The diverse duties of a churchwarden are a source of constant wonder to those who find themselves landed with the job. There are times you begin to sympathise with the clergyman who, every morning, at exactly 11.47am, dropped what he was doing and went to his study window which looked out across the railway. He’d watch the express pass and then get back to work. Finally somebody asked him about this habit of his. He just shrugged and said that he liked to watch it because it seemed to be the only thing in the area that moved without him pushing it.
But still, it’s when you get to the Christmas Fair that you realise just how much everybody else is doing. In the PCC you look at the previous running order, check on a few technical and legal matters (most of which seem to involve raffle tickets) and step back.
The outside stallholders are prodded, new ones solicited and the stalwarts get ready to run the cake stalls and tombolas. On the morning you turn up to give a hand setting up to find that a plan has been drawn up, everything has been assigned a place and all that remains is for you to set out tables, chairs, decorations and whatever.
Things have changed. The stern matriarchs of my youth have moved on. Their successors, the new generation, lack the ability to terrify that their mothers did, or perhaps I’m just older now and have an easier conscience. Still I’ve no doubt that with a decade or two of practice, they’ll chill the blood as well as any.
And then the opening, someone from the village says a few words, and we’re off.
I’m lucky, as a mere male I cannot be relied upon to run a stall or do anything complicated. Mind you there was a moment of panic when the ladies of the cake stall approached me with a particularly splendid cake. They felt it seemed a shame to sell it in slices, so should we sell it as a whole cake. At this point I felt like pointing out they were talking to the monkey, the organ grinder was elsewhere. But then some genius suggested we have a ‘guess the weight’ competition. A note was hastily penned and the cake was put on a table near the tea and coffee.
And suddenly I had a role. Not only was I placed in charge of the cake, (I assume they reckoned I couldn’t do too much damage with just one cake) but I had the other job of carrying tea or coffee to stallholders.
I’ve tended to feel a little sorry for the stallholders. If things are going well they’re too busy to spit never mind walk about looking for a brew. If things are going badly they need somebody to bring them a drink and cheer them up.
We had all sorts, home made knitwear, Christmas wreaths, miscellaneous handicrafts, Christmas tree baubles, hire a camper van, and a Brazilian lady who had her own cake stall selling Brazilian cakes! (Which were fabulous).
It were a grand day out. And Me?
As somebody said, ‘There’s Jim, guarding the cake and pouring drink into strange women.”