Brian Viner: 'We approach summer fêtes with excitement and some trepidation'

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The Independent Online

The fates in Greek mythology were feared and revered in equal measure, not unlike the fêtes in a Herefordshire summer.

Even Zeus was at the mercy of the whims of the fates, and if the old boy were living between Bromyard and Leominster he might have been just as vulnerable to the whims of the fêtes, which range from drizzle to stair-rodding rain to wasp stings to Mrs Jones throwing a tantrum because her lemon drizzle cake hasn't been awarded the biggest rosette. Hereabouts, we all approach the fêtes with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

Fête season got properly underway last weekend, with the two-day Bromyard Gala. Bromyard is a small town of 4,000 souls which, if it were human, would be a modest, unassuming person with all kinds of hidden talents and interesting idiosyncrasies. For example, there is a fantastic youth theatre in Bromyard, to which our son Joe belongs and which is run by an inspiring, incredibly-dedicated woman called Barbara. There is a Doctor Who Museum (bigger than it looks from the outside). There is a terrific folk festival there every year. And the town has a wonderful shop called Legge's, notionally a butcher's but offering all kinds of fantastic local produce, where if you buy a leg of lamb they will all but give you the name, date of birth and favourite television programmes of the creature to which it once belonged. Also, Bromyard is by all accounts the only settlement in the world called Bromyard, which suggests either that Bromyard folk over the last five centuries have been decidedly unadventurous, not seeking fresh starts in America or Australia, or that the charms of the original have kept them in Herefordshire. The latter, I'm sure.

The point is that Bromyard punches well above its weight. And indeed, punches well above its fête. Bromyard Gala is a disproportionately large event for such a small town, rather like (just to extend the human metaphor) the brassy little sister of the vast Three Counties Show in nearby Malvern. Jane and I went last Saturday, mainly to add a few chickens to our flock, although we were predictably lured into several of the exhibition tents and in one of them could not resist the sales patter of a woman selling a drink called Yorkshire Punch, a non-alcoholic concoction of various herbs, which no doubt cures headaches, dizziness, diarrhoea, constipation, eczema, warts, athlete's foot, mild schizophrenia and Third World poverty.

As for the chickens, we came home with an Araucana, a Cream Legbar and a couple of pretty crossbreeds to add to our existing Black Rocks and Speckledies. As all poultry-fanciers know, Araucanas and Cream Legbars lay blue eggs, which will add a certain pizzazz to our egg basket. We've had Cream Legbars before, until the Night of the Massacre, when a fox decapitated our entire flock of 13. I've said it before but it always bears repeating for the benefit of fellow ex-townies, that a weathered old countryman warned us when we moved here seven years ago that in keeping our chickens safe we would have to get lucky every night, whereas the fox would have to get lucky only once. After five years without incident we began to disregard the advice, and stopped being scrupulous about shutting the chickens up in their run every night. Hence the carnage.

Anyway, I've drifted away from the subject of fêtes, which is careless, because this Saturday afternoon comes the most whimiscal fête of all, the Docklow Church Fête, in our garden. It cannot be compared with the Bromyard Gala and offers no cures for headaches, dizziness, diarrhoea or warts. In fact for those of us who will almost certainly be wondering fretfully about an hour before kick-off why the public address system doesn't seem to be working, where the tea urn's got to, and whether it was our job to get the raffle tickets, the fête positively stimulates headaches, dizziness, diarrhoea and warts. But it will all come together in the nick of time, as it always does.

Meanwhile, for Jane, the children and me, this year's fête falls on a meaningful weekend, the seventh anniversary of our move here from Crouch End in north London. There's not the slightest sign in any of us, I should add, of a seven-year itch. If there were, of course, a glug of Yorkshire Punch would almost certainly sort it out.