This is a story in seven acts. It was the village celebration for the Queen’s 90th Birthday this weekend. Okay, okay, a week earlier than everyone else in the Country, but months and months ago Charlie and I had inadvertently booked a few days off in Scotland, not realising that we were going to be no-where to be seen for the Queen’s official celebration weekend. With the chairman and the vice-chairman of the social club threatening to be away, the committee decided to bring the village affair forward by a week.
And here are the results.
ACT ONE: BAKING
Mavis and I stayed at home in the morning, drawing certificates for the prize winners. Charlie rushed off to Bridport and returned to create a frenzy of activity in the kitchen. He was entering both categories of the village bake-off. Best Victoria Sponge, and Best Scone.
We arrived at the Cricket pavilion to find many entries had already been submitted.
Rosettes and prizes laid out for the dog parade.
Early arrivals for the wheelbarrow race.
Cake stand filling up:
Ring side seats. Wheelbarrows lined up.
ACT TWO: THE JUDGING
Clare, who was a friend of a friend of a friend of someone who lives in the village, and who happened to be a part-time professional cake-baker, was designated as the perfect judge for the competition. No bias. She was very professional at cutting out a slice of each cake and laying it on top, first to test the texture, then the appearance, then the taste of the sponge. Presentation was taken into account also.
Kettles were readied on the stove.
Tension was rising. There was much discussion as to whether a Victoria Sponge can contain cream.
ACT THREE: THE PRIZE GIVING
A certain Mr Charles McCormick was the winner in the Best Victoria Sponge and Best Scone categories. FIX!!! That smile said it all though.
The best overall cake was won by a wild-card ‘Breaking the RULES category’. A Lemon Drizzle. Delicious. We all stopped and celebrated by having tea. All the cakes and scones were eaten in about 15 minutes flat. The village snoozed for a minute or two.
ACT FOUR: THE DOG PARADE
It was time to take the hounds to the ring. Mavis was out of herself with excitement.
Best six legs category:
THAT was a very very very waggy tail:
Best pair of dogs:
Mavis and her best friend won second prize.
Dog most like its owner:
In the distance, by the lake, the big house shimmered in the haze of the afternoon:
Worst behaved dog competition:
Mavis won that category, which is actually quite untrue when you think about it.
ACT FIVE: THE GAMES
Three legged race:
The sudden arrival of our esteemed landlord, and patron of the village show, dressed up in his uniform of High Sheriff of Dorset, was the next attraction. For American readers, this is how we dress every day over here. For Bridget Jones fans, no, we didn’t forget to tell him that the fancy dress competition was cancelled.
The Senior Egg and spoon:
You could tell from the position of one or two competitors at the line-up….
That this was not going to be an entirely fair race:
The main wheelbarrow race I did not photograph, because Charlie and I were too busy barrowing and being barrowed….
But it was a game enjoyed by all ages:
Charlie’s table looked like something out of Glyndebourne:
Much merriment had by all. The beers and rose were slipping down extremely nicely by this point. A bit like the occupants of the famous Gallic village that starts and ends every story of Asterix, we were all completely drunk, in the nicest possible way.
Egg tossing competition. You start close, and then each line takes a step apart before passing the egg to your partner.
Getting pretty nasty now.
Dorset Knob tossing competition. If you have no idea what a Dorset knob is, then please read here.
Victor. Although someone had loaded their knob with additional weights and threw it twice as far as the others. Disqualification ensued.
ACT SIX: ON THE BALCONY OF THE CRICKET PAVILION
Chatting late into the evening and putting the entire world to rights.
ACT SEVEN: REDEMPTION
It had been the most brilliant evening ever. One of the best the village has had in living memory, and my and Mavis’s lives were certainly made a great deal easier by the fact that Charlie had not had victory snatched away from him this year as in last years floral episode (remember that shocking tale?).
This morning we’d made a plan to visit our neighbour Kate for coffee. Bliss. We had popped down early to the Cricket pavilion to do a bit of clearing up, and then had a slice of two of left-over bacon and egg pie for breakfast, and a couple of cups of strong coffee, and then pottered down the valley.
Kate lives in an old dairy shed next door to the extraordinary farm that her parents bought here some 50 years ago. On what was a sloping potato field, her father has created over this time a magical, beautiful, extraordinary garden, like nothing else you have seen. After all the jolly japes, here is something a little calmer to start your Monday morning with.
The ancient house, with its beautiful interiors, is one of the most SPECIAL of all the buildings we were lucky enough to photograph for my new book (sorry to keep on mentioning it, but it just fits in the story, that’s all). It is serene. For now, you can get a sense, I hope, of this extraordinary place.
Kate’s perfect veg patch, surrounded by fields of grazing sheep:
We came home, after making another valley-stop with our friends Chris and Caddy (who’s interiors you might spot if you read my last book carefully). We interrupted completely their afternoon of busy work in the garden and we descended in to refreshing beers and chit chat and sitting in the hot hot hot sun.
We finally got home. Charlie planted things out in the veg garden while Mavis and I went for a long walk, taking in along the way the cricket ground, where a match was in progress on what is I suppose the most idyllic (if not the most level) field in England.
Mavis was MOST disappointed to find that there weren’t fifty dogs running wild on the pitch this afternoon.
We went past the lake,
And called in at the walled garden:
And it was with a slightly heavy heart that I said goodbye to all this, this evening, and took the train back to London.
We’re really, really sad to be missing the great Dog Show this weekend at the shop, when Rugby Street and Lambs Conduit Street get taken over for a huge street party for the Queen’s Birthday. Mavis, we now know, LOVES a dog show. But she, with us, will be on the shores of the Mull of Kintyre, far, far away from the world. Have a great celebration, wherever you are!