Monday, August 18, 2008

Tempting Fete

Well hello all! I'm back from the wilds of Cornwall ... although 'back' is probably my least favourite word at the moment as I've really put mine out. It happens periodically, the result of a serious injury I sustained 10 years ago. I was simply clearing the car of rubbish after carrying our bags etc. into the house this evening and [click!] it just went. I'm now in quite a bit of pain but luckily my office chair is pretty comfortable with good lumbar support so I thought I'd bung up a few pics. First off, I had to show that since my last visit, the 'welcome to Cornwall' signs have become bilingual. The signs now say Kernow a'gas dynnergh as well as the more familiar English greeting. How great is that? It's another boost for the return of the language.

It was an odd schizophrenic sort of weekend. The main reason for going was to spend a bit of time with my daughter and two granchildren and other members of my family. But we were also going to meet a lady who runs a small business making organic bath products as Dawn is interested in selling them. I shan't bore you with all the family shenanigans; suffice to say it was lovely to see everyone as always and my two grandnippers are as gorgeous as ever. Well, they would be wouldn't they?

The 'business' meeting took place at St Ewe, a tiny little village nestling among the china clay hills near St Austell. It's set in a lovely rolling landscape dominated by 'the Cornish alps', the huge piles of chalky-white waste that were dug out of the landscape at the height of the china clay industry's heyday. Throughout my childhood, these enormous hills were stark and white but clever management using alkaline-loving shrubs and a breed of hardy mountain goats to crop and dung the area has made the hills grow green. They've sprouted plantlife and have become a part of the landscape - possibly the first man-made range of hills in the UK. One of the pits from which all of this waste was dug now houses the multi-faceted geodesic domes of the world-famous Eden Project.

St Ewe was hosting its annual Village Fete and it was, in microscosm, everything that's wonderful, homespun, wildly eccentric and fabulously dotty about being British; even more so than the Steam Fair at Evesham I went to last weekend as it was so much smaller and wholly organised by the villagers. Upon entering the showgrounds, we were met by a man in a scary home-made white rabbit suit who reminded me of that evil creature in Donnie Darko. He made children cry just by looking at them. I think it was the tiny, black, expressionless eyes ...

Then began a series of events that included Celtic dancing, a display of falconry, sheepdogs at work, a parade of beautiful Shire Horses and the most hilarious Wild West Show I've ever witnessed. It would be wrong to take the Mickey too much because the actors obviously cared deeply about their product and did their utmost to put on a great show. But starting it off by telling us that their guns, though only chambered with blanks, could still 'shoot our faces off' was inspired. They then demonstrated this by setting up a balloon and firing at it. And missing. It popped on the second shot and the narrator then told us, 'Now imagine if that had been your face'. Brilliant. The show itself was a wonderfully amateurish but spirited drama that ended in multiple shootings, tragedy and death. I loved it.

I then cruelly amused myself by watching a one-legged seagull trying to eat a potato crisp (I think it was a prawn cocktail flavoured Skip if that helps to set the scene). It was a real example of triumph over adversity and I applaud the animal's patience and balance. I then left Dawn to her dealings and took a stroll around to look at the exhibits and sports on offer:

The dog show (including the waggliest tail category) ...

Hoisting the haybale - not as easy as it looks apparently ...

Pointing at chickens (although that may not have been an actual event), a coconut shy, Bending it like Beckham ... and yes! Tractors! Hoorah! You can never see enough tractors. Sadly we missed the Duck Race. I would have enjoyed that I know.

But no country show is complete without a vegetable competition and there were some mighty legumes on display. However, the most entertaining category was the children's section where they'd been asked to make animals. I saw turnip octopuses, butternut squash lions and tomato spiders. But I particularly loved the vegetable rabbit and courgette mole. I'm not sure if it's the mole that's aged three or the artist. All I do know is that it looked a bit reptilian for a mole. But good effort and excellent creativity!

I love village fetes like this. I can't resist them, hence the atrocious pun at the head of this post. Everyone was so warm and friendly and so much effort had been put into it. I'd rather visit a hundred of these shows than visit one corporately-owned theme park. If I am going to be fleeced of money, I'd much rather it goes into the village hall fund than some fat cat's pockets. It was a lovely morning and the views across the village to the countryside beyond just made it all the more enjoyable.

Leaving St Ewe, and as we were near the south coast, we dropped down past Carlyon Bay, Pentewan Sands and Porthpean. The coast road there offers some fantastic views that I uttery failed to record as it was by now raining and I was driving. Eventually the sun came out and we stopped off at Charlestown. It's a tiny little port, still operating as a working fishing village, but its main attraction is the Shipwreck and Heritage Museum. It's a living museum with several moored tall ships that you can wander around. We didn't do the tourist thing - mainly because it was packed and we have seen it all before - so we headed down to the beach and around the headland to a little cove where dogs are allowed. Most beaches are closed to dogs in the Summer time, for good reasons I guess, but it is a shame as they love the sea. Certainly once Buster and Willow got in there, we couldn't get them out.

The last month has seen some extraordinary weekends for me. I've camped and partied among the Brecon Beacons in Wales, I've seen more tractors than I care to think about in Worcestershire and I've chatted to Imperial Stormtroopers and more Wonder Women than you can shake a stick at in San Diego. So it was nice to enjoy a few relaxed and unhurried days in one of my favourite parts of the world (Note: Bias) and to catch up with family.

I came back home to the news that a major independent book trade catalogue for Christmas 2008 has been promoting my book so it looks as though it will definitely be front of store around the UK in a couple of months' time.

Hoorah to that!

7 comments:

willow said...

I love these charming country events. And I agree, that rabbit looks like something straight from a horror film!

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Good grief, is that Ellen De Generes tossing a hay bale!?!

Oh you're making me so homesick for Cornwall, I have wandered the quay at Charlestown and cliffs at Carlyon Bay. Green with envy.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Willow - I absolutely adore these events and go to as many as I can.

Sarah - Ellen ... nah, surely not ... although I've not seen her on TV for a while ...

Yes, it is gorgeous on that coast but don't go too green. Someone might enter you for a vegetable competition.

chris hale said...

Yo Stevyn! I'm afraid the vegetable "mole" looks rather like the mummified head of a chough, though I rather hope it isn't. And I particularly like the vegetable chimera - is it perchance the very rare Carpotsweonioccoli? With whiskers?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Chris - It may well have bean (chortle). Don't you think that there'd be less bullying and fewer stabbings in schools if all children were forced to construct vegetable animals? Forget 'Hug a hoodie', why not 'Swap your shiv for a carpotsweonioccoli'?

Debby said...

No fair is complete without someone in a costume walking about to scare the bejeebers out of the kidlets.

You all could try America's approach to reducing school stabbings: just give everyone the constitutional right to carry guns. It's worked beautifully here. You don't hear so much about school stabbings.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Debby - There are those who say that only the British can do irony ... you've proved them so, so wrong!