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Sunday, 27 February 2011


Weather is odd.

We've been having some odd weather in NZ, which has completely mucked up our sports day(s) in Nuova Lazio High School.
Last Tuesday (the day of the terrible Christchurch earthquake) we were supposed to be having a sports day.  Our students were excited about it, not because of having to run around a track in the hot weather, or throwing a metal spear, or jumping over a bar, but because :
1. They didn't have to attend normal classes
2. They were encouraged to wear the most outlandish costumes, based on their house colours (Blue, Yellow, Green and Red)  Prizes would be given for the best outfits.

On the morning, I had to leave for school at 7:00 so I would have time to arrange for some relief teachers if the sports were cancelled. (Obviously I didn't have to arrange relief teachers if the sports were on; I mean, who cares if there's 4 instead of 5 teachers supervising the Discus, or the Javelin.  Admittedly, having a Year 9 pupil skewered by an erratically thrown Javelin is not to be encouraged (in almost all cases; but I have a little list, they never will be missed) and might even bring the school to the attention of the dreaded press, but adequate sports activities supervision was all arranged, and not my responsibility). 
I was dressed for the sports; big floppy sun-hat, cool cotton shirt (blue check, house colours,  The BLUE obviously, not the check, unless you're a Czech, then it's modrá) trusty ex-Army shorts that have seen me through 5 house paintings in two countries, really silly pair of Hush Puppy sandals and about ½ litre of factor 50 sunblock. 

Factor 50 SunBlock is a bit thick
It was raining as I left my house, a gentle spatter on the windscreen.  The skies were full of dark clouds.  Excellent I thought, the sports day will be cancelled, normal classes will run, and I'll appear as a complete prat to everyone, because they'll have heard the radio announcement cancelling the sports day and will have had time to change into normal school dress ( not necessarily a dress, could be a frock, although I prefer the traditional tweed jacket with leather elbow-patches, brown corduroy trousers and highly polished brown brogues)  The Head of PE was due to make the call at 7:30, and the local radio would announce the cancellation at that time.

At 7:35, just as I was driving into the Nuova Lazio High car park, the announcer gave the cancellations for that day.
Only one.

Upper Hutt Cricket.

Oh Hell, that meant our sports were on. It was still drizzling.

The Evil that is a Mince & Cheese pie
We entered the fields at 9:00 taking out all the equipment. Our wonderful ground and caretaking staff had already set up the areas, roping off the danger areas around the javelin, discus, hammer and the pie stall. (Personally, I reckon a Kiwi Pie of Mince & CHEESE is an abomination under God, and should be banned under the unnecessarily high fat foods Act, but our kids love them and have to be strictly controlled when purchasing them, otherwise fist-fights spontaneously erupt) They had also set up some tables

and in my case at the Javelin area, no chairs (Gentle reminder guys, at least 2 chairs next time, OK?)
First job, grabbed a group of Year 10 boys, "Go get two chairs"  They did get the chairs.  It took them 20 minutes.  I saw them approaching through the now heavier drizzle, one poor sod carrying/dragging two chairs at the rear of the group, the other three boys laughing and chatting at the front. (have you ever noticed? There always one person in a group that actualy does the bloody work)

Badly supervised Javelin
We began to process the students through the Javelin throwing, occasionally watching participants on the track as they passed.  One bad sight of the year was a Year 13 boy, who was running in a faithful replica of the notorious (and banned in 23 countries under the bad-taste provisions of the Geneva Convention) Borat  Yellow Unitard.

Should be banned world wide. It's just WRONG
 Making a mental note to purchase a wire brush and some Dettol (sometimes removes bad memories, and I could always use it on that stupid bastard Matt, to remind him that Borat was passé) we continued with the Javelin attempts.
By now the rain (no longer drizzle) was coming in across the fields in ever-heavier bands, and it was getting colder.
When I was in the Army, I have spent many hours working or walking under pouring rain, hail and snow.  I have marched for miles through cloying mud, scratching gorse and dense woodland.  I have even crawled through soaking heather and bogs.  But I was always ready and prepared.  I wore suitable clothing, which even when soaked through protected me to a certain extent from the elements. And there was always a feeling of an important objective to be reached, a time constraint or a vital task to be completed.

Standing in the rain amongst a bunch of brightly painted kids who really didn't give a rat's arse for the sports but just wanted to have some fun with their mates could not be construed (even by Ringo) as an important/vital task.  As the water dripped off the brim of my hat onto the record sheets in my clipboard, and began to wash away the previously recorded names, even as I tried to write the current competitor's name and house, I decided that enough was enough.  I began to tell the kids and the other teachers to pack up.  I was now soaked through, and it was getting colder. 
Every time I moved, I was aware of a feeling of numbness in my shoulders and arms, a feeling of water running down my legs, my bulging varicose veins guiding them into my now squidgy sandals, and a decided lack of numbness in my nether regions, where it felt that the rain had converted my normally robust but soft (and comforting) shorts into at least grade 10 sandpaper.

We began to hear, through the drumming of the now relentless downpour, shouted instructions from the command tent to pack up, head for cover, sauve qui peut mon braves. It was like being at the beaches of Dunkirk, the retreat at the Marne.

The rush to shelter
And so ended our sports day.  Many of the kids buggered off home to get warm and dry, but many staff had to stay, and we sat in our wet clothes and shivered and tried to work. 

Then we heard about the Christchurch Earthquake.  Tuesday 22nd was not a good day.

It was decided to go ahead with our alternate sports day on Friday, but as the day approached, the weather forecast became worse, with showers promised on the Friday morning.. The decision was made on Thursday to cancel the sports on the next day.  Normal classes would resume.

Friday was a lovely day. Warm sun, fluffy high clouds, even a gentle cooling breeze.  It would have been a perfect day for the sports.

Weather is odd.


  1. I was with Weekendclothesatschool, at 7.15am, when he made the call. Music teachers show up at funny places. It was a 50/50 call, and I may have influenced him a little because I was keen to get the PA tent up. I felt for him when it turned to custard and fully understand why he wasn't keen on a Groundhog Day-ish rerun.

  2. "Weather is odd."
    Weather is a result of the sun warming the earth or sea and causing movement in the atmosphere. Hot air rises and cold air descends.

  3. If it's any consolation, weather in Scotland is also odd. But without earthquakes, for which I am enormously grateful.

    Never thought I'd see the day when I was donating money to the Red Cross for New Zealand :-(

    Ali x

  4. R[oRBB]: So you admit you're partly to blame?

    Second: Yes thanks, I knew that. I was referring to the chaotic interdependant variables which make weather prediction a very chancy affair.

    AlX: Thanks Ali, I also knew that, actualy the weather in dear old Alba isn't just odd, it's bloody weird, but yes, no real earthquakes. Thanks for giving. It's about the first time I donated, being a mean and tightfisted Jock.

  5. Well, I had a full day of teachimg. All I did was mention that fact to Weekendclothesatschool while he was trying to decide.


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