If swarms of cyclists, cream teas at the shop and house sale signs aren't enough to signal the advent of summer in our village, you can be sure it has arrived once all the local event notices go up.
Throughout the summer months, these little signs mushroom at T-junctions, sharp bends in the road and in front of the Church and the village shop; the landlady even permits a select few on the pub’s grass verge. They urge you to attend all manner of summer events – steam fairs, gardens open for charity, summer fetes, mediaeval jousts, and fun dog shows - to mention but a few variations on a theme. For the more highbrow there are string quartets with Pimms, and Shakespeare in pub gardens; then open air evening performances of operas, or the 1812 complete with canons. You could fill every weekend with these events, and still be spoilt for choice.
Tramp and I went to our first summer fete last weekend, held on our village green in aid of the local school. The hot weather had brought everyone out, and we chatted to friends and neighbours we met as we took a leisurely stroll around stalls. The beer tent in the far corner acted like a magnet to the thirsty, a useful half-way point to cool down. Indeed, so popular was it that they ran out of beer later in the afternoon, and after a frantic ring-around, Brian volunteered to drive to the fete being held a couple of villages away to buy one of their surplus barrels (at a huge profit to them).
Each event followed fast on the heels of the one before throughout the afternoon. I felt for the children performing their country dances and sports displays in the central arena where there was no shade; and similarly, because of the heat, I couldn’t put Tramp, or myself as his escort, through the ordeal of the ‘fun’ dog show (and surely these shows are really for children with their pets?) Permeating all arena activities, and filling the brief gaps in between, were booming announcements given by someone who had evidently always longed to hold a microphone to his mouth, and who should never have been allowed within arm’s length of one.
We did our part, though, to help replenish the school’s coffers for the year, although I’m not sure what the money is needed for. I seriously doubt any child in the school’s entire catchment area is in dire need of books, pencils or crayons, or even an iPhone or iPad, or two. Besides buying tickets for every raffle we came across, we bought cakes at the cake stall and an ice cream at the ice-cream stand; we bought cold drinks and yes, a beer or two from the beer tent. We had a cream tea later in the tea tent. We bought sweets and plants; second hand books I shall probably never read; and a selection of cheeses – to go with the bottle of red I won on the bottle stall.
All good things must come to an end, and once I felt we had thoroughly investigated everything every stall had to offer, Tramp and I took our leave. As I wandered past the shop and the pub I noticed how eerily quiet they were – although the pub may not have opened yet for the evening, of course. It occurred to me that there were probably ten times as many people at the fete than would normally frequent both premises combined, on a single day – and that like me, they were all buying what both the shop and the pub sold every day of the week.
So rather than raising funds, the school fete really re-distributed what could otherwise be local business income – and then some. I wondered if the cheese had come from the shop in the first place.