THE postal order for 35p, my prize for coming third in a colouring competition in a local newspaper, had arrived.
I wasn’t sure I deserved it though. The outline of a dog that had been filled in was undoubtedly good — possibly worthy of a higher position than the judges had decreed after undoubtedly careful deliberation — the only problem being I hadn’t been responsible for the work. My nan had completed it on my behalf.
I have occasionally wondered about the person who was placed fourth. Did they just brush aside their lack of recognition and go on to become an award-winning artist, pick up their easel and hurl it into the canal in anger or sink into a life of depression caused by the lack of recognition they had received for their work?
I felt a similar slight unease when I triumphed in a knockout cup-style competition arranged by our Australian teacher around the game of “Boxes”, a high-end grid-based game from which, after much drama, I eventually emerged as the winner. My victory in the final was justified, achieved, I thought at the time, through a mix of skill, determination, intelligence and an ability to hold my nerve under pressure. In reality though, I had cheated in the quarter-final.
As the game progressed to a tension-filled climax I looked 12 or so moves ahead and saw there was no way in which I could win unless at some point I struck my pen through two boxes instead of the permitted one. A swift glance across the table revealed my opponent Michael Leadbeater was looking the other way, so I swiftly executed a double move and sat back safely in the knowledge that unless I had miscalculated or he managed to cheat back (he was that sort of lad) in the remaining part of the game I was through to the semi-finals.
I didn’t really like him so my skullduggery didn’t bother me too much, though I have (briefly) asked myself if his defeat — he still deserved to lose — caused him any lasting problems.
My third confession involves a game-winning “catch” in a cricket match. As I rose triumphantly clutching the ball and nodded in response to the umpire’s query as to whether I had caught it cleanly, I considered the fact the ball had bounced just before I clasped it meant my head should actually have been shaking a “no” instead. Too late now, a change of answer would make it look like I had intended to cheat, rather than simply had and got away with it, and there was no way I was being forced to sportingly but embarrassingly enter the visiting team’s dressing room to confess my duplicity. We were victorious and through to the next round in the cup. Move on.
I haven’t done any/much cheating since then, but I have always remembered these three instances, which I hope and believe I learned from.
What did I learn though? Was the lesson that cheating doesn’t pay or that it was worth it because on each occasion I got away with it?
You would hope it was the former, but when you consider the injustices in the world and look at some of those who have risen to the top, you have to question that.
Anyway, I still maintain the colour scheme for the dog was my concept (which makes my nan the cheat — sorry nan!) and in triumphing over Leadbeater I merely prevented an unpopular win and prompted cheer among the rest of the class.
The cricket? Well, that’s just part of the game...