The Rev. Richard Coles referred this morning to the church fêtes that he is no doubt required to attend in his patch, and as he referred to it on BBC Radio 4 I am sure he will now be invited to even more, possibly up, as well as down, the land. I wasn’t really listening at the time; I had been much more taken with the earlier item on the church being requested to carry out exorcisms (uncommon) or deliverances (more common). It seemed incredible (in the literal meaning) that one member of the clergy had carried out thousands of such requests.
Anyway, shortly after I heard all this in the car, and with me only half-listening to the item on church fêtes because they are, after all, dull, we stopped at some lights right outside a church with – would you believe it – a fête in full bloody swing. Kids are in the back and I’m suckered – again. Every year, this happens. Oh yes, I think, got to support the community and the kids are begging because the church have got their mercenary wits about them and have made sure every child in the hood can see the bouncy castle from the road, and I cave in and we go.
This year, I at least had the presence of mind to ban face painting as the queue is always long and slow and the results mainly horrendous… So with that interdiction in place, and only a small quantity of change in my purse, that is the other lesson learnt over the years -what money you go in with you are not going to come out with, exchanging it for a minute on the bouncy castle, a go on the rigged coconut shy, and the pile of shit on the stalls is compulsory – we went in.
I took the dog because that always makes people stay away from me, seeing as I look like a single mum from an encampment under a hedge, but when when I got there I remembered it would be jolly bad form to let him cock his leg at a fête in a churchyard, which made me a bit tense and probably, wordlessly, conveyed itself down the lead to him as he fixed his aim on the nearest headstone. Or maybe it was the sudden yanking of the lead I went in for when I suspected that thought of even crossing his mind.
You can measure the passage of time by your annual attendance at the church fête. My oldest no longer begged for anything much. She turned down the bouncy castles and the Lucky Shit, I mean Dip and stood round being cool for most of the time. At one point she disappeared before hoving into view round the bell tower, with a burger in hand. She had not asked if she could buy it, she had taken her own money and paid for it herself. That’s very nearly a teenager on my hands. Thanks church fête for pointing it out.
The weather is what the English try not remember as being June weather: chilly, extremely windy and threatening to rain. I was told that some of the stalls had removed to the safety of the church hall. I was glad about this because it meant that even the children ran out of rubbish to spend money on and I was able to leave with one pound intact; also, there was less for the dog to cock his leg up.
I just wandered around, wondering at the English and their ways. A woman of at least 30 had her face painted, another woman was berating her partner (?) about the need for courtesy and politeness – she was doing this very loudly and was quite aggressive. Some of the stall holders were clearly enjoying wearing the traders short aprons for money, jingling their change at you if you even entertained the look of a potential customer on your face for a millisecond. There were singers, one was quite good. Then there was the Phantom of the Opera which reportedly caused a child to go walking about with her hands over her ears. There was also a curious gentleman with a keyboard. He seemed incapable of standing still whilst playing and singing, and during an interesting rendition of ‘Fly me to the moon’ he managed to variously: whack himself on the head with his fixed microphone and tangle his legs in the legs of an upturned chair which one suspects he started his set seated on. He completed his performance by playing the keyboard whilst kneeling on the grass, in which awkward position he could not keep still either.
It was about this point someone did approach me to make a fuss of the dog. He was a tall man with a carrier bag and I could see, almost immediately, that he was hanging over the dog so much that Rudi’s tail had jammed itself between his legs and was stuck to his undercarriage. I made my excuses and moved off to inspect the weatherbeaten plant sale. Lobelias @ 30p – bargain. The wind got up, I decided it was hazardous now and we made to leave, but not before we had to step round the same dog-lover we had escaped minutes before. This time he was lying on the ground with his head on a spaniel; the spaniel’s bemused owner was still holding the lead whilst talking to someone and pretending that a complete stranger wasn’t lying on his dog. I could see it in his eyes: this is not happening. And so it wasn’t.
Until next year.