It’s that time of year again. The time when Women’s Institutes resemble the Great British Bake-Off; when vicars shin up wobbly wooden ladders to retrieve the coconut shy from the recesses of the rectory outbuildings; when the Mother’s Union test-fires the community tea-urn and village greens are alive with the sound of flapping marquees.
If you are faintly puzzled by all this, don’t worry, you are probably living in The Barbican, or maybe in Frankfurt. Because what I’m talking about, of course, are summer fetes.
I don’t mind admitting I am a serial feteishist; I don’t just attend the fete in my own village but others for miles around. I am always first in the queue, Cath Kidston shopper in hand, elbows freshly-sharpened, all ready to make a dash across the vicarage garden for the giant Victoria sponge you can see on Google Earth (never mind from the entrance gate).
I don’t know who invented fetes, or when, but I do know that there aren’t many places where the kids can ride a donkey, buy a Peppa Pig book, scoff a plate of iced-white cupcakes and chuck a wet sponge at their headteacher for less than a fiver.
Where else, come to think of it, can you purchase coconut ice, or those bendy, hand-made peppermint creams, or that deliciously crumbly, home-made fudge that no shop seems to sell anymore? Only at the summer fete.
I love the endless tradition of it all; the way our village always uses the bunting which looks like it made its first appearance on VE Day, and the way the next village prides itself on attracting exceedingly minor celebrities to do the opening honours.
But, be warned, there is a knack to getting the best from these quintessentially British events and so here, from a seasoned fete-goer, is my guide to basic feteiquette..
DO make your way to the cake stall immediately because they are always the first to sell out. Purchase a plate of brownies to keep the kids quiet and a banana loaf you can freeze and pass off as your own, next time your mother-in-law comes round
DON’T get stuck behind sweet-faced elderly gentlemen in Panama hats, which they want to raise at everyone who knows them. Because you won’t think they’re sweet at all if they impede your progress to the White Elephant stall and the chance to snap up that unwanted White Company candle for just the £1
DO make them an offer they can’t refuse on the book stall – no one wants to lug that lot home again and have to drag it all out next year
DON’T rubbish any of the offerings anywhere, even if they are truly appalling, because the diamond rule of village events is that whatever you are trashing will have been donated by the scarlet-faced person standing next to you
DO check out the craft stalls. So many talented people started off their design business selling at the school fayre or the village fete, you are bound to find something both original and gorgeous.
Photographs: BlueCloud Photography