Tag Archives: playground

The Harvest Festival

7 Sep

I attended a Church of England primary school, and every year the school would put on a Harvest Festival. This involved the whole of the school (plus any parents who wanted to attend), piling into the local church where we would listen to the vicar drone on for an hour or so, sing hymns, and the big finale; every child had to give a ‘gift’ to the church, which was then donated to charity. Now, this gift couldn’t be any old thing; it had to be food, and in a bottle or can, as it was packed up and sent to a poor African country. A nice sentiment I’m sure you’ll agree.
I always forgot about the Harvest Festival until I was kust out of the door to go to school, and then I’d see other kids carrying their gift proudly with them. I’d run back inside and my mum would search the back of the cupboards and find anything that she could so that I would have something to donate. I remember taking a tin of peaches one year, a can of sardines the next, and to my shame, one year I donated a pot noodle.

 

The gift giving ceremony was always the last part of the Harvest Festival. Everyone would sing a hymn called ‘We Plough The Fields And Scatter’, whilst each year group would file out from their pews, walk up to the front of the church, and then leave their individual gift on one of three huge tables, before making their way back to where they were sat. There were strict instructions from teachers on how fast we were allowed to walk (not too quick and not too slow), and we had to have a ‘serious face’. As each child got up from their seat, the rest of the school would watch eagerly to see what they had brought in; eyeing up to see who the biggest cheapskate was or what the strangest item would be. Memorable items include one can of Tesco Value beer, cans of Spam, a bag of Opal Fruits (as they were called back in the good old days), a bag of walnuts and a can of Irn Bru.

As there were so many children, and a total of seven age groups, we would have to sing the same hymn at least three times through, bizarrely stopping as soon as the last child from year 7 (the oldest year group) had sat down. This meant that we could be halfway through a verse and then we’d just suddenly stop, much to my amusement. We would then say a final prayer, whilst most of the children would be looking at the piles of cans of tomatoes, hotdogs and prunes that had been amassed for the African children.

 

My fondest memory of Harvest Festival is from when I was in year 6, so I was about 11 years old. A boy in my class called Andrew bought in a can of Vimto to donate. I’m sure it’s what every African child would have wanted.
As the teacher took registration, we all had our donations out on our tables, and we immediately spotted Andrew’s Vimto. As Andrew was quite unpopular anyway, the teasing soon began over his choice of gift.

 

“It was all I had at home. I forgot it was the festival today”, was his response, and it was a response I could relate to. I was ok this year, I had a tin of tuna with me. I’d gone upmarket for a change.

 

The teasing about the can of Vimto continued as we made our way to the church. It’s funny how the smallest of things can amuse young minds. The festival began, and it was boring as usual, with each and every child waiting eagerly to get the donating his or her foodstuff out of the way, so we could actually go back to school. I sat with my mates pretending to sing the words to the hymn, watching as each year group got up and filed slowly to the front of the church, waiting for our turn. I then heard whispers behind from me. We looked round, and a few of the other boys in my class were sat on their pew, still taking the piss out of Andrew. I heard Rat-catcher Neil say, “God’s going to think you’re a dickhead for bringing that in”, and when Andrew told him to ‘Fuck Off’, Leigh jumped in with “Fucking Hell, Andrew. No need to get eggy about it”. They laughed, and Andrew was visibly rattled.

 

As the hymn started again for the third time, it was almost my year groups time to walk up to the donation tables. We got ready, and as the row of children in front of us took their seats, we stood up and started walking to the front. It was quite an uncomfortable experience, as it did feel like everyone was just staring at you, looking at your donation or seeing if you’d do something stupid. This year, their stares were rewarded in spectacular fashion.
As I, and the other 7 pupils that were on my pew, placed our gifts down on the tables at the front of the church, I heard a loud pattering of feet. I turned my head to look over my shoulder, just in time to see Andrew in the midst of falling over. It seemed to go in slow motion. His legs slid back from beneath him, his body started to fall forwards towards the hard church floor. As he reached out his hands to break his fall, the can of Vimto flew from his hand, and smashed against one of the tables, spraying purple liquid all over the table and into the air. It landed on the floor by Andrew, who was now horizontal, staining his white shirt.

 

We were in fucking hysterics, but still the hymn droned on, and we giggled all the way back to our seats, despite numerous glares from the teachers. I was struggling so hard to regain my composure and I still wasn’t sure how he’d managed to fall over. Andrew picked himself up and made his way back to his seat; head bowed as he walked. Most of the school were watching him, sniggering. As he sat down, Rat-catcher Neil looked him up and down.

 

“I told you God would think you’re a dickhead for bringing that”, he said, laughing to himself, and the rest of us all started pissing ourselves again.

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