Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Queen and I (and the Semley Village Fete)

A lot can change in a weekend. In the space of a few days I have become a royalist and decided to move out of London, marry a farmer and live in a village.

Perhaps I exaggerate, but I have certainly gained a new found appreciation for our Queen and for village life.

Anyone who's anyone may have been heading to London this weekend, but on Saturday afternoon I was sat on a train leaving the city. I was feeling the same way about the Jubilee as I feel about New Year's Eve: there was so much pressure to be having a good time and so much to be doing that, actually, I felt like doing nothing at all.

The reasons for heading back to Dorset also had a lot to do with the fact that I had just burst into tears in the supermarket when deciding whether to buy skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. The glandular fever monster had crawled out from under my bed and had decided to follow me like a particularly irritating and gloomy shadow.

On Sunday instead of being in the capital watching from beneath an umbrella, I was sat on the sofa eating trifle and watching the flotilla on the TV. In hindsight this was probably a much better idea, glandular fever or no glandular fever. 

It was watching the events on TV that turned me into a loyal fan of the Queen. Over 260 state visits in 60 years! That's more than 4 a year. Watching her standing in the rain and looking over 60 years of her reign (sorry - journalists must have had a field day with this one) I felt nothing but admiration. My admiration obviously wasn't quite as impressive as my mum's. None of my family are particularly interested in the royal family. My step-dad is Irish and given his way would probably have most of the royal family shot or at the very least locked up in the Tower. But there was my mum, crying at 'God Save the Queen'.

As a new royalist I was starting to regret not being more involved in the Jubilee, despite the inclement weather and my aversion to regimented fun. I was very happy, therefore, to get a spontaneous jubilee fix the next day at a very patriotic country fete.

 Nothing gives you a sense of English communities quite like the village fete. 

On Monday afternoon the people of Semley in Wiltshire were out in full force and wellies. The small village green was busy with bunting, union jacks and villagers eating scones and buying homemade jam and chutney.

I arrived early, so was lucky enough to see the royal carriage arriving, pulled by two hard working horses and supervised by two smart looking young soldiers.

The princesses looked on in anticipation as the Queen arrived...

... with a little help from her friends.
It seems that everyone at the fete was feeling more than a little patriotic.
I particularly enjoyed the dog show, including the judging of the Prettiest Bitch' ("Will the prettiest bitch please enter the ring") and 'Best Six Legs' ("Don't be shy men, roll up those trousers"). When it came to the prize for 'Best Child Handler', chaos ensued as puppies and children refused to behave.

It was in the baking tent that I decided village life might be for me after all. I could just picture myself as the most competitive baker in the village, baking more elaborate creations every year in an attempt to steal the prize of 'Best Sponge Cake' from the other women.

And men.

"Ed, you've finally been beaten! This year's prize for Best Men's Baking goes to a returning champion from four years ago."

I think we should seriously consider entering Welly Wanging as a sport in this year's Olympics.

After watching several men wanging some wellies and having to duck several times as the welly flew BACKWARDS through the sky, I realised there is a real art to throwing a wellington boot.

Old and young were flying the flag and making me feel very patriotic.

Some people were making me feel just plain jealous of their outfits. Like this little pink princess.

It was all concentration at the coconut shy and crockery smashing.
Even the houses in the village had dressed up for the occasion.

By the end of the day I was seeing the Jubilee for what it really was: a heartwarming and happy occasion that brought communities together and made me very proud to be British.

Before I left the fete I got the chance to pose for a photo with Her Majesty.

It was one woman's rather noble job to keep Her Highness propped up all afternoon as she kept falling over. Oh well, if one can't be a little tipsy after 60 years as Queen, what is the world coming to?


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