Mrs Becher's Diary


Fetes Etc.

There comes vividly to my memory the efforts we made to collect money and how thrilled we were to respond to suggestions for improving the amenities of Tylers Green.

There was the first village fete in the Vicarage meadow with the butter-slide as a novelty. What hard work it was laying down the mats and pushing the children off- sending three on a mat – and the success of it all.

Another year there was a fete in Captain Soames’ Meadow when I was doing the teas. There was a large marquee in the depression at the bottom of the field and it started to rain about 11.00 am and by lunch time the mud was inches deep and gum boots were necessary to reach the tent at all. We had insured against rain by paying a premium of about £20. The required amount of rain – 3 inches, fell before 12 o’clock owing to a terrific thunderstorm, and we were paid the full £100. It had cleared up by the opening so that the Fete proceeded with good success.

I have another vision of a Sports Day on the Common on a Whit Monday long ago, when the rain never ceased the whole afternoon. Many of us took cover, for at least part of the time, but the Vicar had the job of starter and stood at his post. I can see him now standing hour after hour with an expression of reconciled patience on his face giving out the races in a voice of utter despondency – his coat collar buttoned up tight round his neck, his hat rammed on his head and the’ water pouring off it in a continual stream down his back.

There was a day when the school children were to perform plays and dances in Mrs Roses’ garden. A day or two before, a case of diphtheria occurred and this so frightened the lady that she refused to open her garden to the public. The deferred performance was unlucky and rain marred the proceedings.

The summer of 1919 was exceptionally wet and prospects for the Fete arranged to take place in Sir Robert Evans’ field looked bad. We carried on courageously and tents and marquees were pitched on Friday and Saturday in readiness for the Monday. It was our practice to hold these Fetes on Bank Holidays and to have no entrance fee and we found that this custom paid over and over again.

It rained a good deal on the Saturday and the carts ploughed up the passageway leading from the road to the field. On Sunday the heavens seemed to open and there was torrential rain the whole day. After evensong it had cleared a little and I put on gum boots and went up to see what the place looked like. The mud was deep and the long grass was sopping. I found tents half down with the weight of the water and there were pools quite a foot deep in the depression of the roofs and I had to get several men to help me lift them sufficiently to let the water run away. I went to bed feeling quite hopeless – in fact the situation could not be worse. I remember waking early and looking out of my window to see a cloudless sky and the promise of a perfect Summer’s Day. This promise was maintained and by 2.00pm we were in thin cotton frocks basking in the sun and sitting on the dry grass during a very successful afternoon. Truly a miracle. The only fly in the ointment was Mr Eric PeIIy’s Cinema show, one of the first travelling talkies which he generously provided for the fete. He did not like the site high up on the drier ground and preferred to drive the heavy engine right across the field.

As they were turning the wheels stuck in the mud and it was only after borrowing a team of plough horses that it was possible to drag it out of the mire and place it in position. I think it was these heart burning situations and the agonies of apprehension which we, who undertook the organisation of these fetes, went through that inspired me to inaugurate in their place the Christmas Fair. If it is not possible to make quite such a lot of money, one at least cuts down one’s expenses. Hire of tents and chairs and the cartage of necessities runs away with £20 or £30, while the expenses for a Christmas Fair do not exceed £5 altogether.