Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Come to our community sports day? Ach, you will, you will, you will

Back in time: Father Ted would have loved Straw Sports
Back in time: Father Ted would have loved Straw Sports

Hands up who knows what a Spider Baby is? Or if you've ever had a go at Freak Pointing? Or braved the Tunnel of Goats? The reputation of the community fun day has taken a bit of a battering since Father Ted spoofed it. Who can forget the opening episode of the very first series when we were introduced to Craggy Island on the day Fun Land arrived.

Father Dougal could hardly contain his glee as he took on the Crane of Death, the Pond of Terror and the Whirly Go Round rides.

It's been hard to go to anything similar in near 20 years without feeling the need to say: 'Father, I killed a man' or ponder the exact nature of a Spider Baby (body of a spider, mind of a baby, if you're wondering).

I thoroughly enjoyed a blast from the past on Sunday when I went to a community fun day which has been running in the small Sperrins village of Straw for as long as anyone alive can remember.

Straw Sports has legendary status. As sure as Christmas and Easter come around, so does Straw Sports on the third Sunday of every June in life. It's an initiation ceremony. If you've been as a child, you must bring your children, and then your grandchildren and great grandchildren.

And while it moves with the times and there's something new every year, the event is also firmly rooted in tradition in the games and sports on offer.

The day's proceeds go entirely to the local primary school, ensuring that the extended family of every pupil turns out to make it a success. It is manned entirely by volunteers, including the school's staff, their families, pupils' parents, past pupils, grandparents and the like. The only payment they get for a very long day's work is the promise of an unlimited supply of tea and sandwiches.

It's a day which runs smoothly every single year, oiled by the selfless dedication and time of busy people who bake cakes, keep goals, organise tombolas, announce the raffle, hold the finish line tape for the races, referee the bouncy castle, call the bingo and man the barbecue. Straw Sports is the best example there is of a grassroots rural community in action.

I've been a fun-seeking child at it, I've been a volunteer (the less said about my face painting skills the better) and this year I was a mother taking a very excited child for the first time.

My daughter certainly wasn't disappointed, happily spending her little bag of coins on the bouncy castle (four times), a tea cup ride, an ice cream, a burger, a new bracelet (made and marketed by some entrepreneurial pupils) and a 'sticky flying turkey' whatever that is.

Some of the games threaten to veer into Father Ted territory. Over the years, there's been Splat the Rat and Smash The Spud. This year, Soak Your Mate, Swing The Wellie and Tractor Reversing had them handing over their 50p pieces.

I had to laugh when the tannoy announcer (my mother, by the way) declared: 'Don't forget you can win a delicious chocolate cake by guessing the number of M&Ms on top. And remember a free Irish dancing session starts in the hall at 3.30pm – but won't start until after the races have finished."

The weather was glorious and where else would you rather be than standing amidst the beauty of the rolling Sperrins on a Sunday afternoon with family, old friends and new faces?

Everywhere I looked, children were having good old-fashioned fun and sport, with not a gadget in sight. There was no Spider Baby, by the way. Maybe next year.

Downton discovers the joy of text ...

I know summer is just getting into full swing but my thoughts are already turning to autumn and the return of Downton Abbey.

Downton bosses have released a few sneaky preview shots from the upcoming fifth series — which show all the drama's favourite characters, like Lady Mary and Branson, are coming back for some new twisting and turning plots.

The most insightful thing you can see in the Hollywood Reporter pics is Thomas (Rob James Collier) relaxing in the drawing room with Lord and Lady Grantham ... while texting from his phone.

Eh? There was texting in the 1920s?

 

The Danger facing a certain Mouse

Children’s television creators must be running short of ideas when they have to go back and rummage around in the ’80s and ’90s for new shows.

Just when we'd gotten used to the idea of the Teletubbies making a comeback (eh oh!), Danger Mouse announces he is coming out of retirement too (something to do with a pension pot shortfall). They're both fine examples of kids' TV.

Danger Mouse and Penfold deserve a new generation of fans, as do Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po.

But here's hoping they stick to television and leave the music charts alone this time.

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