The Winter Fayre
Misty Longings – how still we see thee lie!
Were we eagles, with strength and grace to fly, we would swoop in awe, and hang on the wind, to watch the scene below. Nestled snug and perfect in rolling fields of mist, this village is indeed a jewel of ivy, stone and thatch. The cowslip sings and the holly berries burgeon; the horses whinny and the black birds hop. Who has not the wish to open their morning curtains on a place such as this? Where beauty is easy, and folk led home by lanes! Traditional, beamed, well seasoned by time – behold a green and pleasant village, in a green and pleasant land.
Misty Longings – where streets are cobbled and courteous; where, in winter snow, all is drift and white – road and field made briefly one in country cold; where in summer sun, apple blossom bursts, gentle-petalled, blessing warm country breeze with haunting scent of times gone by.
Misty Longings – how still we see thee lie, as Christmas comes and cold air grasps thy bones. And how we hope, and hope again, that for you, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Let us drop from our height, avert our eyes from the High Street hole, and walk the Winter Fayre. It’s only 30 pence entry, and all for a good cause.
The Annual Winter Fayre was not an unqualified success this year – but no blame should be attached to the vicar.
We discover Mrs Post by the flower stall, conversing with Alky.
‘We must not call the tourists ‘loathsome’,’ she said firmly.
‘Why ever not?’ asked Alky.
‘Or not to their faces, at least,’ clarified Mrs Post.
‘No back-biting, either? You deny me all pleasure, Deirdre.’
‘And the same goes for ‘noxious’ and ‘ill-bred’.’
‘They also are banned? But what if they are true? What if these particular words are gods in the pantheon of descriptive accuracy?’
‘Oh, they may be true, Algernon. But that is hardly the point!’
‘And what is the point?’
‘The point is what is appropriate; what is seemly.’
‘Is truth so easily dismissed?’
‘It is simply something we should not do; not a good example to set the impressionable young.’
‘I hope I have never set a good example to the impressionable young. They need putting down – not protecting! I hate them!’
The spirit of light banter had died prematurely. Alky was a charming man, but you never quite knew what was coming next.
‘There’s a rather random quality to the way Alky’s conversation proceeds,’ thought Mrs Post later that day. ‘It can be both pleasing and infuriating. I don’t think he himself knows whether he is joking or serious half the time!’
The Winter Fayre took place in and around the church, and the turnout wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good, either, but what can you do?
‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,’ Rex had said at one of the planning meetings.
‘Especially if there’s no water!’ said Lord Jo, continuing his negative take on events.
Rex found this unhelpful. After all, he wasn’t claiming the Winter Fayre was an all-dancing, all-singing entertainment extravaganza. They were a small village with limited resources – could Lord Jo not understand this? Rex just wanted a little support, because he was feeling the pressure; feeling as though the Winter Fayre was a referendum on his personal popularity – and that’s not nice for anyone.
This back story does explain, however, why on the day of the Fayre, Rex appeared on occasions to have a head twitch: he spent much of the time discretely counting heads.
And really, the turnout wasn’t bad; it really wasn’t. The Women’s Guild had laid on a coach to bring the ladies from Deep Longings and Much Needing, and they arrived in tremendous spirits, giving everyone a boost. Mr Johnson appeared to have worked his magic again: ‘You should be on the stage, Mr Johnson!’
‘I can’t afford the tights.’
‘Oh, Mr Johnson – you are a card!’
‘Not a queen, I hope. Got dealt one once – didn’t like him.’
There were also one or two better ladies from Lesser Needing, who had come by car, and had given lifts to the needy where appropriate. They had brought some marvellous marmalade, and definitely added a bit of class to the event. And the Scouts were there, God bless them! The troop was only six in number, and the Scout leader, a rather odd little man, but here they were, God be praised! And they tried so hard with their muffins, which were always to be applauded, if not necessarily eaten.
Jane bought six of them, and then went outside to throw them away, before they did any damage. It was here she met Lord Jo. ‘You’re never absolutely sure where those young hands have been,’ said Jane, as she emptied the bag in the bin.
She hoped to build bridges with Lord Jo after the stone and car incident. He had not spoken to her since, and seemed in no mood to break his silence now, managing only a grunt in response. He always felt uncomfortable at events like these anyway. In truth, he was probably uncomfortable at all events which did not involve either the digging or the filing of a hole.
Rex was delighted to see that the police had made it. He invited them every year, always, for as long as he could remember – but this was the first time they had actually responded in a positive manner. ‘Thank God for small mercies!’ said Rex to himself.
It was so important that the police knew their community, yet very often Rex was treated with some disdain by the desk sergeant when the matter of the Winter Fayre was raised: ‘We’ll see what we can do, Reverend, but frankly, this can hardly be a priority for us. Happy social events are all very well, but we’re not social workers – we work on the frontline; at the cusp of order and anarchy – drop our guard for a moment, and, well – it doesn’t bear thinking about.’
It was as if he was saying to Rex that he should run along now, and carry on with his irrelevant and slightly poncey churchy bits, while he, the desk sergeant, got on with a real man’s job. He didn’t say that, obviously; not in those words. But this is what Rex heard him saying.
‘I can read between the lines,’ thought Rex, and with some justification.
Yet this year, the police were here! Two ‘Peelers’ mixing with the community; and showing they could laugh and joke with the best of them. It was the police showing their human side, as only the English police can. Rex smiled from his posting at the tombola stand: ‘We may have fought a Civil War over such things, and with a certain loss of life. But perhaps it was worth it. For here displayed is the true genius of this small nation of ours!’
‘Dr Hafiz!’ exclaimed Patricia. ‘The man who never answers his phone!’
‘Perhaps I am guilty of not being a slave to it,’ he said with a smile.
‘You always have an answer!’
‘I am against all slavery.’
‘Oh well, quite, quite!’
‘Some people seem ruled by their phones.’
‘Well, Doctor, I can think of nothing worse than being ruled by a little pink object!’ blurted Patricia.
‘I think I take your meaning – your phone is pink?’
‘Of course! You didn’t think? – Oh, Dr Hafiz! You’re making me blush!’
There was undoubtedly a certain devilment in Dr Hafiz. He may or may not be the owner of a wig, but Patricia was not alone in finding the doctor teasingly flirtatious on occasion. Not that she was saying he was a pervert, or demanding he be struck off. In fact, she found it all rather attractive; not to be commended necessarily – but attractive. In future, though, she must just be more careful about how she used the phrase, ‘a little pink object’!
It was just then that one of the police guests approached them, and asked Dr Hafiz if he knew where Mrs Post was; they just wanted to ask her a few questions.
‘What sort of questions?’ asked the nosy doctor.
‘Just ongoing enquiries,’ said the copper.
‘Well add a missing patient to your ongoing enquiries,’ said Doctor Hafiz.
‘A missing patient?’ asked the policeman, suddenly interested in this dark-skinned fellow. ‘What sort of patient?’