As we were directed to the Exhibitors’ car park by the local parish verger who was marshalling for the day in an attractive “hi-vis” rain poncho, he couldn’t help himself from mentioning that he hadn’t seen me in church much recently. Yeah, well buddy try working night shifts together with overtime and then see if you have enough energy for a rousing chorus of “All things bright and beautiful”. So instead I just gave him a vague smile and asked him to point me in the direction of the Cakes & Handicrafts Marquee.
My accident-prone niece and I gingerly carried the boxes together with the cake remains across to the tent. We squelched through the water-logged field in our wellies, waving at various neighbours and family friends whilst searching for the marquee.
Sally who was a former district nurse and whose farmer husband was leading a bull over to the livestock arena, shouted across at me “rash alright now”? As she had been retired over twenty years and the rash to which she referred was infantile German measles clearly, one of us needed to get out more.
“She’s been jilted since then Sal”! My niece yelled back at her, shooting a quick grin at me. As my darling nieces have the lungs of a giant blue whale, there will never be a need for the use of a public address system in our family!
“Could never really take to that young man; one or other of his family always had impetigo! Honestly, I think his mother’s unsavoury hygiene was to blame”.
My day was just getting better and better; I’d just discovered that the traitor who’d abandoned me practically at the altar was also germ-ridden and insanitary. In hindsight it that may well have been a blessing in disguise and spared me from a gruelling course of tetanus injections not to mention weeping open sores.
We found the marquee and handed the boxes over to my mother’s friends in the Women’s Institute where they were busying themselves with setting up the trestle tables and displays. We made a quick getaway before the full extent of the cake catastrophe could be discovered and went in search of the refreshment tent, where I was hoping to find something a little more substantial than the cereal bar I’d had for breakfast.
The female members of our clan spent a leisurely afternoon dodging the downpours, watching the displays and catching up with friends and neighbours.We enthusiastically cheered on the participants in the Tug of War, the Dog Show, Falconry displays and the Gymkhana ’til we were hoarse.
My Dad shadowed all afternoon by his minders, the dynamic duo, demonstrated avoidance techniques that the Special Forces would have envied. He managed to navigate the entire showground all day without being detected by my mother which frankly was an amazing accomplishment as I can assure you she has a built-in sonar when it comes to locating me and my sister. I remember once being sat in the hairdressers chair awaiting a cut and blow dry when she rang my mobile which I ignored so she doggedly rang the salon instead until I resigned myself to the fact, that my mother was like a Mountie and would always get her (wo)man in the end.
My mother was keen to catch the start of the home baking judging and hurried us all over to the Womens’ Institute Marquee. I steered her away from most of the organisers on the pretense of wanting to catch a better view from the other side of the Marquee.
The vicar had been invited to start the judging in the home baking competition but as he started his speech, he leaned back against the trestle table and it was then that the table leg started to disappear into the mud and slowly topple over, scattering all the beautifully displayed competition entries onto the mud. Boxes and jars of preserves crashed into a pile on the wet earth below. Audible gasps could be heard throughout the audience.
Ernie or could have been Sid hissed rather indiscreetly from the rear of the marquee “There is a God”!
The vicar quickly recovered from his flustered status to utter those immortal words “Let Us Pray”. I couldn’t help but think that he needed to ask for deliverance from the fury that was the Women’s’ Institute. All was not lost; my Dad sensing that he had dodged a bullet, graciously gave the Vicar a couple of bottles of his latest vintage of dandelion wine.