The Cottage Smallholder

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The Withersfield Village Fête. Old England at its best.

Gardener's Garters bought from the plant stall

Gardener's Garters bought from the plant stall

“You know the stand where people break crockery. How does that work? Are there prizes?”
I had watched fascinated as people threw wooden balls at shelves of crockery. Listening to the encouraging roars when someone managed to break something or at best create an avalanche that slid satisfactorily down the shelves, smashing the odd piece on its way.
“Ah!” Declared C conspiratorially, “no prizes. It’s done for the pure hell of it. In fact there’s lots of crockery in the Flea Market next door. You could buy it and smash it at home. Of course you’d have to clean up the mess.”

Yes there had been a pretty 1960’s tea service that I’d spotted in the Flea Market. I’d fancied buying it but knew that Danny would be grumpy if I sashayed into the cottage with yet another box of stuff.

Seraphina and I were at the Withersfield Village Fête. A proper old fashioned affair filled with the sort of stalls that I used to see at fêtes when I was a child. A coconut shy stood beside the tent housing the brass band. Amongst the highlights for me were the afternoon teas, beer tent, plant stall, grand raffle and of course a groaning book stall.

We weaved our way through hordes of children that had visited the face painting stand. A tall smart man in moleskin trousers bent down to examine the long black whiskers painted on the face of a small girl in a summer frock.
“Are you a lion or a pussy cat?”
She drew back a little and glanced up at her mum.
“I’m a pussy cat.”
“And very fine you look too.”

The smell of freshly cut grass, the threat of showers, the thin megaphone voice announcing that there was a bottle of vodka for ticket 247 – sadly not mine – sum up the delicious pleasure of a good church fête. The sense of a community coming together to raise money. It’s an integral part of an English summer.

We left for home laden with plants and books and passed a cricket team on another village green, beetling towards a tiny pavilion to avoid a shower. Tiny doll sized figures facing triumph or commiseration but for all, a large sustaining cricket tea.

If you live within driving distance the Withersfield Village Fête is well worth a visit next year.

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  1. Thanks Joey! You are so right that I’m not a Brit. I live in rural California. and while we have our share of local fairs and festivals, I’d never heard of a coconut shy before.

  2. Juanita

    A fete! How cool. Very “Mr Bean’s Holiday” 🙂

  3. lynnblok

    This is one of the things that I really miss about England

  4. …. I meant KNOCK them off.. doh!

  5. Della, possibly you are not a Brit, or don’t live in the rurals! A coconut shy is an integral part of any village / school fete.. tall poles with coconuts resting on the top of them.. You stand behind the line and throw wooden balls at them to know them off. If you do, you win the coconut! Ahh simple pleasures!. Plenty of village fairs round our way (herts/essex border) and often a bargain to be found and we all love a bargain. the bric a brac stall is always my weakness, one man’s rubbish is another man’s traeasure and all that. Have got many a wooden shelf (now sanded down and given new leases of life) functioning beautifully in my home from fairs gone by.

  6. You said “A coconut shy stood beside the tent housing the brass band.” What the heck is a coconut shy?

  7. Sandra

    I admire your restraint in not buying the tea-set – it must have been really difficult. I now have to curb my addiction for buying pretty china as I have far too much. I could probably set up a stall of my own!

  8. Ruthdigs

    You’ve re-awakened memories of my primary school fete – they had a smashing crockery stall all filled with blanks from the local Poole Pottery. Another favourite was trying to soak the teacher, and splat the rat. Ah – the nostalgia – lovely to hear there’s still some traditional fete’s going strong.

  9. KateUK

    Watch out for Gardeners Garters…it SPREADS!
    Best in a controlled space,VERY controlled.

  10. Magic Cochin

    We’ll have to do it all again next year and better? – crikey! No pressure then!

    It was a lovely surprise to see you and Seraphina at the our Village Fete. I’m pleased you enjoyed yourselves – BTW no-one bought the Meakin ‘Swirls’ tea set, I think it’s been taken to a local charity shop.


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