Last weekend was the summer fair at my daughters school. She’s just coming to the end of year 1 so this was our second experience of the annual event.
The first year it seemed like a fun day out, the sun was shining, there were stalls to look at, a bouncy castle and hot dogs to eat. As rookie school parents it was a pleasant enough experience, a chance to chat to other mums and dads outside of the stresses of the school run and slightly amusing to see the Head Master in jeans.
This year, it felt un-nervingly familiar. The stalls, the bouncy castle, the hot dogs.. in fact the only thing that was different was the weather – cold, windy and spitting. It struck me that I am likely to experience this event every year for the next 7 years as my youngest starts school in September.
Here’s how it goes:
On arrival, the kids head straight for the bouncy castle and I reach for my purse for the first of many times that day. I chat to the teachers in charge of bounce control and gaze around, scoping out the stalls and looking for familiar faces.
The 5 minute bounce time is up and the kids run off to find their friends and I am left wandering aimlessly around the field. Every now and then the kids return to ask for money for various things. The eldest decides to have her hair sprayed bright red, the youngest wants to hook some ducks, the eldest wants to do the tombola, the youngest wants to throw hoops over some frogs. They both want to eat more than their own body weight in sweets and then have a hot dog. And then some chips. And then a drink. Meanwhile, I’ve spent more than I’d care to admit on the raffle and now I have to hang around until the end when the tickets are drawn. (There’s no way I’m leaving without my prize). I look at my watch, 2 and a half hours to go.
I should add at this stage, before I get lynched on the next school run, that I do think the school fair is a good cause – it raises money for the school and that directly benefits our kids so I don’t really begrudge dipping in to my purse. And I know a lot of parents worked hard all day, manning the stalls, painting faces, spraying hair and cooking sausages and I did nothing practical to help out. I’m not proud of myself.
But I don’t think I’m alone when I say that there is one main reason why I go along to the school fair and hang around until the bitter end…
The barrow of booze.
Yes, it all gets a bit serious at about 2.45pm when, just before the fair comes to an end, the head teacher draws the raffle. Tension starts to rise as the stall holders start packing away, the wind picks up and people are wrestling with gazebos that are taking flight. The caretaker, squinting in to the mid distance, slowly winds the tug ‘o’ war rope around his elbow.
He’s seen it all before. The way the parents conversations are cut short as soon as the head master is spotted heading for the laden trestle table. The salivating crowd moves in like a pack of hungry hyenas around a lion cub.
Parent’s white knuckled fists clutch batches of flimsy, perforated stubs. The head inspects either end of his radio mic and twiddles a few knobs on the portable amplifer. – A note on the portable amplifier; barely a word can be deciphered through this device on a windy day, which is of course infuriating for the die hard rafflers, like me.
The time has come.
‘Good afternoon everyone.. muffle muffle muffle, sckhhhhhhhhhhh, pffffffffffff, muffle muffle, first we will draw tickets for the prizes in the envelopes… kkkkkkkksssssshhhhhhh, muffle muffle.’
Excitement builds! We are all here for the barrow of booze but the sight of the pile of envelopes has pricked our interest. It feels a bit like a game show all of a sudden.
It’s really blowing a hooly now, clouds have lowered and it is no longer appropriate to be in flip flops. A rumour quickly circulates the shivering crowd that first prize at a neighbouring school’s fete was a holiday for 4 in France. This could be interesting…
Tickets are drawn and with the announcement of each of the envelope contents, people are audibly, willing themselves to NOT win.
1st – A £10 voucher for Sainburys
Nah, you’re alright.
2nd – Free entry to the local soft play
Oh god no.
3rd – A complimentary boys hair cut at a barbers nearby
I’ve recently considered a re-style but this would be too extreme – Please don’t let me win THAT!
Phew. Didn’t win. Next, the array of ‘goodies’ on the trestle table…
Now, here’s some inside knodge about school raffles. If someone wins a naff prize, they keep it, at home, in a cupboard, for a whole year and then re-donate it to the next fete.
There is a bottle of Malibu that has been circulating the school fete for 8 years.
Unwanted christmas gift from Aunty Sue? Save it for the raffle. Box of soft fruit centred chocolates from the secret santa at work? Save ‘em for the raffle.
Only the rookie year R parents will purchase fresh stock when asked by the school for donations – and this year there was a run on Cadbury’s milk tray – but at least they were in date.
Hot water bottle
Lavender neck cushion
Even though I did not especially care for any of these prizes, I was still pretty pissed off that I had practically had to re-mortgage the house to fund the cost of the number of tickets I had purchased and not one of my numbers had come up.
Furthermore, it did not escape my attention that the majority of the winners were actually members of the PFA (and in some cases, the SAME person two or three times!!) OR, people who were not even at the event to collect their prize. They hadn’t even bothered to show up! Bought a ticket and sat at home in the warm. They were simply a name and a number c/o So and So of the PFA, and said prize was then snaffled away by So and So who promised to deliver it to the mystery winner.
Hmm.. I’m starting to smell a rat and I’m tempted to shout “We’ve all been diddled!!” at the top of my voice but I’m too cold and anyway, the barrow is still up for grabs.
At this point the heavens open and everyone is getting splattered by massive raindrops, a few people head to a nearby tree for shelter but the hard core majority stays put. Its all about the barrow now and we will brave whatever the elements have to throw at us. We’ve come so far and this is, after all the REAL reason why we have all turned out.
But the rain is soaking everybody and their precious prizes, children are crying and the Head’s denim trousers are, I presume, becoming decidedly damp and uncomfortable. So the moment we’ve all been waiting for is an anti climactic, rushed flurry of “and now, very quickly, to finish off, the winner of the barrow ofkkkkksssspppphhhhhhh….. is….shhhhpppllllffffff…. 573…”
An audible groan comes out of my mouth and I don’t even hang around to see who’s won. “Right, come on kids, let’s go.” I say and we run to the car, flip flops flapping, toes squelching and mascara running down my face. My non-waterproof rain mac is drenched and stuck to me. I look like a shrink wrapped panda in sandals.
All this aside, the children had both had a brilliant day, I’d had some nice chats with other parents and it felt good to be supporting the school by attending and taking part. Whilst I peeled off my saturated clothes and got dry and warm, it occurred to me that the PFA members, who organise the whole event, and who organise loads of stuff to help raise funds for the school, were probably still out in the field, in the rain, helping to pack everything away, pick up litter, empty the playground bins and wash up and clear away the hot dog debris. So it is perhaps a bit (a lot) unfair of me to feel hard done by when any of them won a prize in the raffle – they bloody deserve it!
And then of course, because of the type of person I am, my brain made a connection and I had an epiphany. I must sign up to the PFA!! I must do it!! Why? Because I want to give something back to the school community? Because I know they are desperate for more helpers to organise and man these events? Because I want to be part of the valuable, rewarding work that they do?
But mostly because I just want to win the bloody raffle!
I’ve got 7 more attempts. One year that barrow of booze WILL be mine.