Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Village Day

The Saturday morning of the Flower Show always dawned bright and clear, the "perfect weather" pray had been answered, but then the sun always shines on the righteous doesn't it?

Since the February addition of the Parish Magazine, when the Flower Show Schedule first appeared, this day had been eagerly anticipated, whether you were entering the competitions, organising the event or just out for a stroll around the field, a tasty cream tea and a try at hurling a wet sponge at the Rector this was the day village celebrated being a village - and of course tickets for the evening Hamper-Hop had sold out weeks beforehand.

On Tuesday morning the grass in the field had been cut and the horses that normally grazed in it moved to another one for that week.

On Wednesday last minute orders placed at the village shop for anything needed on the day that had previously been overlooked (heaven forbid).

On Thursday afternoon the Marquee tent company would arrive to erect it (oh yes every year we had that joke too!) ... the usual argument (did I say argument - oh perish the thought), the usual good-natured discussion about whether or not to rent a dance floor with the tent had taken place and the proceeds from the Village Quiz night had been set aside especially for it.

First thing Friday morning the Committee would be out in full force,
"Peter have you checked that Mr. J knows its this weekend he needs to bring the extra tables down from Teds barn?"
"Yvonne have you got all the hessian sacking?"
"Who did we ask to put up the bunting?"
"Already done."
"Oh no - have we checked there are enough footballs for the Parish Councils stall?"
"Have the National Trust arrived yet?"

The good ladies of the WI were out in full force, measuring and laying out the positions for tomorrows floral displays; the Parish Council were there to check that all the games they would be supervising had all the pieces, the Festival Committee were all at their different posts directing the delivery of straw bales (for the dogs races), checking the generators and the loud speaker systems. By the end of the afternoon the field was transformed - coloured tents erected around the Marquee, dozens of smaller commercial stalls set up and a general buzz of excitement everywhere.

And then the day dawned ...

From 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. the village was a hive of activity all the entrants for the show were busy in the Marquee laying out their wares, a quick glance at other entries as we put the finishing touches to our own displays. The commercial stall holders started arriving to arrange their goods in eye-catching arrangements. At 10 a.m. the Marquee was emptied and the judges ceremoniously led in ...
The Flower Show officially kicked off at mid-day - the flaps of the Marquee were fastened back and the villagers swooped in to check the results, to admire the floral displays, the paintings, the poems, the longest beans, the heaviest pumpkins, the plumpest tomatoes, the tastiest jams, the lightest sponge cakes, the most perfect loaves of bread, the most delicate embroidery, the photographs ... the childrens races took place, ice-creams were bought, cream teas consumed, bargains struck at the second-hand book stall, footballs kicked, dogs hurdled over bales of hay, or walked politely at their owners sides in the "Dog who looked most like its owner" competition. Once our very own Border Collie took second prize in the obedience competition - darn that attractive little poodle who distracted him with her fluttering eyelashes ... Some years we had challenged our neighbouring villages to a Tug-o-War - these battles were preformed in the heat of the afternoon, the partisan crowd cheering on their own team - good natured banter floated through the air, even though our rivals obviously had ringers in. Sometimes Marching Bands played, sometimes Morris Dancers preformed, always something special to keep the crowds interested.

At about 4 o'clock prize giving took place ... cries of "fixed" as the Rectors wife took a first in the hanging baskets, photos taken of the longest bean and its grower, self-congratulatory speeches made and then the auctioning off of all the vegetable entries. Then a pleasant sun-burnt walk home whilst the Festival Committee rushed around transforming the Marquee to a Dance Hall.

The Pig-on-a-Spit man arrived with two fatted specimens, the Band began tuning up and then the real party began ... the Hamper Hop ...

Everyone had pre-arranged which tables they would be sitting at, for weeks who would bring which salad had been discussed, now the all important task of eating, drinking and dancing began. In all our years there never once did we see any altercation at these parties, old grievances were buried (just for the evening) as the village joined together to celebrate, there was always plenty of time the next morning when the "clear up" teams arrived, for grudges to re-surface.


  1. The spirit of village life lives on . . . at least in some corners of England! Hurrah!!

  2. The backdrop to every Midsommer Murders episode!

  3. I love these stories Jane. I must delve into your back catalogue.

  4. the county fair, English style. Love you village tales.

  5. Little Hat - I hope you enjoy them!

    Ellen - Village Day was always fun - although murderous glances could be detected when the marmalade prize was given :)

  6. The sense of community in your little village sounds so idealistic, but people being people, at least you said that they put aside their less virtuous selves for a while. There are many small towns in the U.S. that still do those things, but I don't live in one. I grew up in Florida in the fifties and there were community events. In the northeast suburbs, people are not prone to neighborhood events. There could be a meth lab nearby and I wouldn't know about it.

  7. Lovely...I think the best part of village is the leisure u enjoy.
    We have these programmes here in cities. It's so crowded tht the only thought u woll have in ur mind is to get out as soon as u can

  8. R.J. - Village days were fun but the work behind them caused more than one major fallout!

    Jon - My kids always grumbled about the "hicks Day Out" but they always came along, even to the dance in the evening! I agree that there is no substitute in the city and they are very uncomfortable.

  9. I remember times like that - but not since I was a boy, more's the pity. Thanks for bringing it all back.

  10. I think they are celebrations of a bygone era - which is why it's nice to make the effort to keep them going.

    Most of the other Village Days in the area had succumbed to offering much more in the way of entertainment and attracted big budgets and big crowds ... this was much more genteel ... much more Midsommer Murders.