And here we go… the Legion Fête. It feels like years ago we were at the Village Fête, dying of heat exhaustion and too much Pimms, the bogeyman of the next fête looming up on the battered horizon.
Here we are.
The meeting of two days ago appears to have been a success. The band, about seventy percent of whom are vegetarian, have been placed next to the barbecue and all its meaty waftings. We talked about this, but the wind is unreliable, hopefully it will pick up a bit. The barbecue team are preparing their sauces and grilling a million onions.
I unload the cakes, made by Aimée in the wee small hours, and frosted up a storm by me this morning, from my car. I hand them to the Chairman’s wife. She looks suitably impressed, this is because she’s one of the kindest people you could hope to meet.
Aimée has got through two blenders and a dehydrator in the course of making dog treats. The first blender was the same age as herself, and perhaps had been operating on the edge for some time. This went unnoticed. On Friday afternoon, she filled the blender jug with fresh sprigs of parsley and mint, psyllium husk and some kind of liquid. There was an almighty crunch, a naughty utterance, and I flew from the sofa.
(Not sitting, but printing ingredients’ lists)
She was undamaged. Relief.
There was a huge crack up one side of the plastic jug, and a three finger hole knocked out of the side. It was as if she’d tried to blend a teaspoon.
Mint and parsley had spurted, green and gloopy, right up the kitchen wall. I drove like a maniac down to town and picked up a new blender. Glass jugged; many opportunities for life-changing injury there.
The dehydrator would have taken all the moisture out of the baked dog treats. Aimée decided to unplug it when it started glowing and making a strange, new noise. Her nervousness continued unabated, but having worked rather hard on the dog treats, she didn’t much fancy working the Friday night shift. I did it, on condition that she start the cake preparation. This felt like a brave move, given that she’d already murdered two appliances.
I went up to the Legion, brought in a delivery, filled the fridges and shelves, started serving and wound up talking penile injuries with the fellas at the bar. I don’t have any. It seems I haven’t lived.
Saturday morning was a slow start. A missed alarm clock. A late breakfast for the dogs. Elbow deep in frosting.
The cake stall has branched out, and taken on the new and dizzying heights of jams and chutneys. A couple of pots of wildly-overpriced honey have made it onto my table.
The membership secretary, the most highly organised and inexhaustible person I have ever known, thinks the stalls look thrown together. Dare we say ‘tacky’.
The first entertainment-seekers arrived before a handful of the stall-holders. This is a kind of keen we haven’t seen before. Alas, word has reached us that there is another fayre going on today, at a large country estate just down the road; they have a unicyclist. He juggles. One or two accusatory glances and a trip to the bar, methinks. The Guinness is flawless.
It is a day of wasps. They are drawn in by the jams and cakes, and seduced to the point of drowning, in my Guinness. One stinger side-swims in small circles across the creamy head, then slowly sinks to the bottom of the glass. I drink through gritted teeth, and then use Legion-embossed side plates to form a cover for my pint.
I am not the only baker in the village. Arguably, Aimée actually baked the cakes I delivered, but I bought the ready-mixes and I received the compliments. I promise, I passed on each and every one to the kitchen fairy.
Yet more cakes arrive. There are multitudes of cupcakes everywhere I look. It’s as if they’re reproducing every time I look away. There are meringues and gluten-free polenta cakes. There is a long discussion about what polenta actually is.
Small children, with well-meaning parents who are quite frankly cat people, torture my dogs. Poppy laps up the attention unless it comes with sticky hands and excited squealing. Pumpkin is terrified by the whole affair. There are too many people, and the small ones crowd around her, thrusting their hands across her soft and silken belly.
Aimée tells the parents that Pumpkin is getting scared, and it’s like me saying I don’t want to show ‘Intouchables’ – they smile and nod, but the words have lost all meaning.
Still early in the day but I vow revenge.
The band is brilliant, they do me proud. I have made something of a boo-boo, and started drinking in the sunshine. As they finish each song, I am the one who begins the applause. My clapping has an echo, I am surrounded by a wall of trees. The band might just as well thank me for my appreciation.
My achievements for the day are as follows: I got up, shook off the hangover, iced half a dozen sponge cakes and twenty-four cupcakes, delivered the same plus Aimée, two miniature dachshunds, a set of fencing spikes, a roll of warning tape, posters and various signage regarding the disposal of dog poop, and forty-eight rosettes to the Clubhouse. I have sliced and sold a lot of cakes, and had a couple of pints.
I have been congratulated on making (Aimée made them) the cakes from scratch (from a packet), on hiring the band (I did hire them, but I can take no credit for their talent), and the weather (sunny but not blistering, definitely not my responsibility).
My beauteous Saturday Nighters have held off singing the theme from ‘The Godfather’ and have taken up chairs behind the cake stall. They begin selling the cakes for me, so I can watch Aimée’s dog show. She does a cracking job. She loves the dogs, it’s glaringly obvious. I know for a fact that, in coming weeks, she might see any of the people who brought their hounds to the show, and she won’t remember them, unless they’re with the dog.
She’ll remember the dog.