8 July 2002
It's been the week of school sports days, which generally means cheering on puffing children, a consolation visit to McDonald's and that unconvincing speech on how it's taking part that matters. Deminimus, however, has been studying Montaigne and Carlyle in history (my goodness, whatever happened to Motte and Bailey Castles and the spinning jenny?) and has announced that all competitive sport is divisive and evil.
"What if," he said, "the Big Brother housemates refused to have anything to do with this rich house/poor house thing? What if they said, 'No, we shall not pick one person over another. We shall all be together, a happy band of housemates?'"
The Lawyer said Big Brother would make the whole house a poor side and they'd be eating pasta with chicken Oxo cubes for a week. (Of course, he's worried that if Deminimus doesn't cut it in the professional world there'll be no one to look after us in our old age - our ex-building society shares have gone down the toilet, and we've totally missed the boat on buy to let. Children are the new pensions.)
"But they'd be united in poverty," said Deminimus, stalking up to his room, where I read him Lord of the Flies as a salutary bedtime story. (I'm on the Lawyer's side - my chances of a decent pension disappeared when the line on the pregnancy indicator stick turned blue.)
We duly turned up at Deminimus's sports day wondering if we'd find him dressed in combat fatigues and selling the Socialist Worker at the gates, but he was attired in the regulation Aertex and plimsoles, limbering up for the 100m race; so we relaxed and started looking around.
Really, most of the cut-throat competition is to be found off the track at these things. Fathers with video cameras were elbowing each other out of the way as they raced up the side of the course, and mums were standing around blaring out the merits of their new 4x4s like Jeremy Clarksons in skirts.
We discovered the effect of the school's 'Political Thought in Western History' module when the starter's gun went off, and Deminimus and all his little schoolmates promptly sat down, held hands and started chanting "Liberté, egalité, fraternité".
"Those extra French coaching classes really paid off, didn't they?" I said to the Lawyer, misty eyed.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he shouted, bearing down on Deminimus, pausing only to break a couple of camcorders to avoid the whole thing being shown on the local news.
"Political protest, man," said Deminimus. "What are you, some sort of fascist?"
The Lawyer looked to the heavens and counted to 10. Other fathers, equally concerned about wasting school fees on a group of proto dropouts, came up for negotiations. Half an hour later the boys still hadn't moved, the headmaster had begun running the 400m heats around them, and the fathers became desperate.
"Direct action!" shouted the Lawyer, heaving Deminimus on to his shoulders and making a dash for the finishing line. The other fathers grabbed their sons and hoofed after him, and we were treated to a marvellous display of raw savagery and the best 100m race for years, with the boys pulling hair and poking fingers in eyes in a desperate attempt to avoid finishing.
Alas, someone had to win, and it wasn't us. The Lawyer, to whom winning is all, was in a strop for ages. Deminimus, however, presented the whole thing as a coursework project on democracy and scored top marks. The Lawyer feels his old age is secure after all.