the only year we ever had a sports day.

But I still consider that I got the better prize,  Far, far better.