Thursday, 20 August 2009

It's Party Time!!!

Whilst the villagers are a friendly outgoing lot, on the whole, it's a quiet place to live. There are the usual villagey events to attend, fetes, sales, open garden weekends, charity events, the occasional concert - most recently up at the very big house nearby with Katherine Jenkins. A group of villagers got together to attend, each taking something along for the party, each taking their own choice of seating, so there was a mix of large squashy floor cushions for the slightly younger and more agile namely Sue and Lizzie and their partners, Violet and Laurie had deckchairs which they had no trouble setting up, and Hugh and Tilly somehow managed to take along two rather smart cane chairs and cushions. The food was light and delicious apparently, mini things like quiche, chicken satay, salads, home-made pizzas, individual cheesecakes and bowls of fresh fruit, freshly baked rolls, and iced peach tea, sparkling pink wine and fruit punch. A veritable feast it sounds, and a good evening was had by all. You take a risk booking so far ahead with our weather of course, but the evening was dry and sunny and warm, and they chose a spot with some shade from the setting sun, and not too far from the stage. The fireworks which always appear at the end of these concerts, were magnificent as ever, if over too quickly for some of us who enjoy the free show from our bedroom windows!

Normally not party animals, the villagers seem to have been bitten by the party bug this last month, as there have been several more unusual parties.

The first was held at the beginning of the month on a nearby beach, when a group of locals decided it might be fun to hire a beach hut for the day and spend it by the sea. This party included Pru and Leonard from Orchard Farmhouse who had organised it, Phoebe, Hugh and Tilly, Daisy and Alan, who by now are considered 'an item' and very happy on it they look too, and Violet from the gallery. The men folk, as is often the way, decided to set up a small portable barbecue, and the women provided the food, as is usually the way! The day began cloudy, and hearts sank in various houses as curtains were opened and the grey skies revealed. Phoebe thought it didn't matter, after all, you could always sit in the beach hut and play poker, or bridge, or Scrabble maybe. Neither Violet nor Pru and Leonard were fazed by the greyness, Hugh and Tilly always optimistic just assumed it would get better as the day went on, and Daisy and Alan didn't care either way as long as they were together! Pru and Leonard took Phoebe and Violet, while Daisy and Alan happily squashed in the back of Hugh's old Rover.

The beach hut was at the very end of a long line, and by the time our group arrived, several already had doors open, children and adults milling around, and the smell of frying bacon was in the air. There was a glint of sunlight reflecting off the water on the distant horizon, and Hugh was convinced that it was coming their way. But nobody seemed to mind at all. A radio was playing classical music softly inside the beach hut, and people just pleased themselves as to what they did. Violet and Phoebe were happy with their books, the Scrabble was set up for anyone ready for a game, some went for a walk hand in hand along the sand (and no guessing who!). The barbecue proved to be a success, the sun came out by lunchtime and a gentle sea breeze blew. The people watchers were happy to sit and people watch, the older members of the party needed a little nap, and despite the fact there were several other beach huts in use, it wasn't particularly noisy, and the group stayed until late in the evening. On the way home they stopped off at a well-known pub where Pru and Leonard treated everyone to freshly cooked fish and chips, a perfect end to a lovely summer's day outing.

If you lived in certain parts of the country, then you will have had a wonderful view of the meteor showers. In our part of the world, you really needed to be away from the glare of street lights and so on, and going out into the countryside was your best option. Daisy's Alan (as everyone calls him) lives a few miles from here, in an old farmworker's cottage. It was actually a pair, but the previous owner knocked the two tiny houses into one reasonably sized one, perfect for an Alan, and maybe a Daisy too? He is blessed, so he thinks being a keen astronomer, with no lighting nearby, even the closest village is little more than a hamlet and has old fashioned street lighting, not this awful orange version that most of us have to put up with. So light pollution is minimal, non-existent really, and Alan decided to have a meteor shower party! Which has to be a first?

Everyone was invited.... even Elsie and the Major. Elsie wasn't particularly interested in astronomy, once she had it explained to her it was nothing to do with forecasting your future, but any chance for a mingle with the locals and free food and Elsie couldn't resist. Especially not when the Major offered to take her in his car! Now this caused a few raised eyebrows as you can imagine... old Moanalot and the Drama Queen getting it on? I don't think so, but it would be nice to think they had someone else to moan at apart from the rest of us.

Again, we were blessed with a lovely evening, more importantly, the early hazy cloud of sunset had dispersed and there was a vast expanse of dark sky by ten o'clock. The party began with a barbecue at eight, Alan has a proper brick built outdoors one which he is very proud of. He also had one of those brick ovens built, a la Jamie Oliver... turns out he is a keen cook, much to Daisy's delight and consternation, the latter because she has spent some time slimming down and now falls in love with a man who is a superb cook! When dusk fell, most of the outdoor lights were turned off, and everyone had a superb view of the night sky by the time it was dark, and were delighted by the flashes of light, and the dashing across the sky of lights. It perhaps wasn't as spectacular as in some areas, but there were 'Oohs' and 'Aahs' all the same, and more importantly, everyone had enjoyed a lovely social evening.

Not so far from here are a group of three villages which share a vicar who is keen on holding events at the church, or in the vicarage garden, to raise funds for local causes, like the Youth Club, the Oldies Club, getting computers into the shared village school and so on. As anyone who has been involved with fundraising knows, it is hard to come up with something different, to attract the attention of locals and get them keen to participate. So he's decided that there needs to be a theme which can run and run, so taking away the necessity to come up with new ideas. He has decided that whatever activities there are, whatever games, whatever food and drink, has to begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. Now this year is the first, so should have been an 'A', but he decided that it allowed little scope, and was causing as much angst and stress as trying to think up a new idea anyway. But when he thought of the letter 'B', apparently ideas just kept 'fizzling into my head' he said.

So the vicarage fundraiser is to be a 'B DAY'.. it took a while for it to sink in with Elsie, and the vicar, why this was so funny! There will be bowls, of the ten pin, skittle and crown green type - luckily the vicarage, as is often the case, is a large rambling pile with huge gardens and there is a paddock as well, for the days when the vicar had a horse and carriage and needed somewhere for the horse to frolic. Bingo inside the conservatory, Battledore in the orchard (battledore and shuttlecock is centuries old, and played with two people, who have to hit a shuttlecock between them with bats for as long as they can without it hitting the ground), Board Games, a Bridge tournament, Bat and Ball games in the paddock. This is as far as his list extends but he is open to suggestions, the event is in ten days time. As for food, I believe this is proving trickier, so far he has come up with Bananas, as in sandwiches and splits, Beetroot, Beef, and Butties (which Elsie says is pushing his luck, but I can see the humour in it). Blinis and Baked Alaska were suggested, but discounted for various reasons, such as a lot of people wouldn't have heard of the former and the latter would be impossible to bake in large quantities. Biscuits seems a good idea he was told, and maybe Barbecue, someone could set one up and sell all sorts of barbecued food, from chicken and Burgers (another B there vicar!) to fresh fruit. Anyway, it all sounds promising and different, this bidet.

Before that though we all have an important event this coming weekend, when Hugh and Tilly are getting married. It hasn't come as much of a surprise, and everyone is delighted - well, of course Elsie had something derogatory to say about it, as she does most things, and muttered comments of 'Ridiculous at their age' to the Major during a private conversation they were having at the night of the meteor shower party. Nothing is private with Elsie, she has a voice like the proverbial foghorn, which only seems to have one level. The Major harumphed and said 'Quite agree m'dear, downright silly', at which Elsie made a quiet 'Mmm' and looked off into the distance, and the Major then went red and coughed into his handkerchief rather noisily.

The service will be in the Church, which several of us have offered to decorate. Knowing Hugh's love of flowers, this makes me a little anxious, but I am sure he will have other things on his mind. We are keeping it simple, English flowers both tamed and wild, tied in small bunches with raffia and displayed around the church. There will be a small luncheon party at a nearby hotel, just for what little family they have and closest friends, and then friends are invited to the reception from three o'clock onwards, held at Pru and Leonard's as they have all that lovely outdoors space - we are all certain the sun will shine on them, but if not, a marquee will be erected for a small dancing area with tables around the edge, opening out onto the orchard where tables and chairs will also be set up, bunting and fairy lights. The newly-weds ('Ridiculous, calling them that at THEIR age!' grumps Elsie) will be having a week's honeymoon in the Cotswolds, and we wish them all the happiness in the world, such a lovely couple they make.

And so there will be plenty more of the empty bottles, party poppers, dirty glasses and smeary food plates to be cleared away, but luckily Pru and Leonard are paying for someone to do this so there won't be the usual, awkward mutterings of offers of help grudgingly offered and eagerly accepted. And August will come to a close, summer winding down and autumn slowly approaching for the villagers, and who knows what this will bring?