JOSHUA POWLING: MY day as a one-legged dog doing the conga to break British record

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I’m writing in the first person. As a mascot. Is this going to get me in trouble? Is there a British Mascots Association that is going to come round my house and break my kneecaps?

Is there a British Mascots Association that is going to come round my house and break my kneecaps?

County Times reporter Joshua Powling as Chipper the dog helps set British record for most mascots doing the conga at Sparks in the Park, Horsham Park. (photo by Eddie Howland).

County Times reporter Joshua Powling as Chipper the dog helps set British record for most mascots doing the conga at Sparks in the Park, Horsham Park. (photo by Eddie Howland).

Apparently not. I’m told as I change into the Chipper the dog costume, the County Times’ mascot, by another mascot that the only rule of being a mascot is you get to break all the rules. Reassuring.

The Children’s Trust, a children’s charity based in Tadworth, Surrey, has brought together as many mascots as it can to Horsham’s annual Sparks in the Park for an attempt to set a British record for most mascots doing the conga.

Walking at any pace is a chore as I have only one leg due to a rather strangely designed costume. Other mascots seem to spend the entire day sprinting around in 25 degree Celsius temperatures, Elvis J Eel and Sammy the Shrimp, Southend United Football Club’s mascots, being the most exuberant.

Every 20 minutes I have to head to the respite area to take my head off and take on as much water as I can. The suit is heavy, fluffy, boiling hot, and the helmet is painfully uncomfortable.

When I change into it the bloke in the giraffe costume grins. “You’re in for a fun day,” he said.

“You’re not real doggie. Doggie. Doggie. You’re not real,” a very small boy shouts at me, as I wave at a couple of other nearby kids.

There is not much I can say to that. Actually there is nothing I can say. I’m not supposed to talk. And is this the right time to have a debate on existentialism, literally broiling in a fluffy dog suit, in the middle of Horsham Park, surrounded by crowds, with a five-year-old?

While one or two of the younger children run away in fear of the huge costume, I only count one girl during the day that I made cry, compared to the hundreds of people I high-fived, hugged, and posed with for photos.

The real spectacle is the mascot tug of war, and later on the conga.

We line up behind a band of drummers, with the giraffe in front of me and a teddy bear behind me (I forget which organisation he represented, there are so many lions, rabbits, dragons, and bears it is hard to keep track). Again doing the conga is difficult with one leg so I stumble forward in rhythm, attempting a vague swaying motion, while at the same time waving at all the kids I pass.

When we finish Garry Mortimer-Cook, Horsham District Council’s town centres manager, tells the assembled costume-clad people that they have set a British record for most mascots doing the conga. The day was definitely worth it, but this puts the cherry on top.

My earlier trepidation appears to be unfounded. After the conga I sneak off to the side, pose for quick photo with the head off, and then sneak it back on without anyone noticing.

After changing, showering, and heading back to the office, I was walking back to the park and passed the man still in his giraffe costume. I meant to exchange a quick jovial word before we went our separate ways but as he crossed Albion Way he waved to a few cars in the opposite direction, who all leant out of their car windows to take a quick snap with their camera phones.

Walking through the park without the dog suit on seems surreal, no waving, no high-fives. I’m able to ghost through crowds unnoticed. Perhaps we should all be wearing mascot suits.

See pages 38 & 67 of this week’s County Times for a Sparks in the Park picture special.