We went to my school to collect a prize for the top performing student in our region to which my school added their own prize for the best student and the top sports performance award. At home Della and Peter were simply over the moon turning it into one perpetual celebration; phoning everywhere and inviting everyone to congratulate me. Oh Jack, you have made us the proudest guardians. Well parents really. I am sure your parents would be proud. We love you, what do you want for your birthday this year, oh, haven’t you always wanted the county tennis club membership, oh Jack isn’t it wonderful, oh, oh.
After lingering through several years in various schools some of them specialist classed as an under performer, persistently inattentive gazer; to my own disbelief, I got through the final year with a great bang. Nobody else gave a hint of surprise. I am not sure what had happened but I got the top score in our region and a prize for the year round best sports performance. I had gained some confidence in the school. Teachers took me seriously. My mates wanted me in their team. I made friends. I learnt to take matters seriously.
Peter drove with me to the school having taken extreme care of a delicious breakfast with a crisply ironed new school uniform to attend the ceremony. The ceremony stage had been set in the playing fields. The place was just bustling. I recognised some people for they were our neighbours. Few others whom of course I know were the parents, as I had seen some of them at the parents’ union. A lot more just completely unrecognisable faces and figures from nowhere, conversing but with alertness of mind as if for a due national procession, as opposed to the school awards. I led Peter towards the front fighting our way through the mingling crowed. Each time briefly postponing the advancement for Peter to exchange greetings with whoever he knew. He kept one hand on my shoulder and shook hands with the other. People looked at him, then at me, and then back at him. They are admiring his features. Peter looks brilliant when nicely turned out. He makes me proud.
We reached the front where the teachers on the stage faced the audience by forming a row at the end of the stage giving a very good impression of a well-rehearsed choir. The bell rang for the commencement of the prizes ceremony. No sooner it had started that my name was called. I hadn’t even met any of my friends yet and we barely had had the chance to properly engage. Peter was invited to the stage with me. He let me walk in front and took steps behind me like a terribly shy child feeling awkward. I felt fine of course. Two awards announced and handed to me after each of which the principal shook Peter’s hand. Teachers returned smiles and bowed their heads in respect. Parents in the audience gave broad smiles and looks of envy. Then a surprise award from my team for the best captain. This was truly surprising. My friends waved at me in a proud recognition, and I fancied in my imagination that in turn my friends’ parents were proud of me too for having befriended their unruly off springs. My friends roared at this award, hands in the air, clapping in unison. This is where the principle had to take the centre stage to calm the audience. It felt great to hold the cup high in the air.
Peter’s protective hand returned and stayed on my shoulder whilst stepping down from the platform. The prizes were heavy. My ears were still buzzing and I felt a sudden and short swirl in my head with a feeling that I almost wanted to hide within him and somehow disappear from the whole crowd. The ground in the front swayed including the people on it. I was just about to stumble from the steps when my foot touched the ground and the whole thing became stable.
“Good morning! Mr Francis. Pleased to meet you. Jack, are you in for Tennis later?” My buddies came to say hello to me and said hello to Peter.
“I will let you know after the ceremony. Have to wait for Della.” Della couldn’t make to the ceremony for something seriously wrong with Nan. She had to be with her.
Small drinks reception for the parents after the ceremony. Principal raised and clinked his champagne glass with Peter – here to Mr Francis and the best student in our school – several glasses clinking the noise of which mixed with remarks – bravo Peter.
You really have a gifted child. Very broad minded; has just excelled in every subject. Our rare student, and so forth. Peter’s face reddened perhaps with continuous grin, replying to successive congratulations, and some heavy slapping on the shoulder by friends.
“Has been produced with the utmost care” – Peter grinned and winked to one of his close friends. I hadn’t heard the question but just the reply. Peter looked at me to make sure I wasn’t a privy to this close friends’ conversation. I chatted with friends holding the heavy bag of trophies in my back sack.
“Oh yeah, how so?” Questions being fired in the mature men’s group.
“Well... what you do is hold on to it, grit your teeth, and let it build up, and then let it go deep at a bullet speed.” Ha ha ha.
Louder laughter, several at once; “I sure have applied this technique from day one; must have forgotten to grit teeth. You can always go a step further. Watch out baby”, Etc.