Brian Viner; Country Life

The line-up of scarecrows, and the earnest expression of the woman scrupulously judging them, contributed to the wonderful fete-i-ness of Yarpole fete. It was precisely the ruddy-cheeked, bucolic occasion you would get if you ordered a classic English village fete from Central Casting. They would supply a scarecrow competition, a tug-of-war, a coconut shy, genteel women dispensing cream teas, and a brass band playing Is This The Way To Amarillo? - and so did Yarpole.

I took part in the tug-of-war. In the past I have only ever watched village fete tugs-of-war, and marvelled at the fact that both teams of eight seemed to have been hewn from old Herefordshire oak. But this one was open to weedier types, so I and my friend Will, who had come up from London for the weekend expecting to do nothing more energetic than unload his car, volunteered our services.

The contest was decided by the best of three, and remarkably our team won the first and last of them. If grotesque grimacing and sudden bursts of flatulence did us any good, then I can claim to have made a considerable contribution to our victory. But I think it was probably the 18-stone farmhand with forearms like hams who made the difference.

And I didn't really pull my weight in the construction of Madeleine the scarecrow, who was already fully formed when I got home from covering the tennis at Wimbledon. The children introduced me to her, and I was impressed, if slightly narked that she was wearing my favourite straw hat as well as a rather expensive pair of pink gardening gloves that I bought Jane for Christmas.

We were all a bit worried when we propped her up ready for inspection at the fete, because she was next to a far more conventional scarecrow, with a carrot for a nose. But I think the judge was swayed by Madeleine's sheer elegance. And if she fools the birds like she fooled our neighbour Carl, she will prove to be more than just a good-looker.

When we got home, I stood her with her arms outstretched over my cabbages, and that evening Carl, whose garden is next to our vegetable patch, reported that he had had a one-sided conversation with her, before realising that it wasn't Jane doing t'ai chi.

It was lovely to come home to such rural pleasures. Jane was pleased to have me back, too, not least because there always seems to be some spectacular domestic drama when I'm away. This time it involved a bat, which flew in through our bedroom window late one night and, as Jane tells it, began swooping terrifyingly at her. So she pulled the duvet over her head and screamed.

Luckily, her parents were staying in the spare room, and her dad thundered gallantly to the rescue, his heroism not at all diminished by my mother-in-law's anxious call after him: "Bob, are you wearing your pants?" He was. And he released the bat into the night. When Jane told me the details over the phone, and I ventured that the bat had probably been far more scared then her, she said, curtly: "No, it bloody wasn't."

'Tales of the Country', by Brian Viner, is on sale now (Simon & Schuster, (£12.99)

News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss