‘Could Little Bo Peep go round the May Pole clockwise please – that’s CLOCKWISE PLEASE!‘
Saturday saw the inaugural Clapham Village Fete, to celebrate 150 years of the London Fire Brigade and Clapham Writers was there. The event took place in the elegant Georgian portion of Clapham named The Old Town, in a many-sided open space called The Polygon. Clapham goes in for utilitarian names – Old Town, The Pavement, The Windmill, The Polygon.
Also on the stall were JohnTaylor, military historian and novelist and, for a short visit, Elizabeth Buchan, well-known novelist. Unfortunately others couldn’t make it. We chatted through-out the day with other local residents and visitors, often about writers who had lived in Clapham through time. Books, our own and those of other Clapham Writers, were sold and signed and leaflets handed out.
‘Okay, when I blow the whistle everyone has to jump their way to the finish line. Hold on to your sacks! Ready, steady…. what? No, only one. NO! It’s not for sharing!‘
The Polygon was full of noises. Not just the periodic sounding of the Fire Engine’s siren, but the cackles and grunts of Vauxhall City Farm’s enclosure just opposite (bantams, rabbits and other small and furry creatures). A somewhat bemused, (but game) Scottish wedding party populated the outside seating area belonging to the Rose & Crown pub ( adjacent to the Farm ). So proceedings were enlivened still further by lots of men in kilts, before the entire wedding party processed through the Fete to their transportation, a London double-decker bus.
There was also the gleeful enthusiasm of those children taking part in the sack and egg and spoon races, taking place close by. The two burly firemen who competed in the former were, needless to say, disqualified, after having crossing the line in a show of competition entirely unsuited to the occasion, which left a gaggle of children jumping in their wake. As the egg and spoon race lined up we considered a fund-raising sideline selling our Blutac to all-comers , but resisted the temptation, as we did when the coconut shy opened for business.
Much entertainment was provided by the commentary heard on the Fete’s sound system. A jolly MC, sometimes being very patient, allowed us to conjure up images of what was happening elsewhere in the Fete*. Around the May Pole she gave rousing encouragement, above jaunty English folk music, but her voice grew increasingly dismayed. The music stopped – Bo Peep and the Fairy Princess had to be disentangled – then began again.
The soundtrack to the dog show intrigued. ‘Lucky’ was persuaded (finally) to perform his party trick, whatever that was and ‘Bison’ did something very clever, probably involving a hay bale, which drew applause from the crowd. I assumed that ‘Bison’ was the name of the beautiful, but massive, Great Dane who had earlier walked past our stall, drawing open-mouthed and upwards glances from a number of small children, who teetered between amazement and fear. But no, I think he was actually a little Westie.
The arching gazebo housed a succession of musicians and we enjoyed jazz, reggae and rock. Mouth watering odours wafted from stalls manned by local restaurants selling hot food. Award-winning ‘Trinity’ had its stall too, though the intermittent smattering of rain dissuaded diners from sitting outside the restaurant itself. It did not dampen spirits, however and the people kept coming, until the heavens eventually opened in the late afternoon, sending folk scurrying for cover.
‘No, wait here, Kirsty. I know it’s wet, but Mummy’s gone to get the car. Leave that sweet alone, Alistair, someone’s dropped it. Don’t put it in your…. oh. Oh well.’
A good day was, it seemed, had by all, including Clapham Writers.
*With apologies to the late Joyce Grenfell and to Marie, the MC, who did a sterling job.
A version of this article appeared on http://www.thestorybazaar.com/at-the-polygon/ on Monday 5th September 2016.