Brian Viner: 'If Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes by a brass band don't evoke England at its best, I'd like to know what does'

The Docklow summer fete in aid of the perennially needy church roof takes place in our garden on Saturday afternoon, and although there are a few signs along the A44 publicising this seismic event in Docklow's social calendar, a plug in a national newspaper can't do any harm, and might even help us – though I don't expect anyone will come from Camden Town or even Leamington Spa – to steal a lead over some of the other village fetes, fairs, fayres, shows, galas, fun days, point-to-points, steam engine rallies or whatever else is taking place in north Herefordshire this weekend.

You have to be ruthless in the dog-eat-dog – or, for those who have followed our bucolic misadventures these past six years, the dog-eat-sheep – English countryside to get punters along to your event, especially if the next village is offering a hog roast, or a tug-of-war, or a welly-wanging contest, or anything you're not. We had a chocolate fountain and a brass band at ours one year, and if an interpretation in brass of various Andrew Lloyd Webber favourites, danced to on a parched lawn by chocolate-smeared toddlers, does not evoke England at its best, I'd like to know what does.

Naturally, these occasions are spread over the whole summer, but so plentiful are they even in a county as thinly populated as Herefordshire, that unfortunate clashes are inevitable. Given the keen competition, you also have to put some thought into the name of your event. It is ironic that the French word "fete" has supplanted the old English "fayre", but then you have to borrow foreign influences as and when they suit. Some years ago, I went to a Highland Games near Atlanta, Georgia. It was full of folk in kilts tucking in to cock-a-leekie soup, followed by haggis, neeps, tatties and cranachan, and comparing wee drams of Glenfiddich with wee drams of Auchentoshan. The following summer, I went to a Highland Games near Dundee, where everyone wore jeans, ate hamburgers and drank either Coke or Budweiser.

As for that word "fayre", I don't suppose I'm alone in wincing when I see it. The arbitrary use of medieval English is quite properly considered naff by all right-thinking people, and was beautifully lampooned in a cartoon I saw the other day in a years-old copy of Private Eye. It had two soldiers with crossbows looking down anxiously from the battlements of a besieged castle, and another turning disconsolately to the noble-looking man beside them saying, "Sire, the gifte shoppe has fallen!"

Anyway, who needs ye olde English when fetes and fairs are already such traditional rural occasions?

Ours, in truth, is not a particularly ambitious event, but it still requires plenty of hard work by a small band of highly committed Docklovians, who astonish me each year by descending on our garden like turbo-charged contestants from The Apprentice and making it ready for the tombola-loving masses, if 83 people can be called the masses.

Rural England is full of people like that. Strung across the streets of nearby Leominster at the moment are more than 120 wonderfully colourful medieval-style banners, each one stitched by hand, and mostly sponsored by local shops, whose names they bear along with something symbolic of the town, such as a Ryeland sheep, a Hereford bull, a bottle of cider or a Benedictine monk. It's a delightful spectacle, and represents a true distillation of community spirit. I'm told that the idea was proposed by three women who wanted to add something different to the "Heart of England in Bloom" competition, and were taken aback to see how it captured the popular imagination.

Oddly, on the day that my wife, Jane, first came home from Leominster enthusing about the newly strung banners, she also reported that she and other English people had been outnumbered by Poles by about five to one. This wasn't a complaint, I should add, merely an observation. Although there was a bit of anti-Polish sentiment in the post office, apparently, where dozens of stawberry-pickers were sending home their hard-earned pounds to be turned into zlotys, but not observing the highly tuned niceties of the English post office queue.

Whatever, it seems to me rather uplifting that Leominster should be flooded with Poles on the day that the medieval banners went up everywhere; the new Europe side by side with the Middle Ages. And it's given me a thought: I wonder what "Docklow fete, Saturday afternoon, 2pm" is in Polish?

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map