surinenglish

Share prizes fail

All those school sports days that became de rigueur in the nineteen eighties and nineties where nobody ever won and nobody ever lost and everyone got a prize just for turning up did not, you'll be glad to hear, go to waste.

The annual absurdityfest which is the Turner prize has just been presented but rather than give it to who they thought was the best, the judges risibly acquiesced to a request from the four finalists that it be presented to them all. I'm not sure what the entries were this year but I'd hazard a guess at the following: a cauliflower on a broom handle, a half-eaten cheese and pickle sandwich, a paper clip bent into the shape of Donald Trump's nose and the contents of an artist's airing cupboard. I may be wrong.

Anyway, whatever the work on offer, it was wildly overshadowed by publicity photos of the four 'winners' embracing each other and grinning uncontrollably at the thought of sticking a sawn-off quarter of a trophy on their mantelpiece.

I'm with Nick Berry on this. 'Every Loser Wins' he warbled unconvincingly many years ago and a whole nation wondered what on earth he was going on about. Clearly ahead of his time, though, the Heartbeat heartthrob had cut right to the core of a timeless and invaluable truth - it's good to lose sometimes.

When I was at primary school, our football team was set to play a in a cup semi-final against another school fully expecting to emerge victorious and claim our prize - to play the final at Skelmersdale United's ground. This was a big deal for some ten-year-olds, as it was, in fact, for our over-excitable ginger PE teacher and master tactician Mr Parker. We should have known things weren't likely to go our way, however, from the moment the opposition trotted out of the changing room followed by their manager - Steve Heighway. Steve Heighway! The legendary Liverpool winger was coaching the other team. As it happens, we only lost out to a lucky hoof in the dying minutes which carried on the gale that was blowing throughout and sailed cruelly over Jeff Branigan's despairing grasp into the back of our net. 1-0. We were out.

Undeterred, however, the next season we won everything in sight, spurred on by the heavy disappointment of our defeat at the hands of Heighway's Heroes or whatever they were called.

Losing builds character. Sharing prizes, by contrast, turns you into a big blancmange.

For that reason, when the inevitable Pulitzer prize for journalism eventually wends its way to my door, I'll refuse to share it with anyone on a point of principle. Nick Berry would be proud.