ITHINK we can safely conclude that the summer of 2018 has been a belter. With the exception of a few duff days, every major event in the Cotswolds has gone ahead unmolested, with visitors more at risk from sunstroke than from the usual trench foot. And nowhere has this glorious weather been more welcome that at village level where the summer fete reigns supreme in the social calendar.
For once the dreaded phrase ‘In the Church Hall if wet’ was rendered redundant, as the overbearing smell of the gas-powered water heater and abundant disinfectant was swapped for the more welcome whiff of damp canvas and newly-mown grass. Flip-flops replaced wellies and the vicar didn’t end up suffering from hypothermia after his stint in the stocks. (Once, in a fit of over-enthusiastic leadership, I volunteered to be that target of the wet sponges. Let me tell you, it is no fun at all.)
However, the increased interest in this cornerstone of the community has not been without its difficulties – namely the persistent suggestions from well-meaning incomers and newcomers that the centuries-old show should be somehow ‘modified’. Now in Ambridge, even Lynda Snell, queen of the committees, has had to concede minor defeats while trying valiantly to bat away the more extreme suggestions of Emma and Fallon. Our equivalent, the indomitable Mrs Dobbins, has been forced to accept that new blood is needed if such village traditions are to continue and with that new blood comes the inevitable demand for change.
And so the burger van has been banished in favour of a converted Citroen CV selling smashed avocado and anchovies on wholemeal toast and stinging nettle smoothies. The opening ceremony, traditionally performed by Colonel Tweed from the Big House, has been handed over to a DJ who’s just flown in from Ibiza and is shouting “Let’s get this party started” over a bass beat that is rattling slates on the church roof. The white elephant stall and the coconut shy have been banned on the grounds of ‘cultural appropriation’ (the current flavour of the PC month), but the ‘Pin the Pony Tail on the Hipster’ contest is going well.
The cake stall, where once modest Victoria sponges did battle with lemon drizzle, has been taken over by Great British Bake-off fans, and towering edifices of icing and spun sugar dominate. The women of the village who have relocated from London and launched ‘kitchen table’ businesses are busy knocking out oven gloves at £50 a pair, and hats made from cat hair for a ton.
Back outside 52% of the attendees are dancing around the re-named Theresa Maypole while the other 48% look on resentfully. The Morris Men are rather glum, being forced to wear hi-vis jackets and wave foam rubber ‘sticks’, but the Splat-a-rat, where every head is that of Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, is causing much hilarity.
There are only minor issues. Two young women with blue hair are staging some kind of animal rights protest by the hog roast and there is a child in tears because he hasn’t got enough pocket money to buy back all his precious belongings that his overlygenerous mother donated to the toy stall. But all in all, it’s been a good day. And, as the crowds recede, a defiant Mrs Dobbins discretely sneaks a battered golliwog doll back onto the bric-a-brac stall...
JUST as you begin to think that this country is irretrievably broken, with everything from the NHS to our schools to our police on the verge of breakdown, something comes along to give you hope.
Did you know that four Birds Eye fish fingers fit exactly between two slices of Warburtons Toastie bread? I mean exactly. To the millimetre. Renishaw couldn’t have engineered it better.
Surely this can’t be serendipity? There must have been a meeting – a pow-wow – where both parties sat down to successfully negotiate this most satisfying outcome.
There is hope for us all yet.
A stint in the village stocks was no fun at all for Mike Lowe