I was brought up in an affluent part of Surrey, and every Summer my parents would help out in the local fête organised by a nearby Conservative Party committee.
These fêtes were typically English affairs, with huge marquees, home-made lemonade and bad-tempered children's entertainers, all laid-out on the vast, immaculately-kept lawn of a well-to-do party member.
My parents would spend a few hours helping out on the 'White Elephant' stall. This was the name they gave to the table full of items donated by locals for sale to fellow locals who might want them more than the doner did. These days we would call it a 'car boot' sale.
Being affluent Surrey, most of these items could have been classed as antiques. There were African spears, elephant leg umbrella stands, carriage clocks, good quality ceramics - everything you might expect to find in the attic of a house which once belonged to a well-travelled diplomat or businessman.
Toward the end of the afternoon, men would begin to shuffle out of the beer tent and congregate in a nearby paddock, out of site from the lawn. I asked my parents what they were doing, and my father looked at my mother for a while before saying, "I think he is old enough now to go and watch." I was baffled but followed him through the gate to find a row of men in a line, standing in front of a metal pale.
One by one they unbuttoned their flies, but then someone shouted, "Wait for me!" I looked round to see a short, unkempt man with a hunch-back shambling toward the group, and one of the men groaned, "Oh no. It's Harry the Hunchback."
Harry found his place in the line and someone gave the signal to begin.
Slowly, the men began pissing into the bucket whilst simultaneously walking backwards. The further away from it they got, the higher the trajectory of the multiple streams of urine became, until - one by one - they began to tail off and run out of fluid. A few men stopped after a matter of a few feet but the experienced ones kept going, having loaded themselves in the beer tent for an hour or so before the event.
Long after the last man had given up, Harry the Hunchback was still walking backwards with a leisurely step, the great arc of urine getting higher and higher as it rained down on its way toward the bucket. Finally, Harry stopped at what must have been a good fifty feet back with a look of triumph on his shaggy face.
It seems that Harry performed this feat every year, claiming the prize money and making his way back to wherever he had come from as quickly as he had arrived. Rumour had it that he was a Socialist who frequented the Woking Railway Workers club in town, but nobody knew that for sure.
A group of the contestants huddled together and began mumbling amongst themselves whilst looking at Harry, who was standing nearby, patiently waiting to claim his prize.
Then two of the men approached Harry, took him by the arms and marched him into a small wooden shed. A few minutes later all three came out and Harry dejectedly left the grounds in disgrace, never to return.
It seems that Harry's 'hunch-back' was, in fact, a large reservoir of tinted water which - under pressure - was fed by a tube to the front of his trousers.
It was this one incident in childhood which instilled the English sense of fair play which remains with me to this day.
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