"I thought, for you, the horse shoe pitching," pronounces the secretary of the PTA, consulting the list in his hand with a worried frown which suggests that the task of organising our school's annual fete is proving an
"Horse shoe pitching?" I query, eyeing his face suspiciously - what is it about me, I wonder, that makes horse shoe pitching strike him as so very appropriate? The Hon Sec misinterprets
my expression: "It's really a very easy side-show to handle," he says, reassuringly, "We had two youngsters running it last year." I am still more offended; what particular properties of wit or wisdom are required, I ask myself, to manage the Coconut
Shy or the Crazy Kitchen, that I can only be trusted with horse shoes?
"We have to do our bit for the kids, don't we?" he says, heartily, resorting to heavy emotional blackmail as he detects
a certain lack of enthusiasm on my part. I am not convinced that my manning a stall at the school fete will do anything to assist my children's future, but still..."Horse shoes," I agree, weakly.
daughters are entranced. "Oh, Mummy, how marvellous, are you really? I'll get everyone in my class," Hilary promises, "to come and throw horse shoes at you."
"Oh, you know what I MEAN!"
"Where are you going to get all the horse shoes from?" asks Anne, the practical one. I dismiss the
problem, airily. "They'll be provided, of course. At least..." sudden doubt assails me - "Well, they will, won't they?" I appeal to my daughters who shrug silent shoulders at me. The Hon Sec, when consulted, is greatly amused: "Of course we provide the horse
shoes. Unless you particularly want to bring your own, ha, ha, ha!"
"Ha, ha, ha," I echo grimly. "Still I'm glad you called," he continues, "because I've got lots of raffle tickets that I want sold..."
"Horse shoes!" I mutter, crossly, returning to my daughters with 10 books of raffle tickets tucked in my handbag. "Won't it be fun?" they say happily.
Their father, still unaware of our plans, predicts a nice, quiet weekend ahead: "Read the papers, potter in the garden..."
"Pitch horse shoes," I supplement, artlessly.
"Won't it be funny, Daddy?" our daughters enthuse, "Won't it be exciting? Won't you have a lovely time?" "At least," I comfort him, as we take up our position at 2 p.m. sharp, "it should be a very inexpensive way of spending
the afternoon. We've even got free tea tickets," I point out, waving them under his doubt-wrinkled nose.
I could not be more wrong, as it happens. Despite the invaluable aid of a small boy who attaches
himself to my side and scampers around collecting the horse shoes for me, all our time and attention is fully taken up raking in the 3p a time and keeping a tally of the highest score of the day. In the meantime, our girls return every few minutes for fresh
funds to provide yet another ride on the model railway or a bounce on the Space Hoppers.
"Where is it all going?" I ask, aghast, after the fourth appeal in 20 minutes. "We've got lots of prizes,"
they assure me, "We've found a lovely game where we keep on winning." They display a motley assortment of hair-slides, colouring books and crayons to my view. "It's called Lucky Dip," says Anne contentedly. "It's a good fete, isn't it, Mummy?" Hilary
asks and, without waiting for my reply, "We knew you would enjoy yourself."
The fete raised £270, of which the Horse-Shoe Pitching provided a hard-earned £4.50. Today I received a type-written
invitation requesting "the pleasure" of my company at a "stall-holders' reception." Nothing so ordinary as a meeting or a get-together, I notice - it's a "reception" no less.
For me it conjures up
a rather grand vision of a be-wigged and powdered flunkey, announcing each arrival in stentorian tones.
"Mrs Ball - Horse-shoes!" he will bellow - as I canter into the Junior School Dining Hall.
Kent Messenger - 1974