A disclaimer, this blog is not about the wonderful film by Jacques Tati, if you haven’t seen it, why not? It is a delightfully comic film, if you enjoy humour in a film you will love it. But this blog is not about that film.
I live in rural Dorset, the road described in chapter two of Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, as ‘plodding northward for a score of miles’, runs a few hundred yards from my front door. Now rural life is said to be governed, or at least marked, by the seasons and this is very true. We are now in the Fete Season.
In Dorset this season begins with Fordington fair, on the Saturday nearest to St Georges Day, it is really an outlier to the main season but it’s origins were not like other fetes which tend to be simply charitable fund raisers, but began as a form of local protest in order to protect the village green. Be that as it may, the fete season proper begins at Whitsun and runs until late July, when there is a hiatus for harvest, then there will be flower festivals and produce shows until early September when the big County Show brings these dissipations to a close.
Around us the season is now in full swing, we have had Alton Pancras, Charminster, Piddletrenthide and Plush, followed by Piddlehinton and so on up and down the valleys of the Piddle and Cerne.
Charminster Fete in the grounds of the Manor House
Many of these events are held in the grounds of one of the larger houses in the village, so they give an opportunity to see interesting eighteenth and nineteenth century houses, usually invisible behind walls or high hedges. But when you are inside, they tend to be very similar, plant stall, book stall, cake stall, bric a brac, tombola and tea tent. But they vary in the details, one always has a good plant stall, another a good book stall, tombola’s also vary in what you can win. From several bottles of reasonable quality wine on one day, to an appalling picture frame on another. Whilst there are local specialities, for example Charminster fete always has a stall selling watercress, why I don’t know, it isn’t grown in the parish.
Traditional activities at Piddletrenthide
Then there is the music and entertainment, a group of local musicians play or a gymnastic team from the local school give a performance. Nothing particularly entertaining, unless a dog gets loose and ends up taking part. Dogs, by the way, are always welcome at fetes, our one enjoys them, probably all the different smells.
Less traditional display at Sydling St. Nicholas
However there is one thing that that you must do, at every fête you attend, is buy something. It doesn’t matter what, but you will get very funny looks if you leave a fête empty handed (after all you can always give it to a charity shop afterwards). So I will look out for the next fete in the neighbourhood, attend and have fun.