Thursday, the maiden aunt of the working week, and for myself – the point in the seven day cycle when I email my delightful Movie Nighters, all one-hundred and sixty-three of them, in the hopes a dozen or so might show up for the film on Monday.
As I have for the last few weeks, I will also remind them about the Legion Fête on Saturday. I have no doubt I am an occupant in Spam boxes all around the village. Not the sole resident, I’m sure I’ll be there with adverts for viagra and bogus correspondence from what appears to be HMRC.
I’ve decorated every lamp-post in the village, some of the posters have stayed up (not all, some of them will have been torn down as I have rounded the corner), we got two large write-ups in the local property paper, and I took out an advert in the freebie. I finally understand why the free paper is so relatively affordable; an ad the size of a generous postage stamp cost the same as six months of car tax.
Tonight we have our inaugural Fête Committee Meeting.
We’ve spoken before, of course. Usually, our chats have been infused with alcohol, with promises forgotten, raffle pledges rapidly shelved, stalls opened and closed inside tequila chasers.
Tonight’s meeting is different. We will be called to order. We will have minutes, and attendance and any other business. We will, doubtless, have it explained to us – why we’re having a meeting about the biggest event outside of New Year’s Eve two days before said event. If there is something we have forgotten, we still have two, wide and yawning days to fix it. We will go home before we reach addled, smiling drunkenness.
This has become serious.
At the meeting, we slouched our way to the bar. Collected pints and flooded the small snug bar, cosier and more seventies-opulent than the rest of the building put together. We sit; the sitting is strategic.
The Fête Chairman sits at one end of the room, the barbecue team are at his side; the yoof section, innit d’oh, sit opposite the Chair, leaning in across the table, eager, energetic, maybe ready to take over should the Chair be assassinated.
The bar manager sits behind them, a little further down the room, crossed-legs with ankle over knee, he asserts his dominance by jiggling his foot and checking his phone. I sit near him, furthest away from the bar, a good line of sight over everyone in attendance. I will have to raise my voice if they’re to hear me. This is not a problem.
The Chair speaks of how unfortunate it is that we haven’t had a formal meeting before tonight. We form a chorus of ‘Ah, life’ shruggers.
The business begins. Tonight, we are to plot out where the various stalls and gazebos will be placed in the grounds, and take note of expenses. The excitement in the room is palpable.
The Chair looks to me: the band. I am not the band. I am friends with the band. I booked them, I know them, and I’ve been crowing about getting them for several weeks now. I’ve become quite tiresome.
The band are amazing, I tell the assembly, they will bring their own PA (not the secretary sort, the sound system sort – sadly, I needed this explaining to me, so now I explain the difference at every possible interval), they have a set list, can take requests and are very talented. We will need to pay them. I throw this little nugget in last because there’s every chance it will be remembered.
Various half-jokes are made about why we can’t find a band who will play a gig for free. It is pointed out that we’ve had a band using the Clubhouse for practise sessions over the last few weeks, and some of the assembly didn’t think they were much cop. The word “awful” may have cropped up. The male singer sounds like he has a throat infection, and the drummer surely wears special built-up shoes, such is the force with which he hits the bass drum.
Undoubtedly, they owe us a free gig, or two, but having asked them in the past what they would charge us were they to charge us, I know we can’t pay. One thousand pounds. Sterling.
I’m quite happy to get my friends in. Not only cheaper, they’re better. By a long, long way.
The barbecue: the catering team have everything under control. They have sourced vegetarian burgers as well as meat patties, rolls by the hundred, they’re bringing their own gas barbecue – not the same authenticity as charcoal, but a greater degree of certainty over the adequate control of botulism. They have onions and cheese slices, and are erecting a pavlova the size of my car over the course of Friday evening.
We move on. Bouncy Castle. Da yoof have sorted this. Cue an eyelid-drooping conversation about insurance, and where to site the bouncy castle so as to bring the young people in. Da yoof are also in charge of a raffle, with a jaw-dropping number of prizes accumulated at this stage. He’s also planning on a cycling competition. This is all terribly impressive, until we realise he intends to run all three at once.
Quite quickly, he is convinced to stay on the bouncy castle, leave the raffle to the membership secretary and see how it goes regarding the cycling. If we have filled everyone up with beetroot burgers, hotdogs and cake, a round of speed-cycling might be a bit too much, digestively speaking.
Aimée will run her dog show.
Hilary will have a glad rags’ stall.
The Chair will run a bottle stall.
I’m on cakes, as we are clearly well-acquainted. They laugh, which I had hoped for. They don’t disagree, which is annoying.
The bar manager stops jiggling his knee and asks how we intend to run the bar.
The barmaid who was due to take on serving duties in the rota is unable to work this weekend. Almost everyone who is trained for the bar is running a stall. There are three exceptions: the Club Chairman, who will be assisting variously at every stand throughout the day, bar manager number one, who intends to make Pimms, and bar manager number two, who is appropriately numbered.
We’ll take it in turns, we decide.
We shall see.