17 August 2008

holidays at home 2: the church fete

I must confess to being rather fascinated by church fetes. I put it down to the time I won 10 shillings on the "throw a ping pong ball into a jar" stall at St George's in the East ( I was lucky - the vicar was so incensed that he removed the offending 10/- jar). There's the promise of easy money, cakes, books, plants bottles and white elephants. Then there's the added will-it -won't-it excitement of whether it will rain or not. And, of course, all those excellent women, from the rather severe ones on the gate demanding the 20p entrance fee to the rather gentler women who make and sell home knitted matinee coats.

I shouldn't be surprised if there is not some rather subtle management hierarchy involved in the organisation. Barbara Pym would have known. She is the mistress of church fundraising events. A quick flick through my Pym book stash takes you through the complete ecclesiastical calendar from Christmas Bazaars, autumnal jumble sales (to lighten those long days in ordinary time) to the summer garden party. She even touches on the rivalry between local churches. In Excellent Women, Sister Blatt, staunchly C of E, is outraged by Roman Catholic Mrs Ryan - " Well, really, that woman has a nerve, inviting me over to their jumble sale next week."

There was a touch of that yesterday - I saw a funny little scene where the Irish ladies from the Catholic Church over the road who had a few half hearted stalls outside their church, refused to pay their 20p entry fee because they supposedly only wanted a cup of tea. I didn't believe it for a minute. But the gatekeeper, only a temp while his mum was herself having a cup of tea, was utterly perplexed as to how to deal with them until a higher ranking officer, the lady running the plant stall, intervened and shuffled them through with an "of course they don't need to pay".

The outing was worth it just to see the church itelf. St Mary's Church goes back nearly 700 years. It's built in the middle of Bow Road - something to do with King Edward III deciding it was the only land available - with traffic thundering round it on each side. If you're able to ignore the noise, you could easily be in the country somewhere.

For such a small community, the fete was pretty good. You'd have to be stony hearted, or stony broke, to come away with nothing. Our haul was three books, a chipped plate, this cake and a jar of lemon curd. Plus some plants of course, we always come away with some plants.

It was a rather lovely afternoon, stepping into another world for a while. On the walk home we stopped off at an unfamiliar pub ( I wanted to poke my nose in their supposed beer garden). The garden was dull and uncherished. But there was a rough patch of ground that they had fenced off where I noticed some blackberries growing. That plate came in handy.

The blackberries were juicy and delicious, locally grown of course and - I hold my hand up to this - even better because they were scrumped.

Which did not bother me much to tell you the truth. Until I saw this on the way home.

Thought I better let you know in case you don't hear from me again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't been to a church fete since I was a young girl but your post has reminded me how much I used to love them. Especially the fancy dress contest (although I never ever won).