Today’s post comes to you, rather differently than normal, from the front seat of the car after an aborted jaunt to Lyme Park. We’ve treated ourselves to a long weekend and as a last hurrah of freedom, we thought we’d go for a nice walk in nature. As it turns out, it probably would have been best if we just hadn’t bothered. After realising one of my wellies had a hole in it, yet another flashing check engine light alert, and a fit of hysteria based on the cold/the fact I’m not a Lady from the early 1900s with a huge house, masses of money and a line of attractive RAF officers in my wake, we decided it was probably best to start for home. I am in fact writing this section with my socks off, blowers on full blast and in aghast at a man who’s just run past in short shorts.
Here lies Eleanor’s sock. May it be forever fondly remembered and dry before she has to get out of the car and try and hop anywhere.
We’ve actually had a rather early start (in my opinion) because it was becoming increasingly clear that we couldn’t actually do anything in good conscious without giving the house a good cleaning. We’ve gotten rather lax these last few days and the kitchen was starting to resemble a bombsite. TMM was terribly rude and completely disregarded my suggested plan (which focused around me staying in bed and napping whilst he fixed everything. He would then return to me where upon I would say in my most surprised tone “oh gosh, you tidied everything without me? What a shock, you should have woken me!” and then we would laugh like some 1950’s advert) and so I was ceremonially turfed out of bed before 10am. Shock horror. We have had a terribly good weekend though, including the best nerd!gig ever, a large selection of tasty cocktails and a nice wander round around the Manchester Christmas Markets.
Let’s be honest though, the reason you’re all hear is to find out how Village Fair-ageddon went with Molly. Honestly I can say things turned out better than expected, but that’s not really saying much considering how cringe worthy the last one was. It was thankfully over within two hours, but I still had to have a sizable drink and a nap in a darkened room to recover.
The event itself was 2pm-4pm and we’d planned to leave ours just before 2 and run the dog out before we went. Turns out though that Molly wasn’t down with that and she rang TMM at 1.49pm to remind us that the fair was starting in ten minutes and in order to make sure we didn’t miss a single second she would be waiting by the front gate for us. Bear in mind, her front gate is actually quite a distance from her door and involves at least three steps and a lot of slippery pavement, so this was quite a threat. Usually she doesn’t even make it to the first step by herself, but for the Fair she was willing to throw herself outside of her comfort zone with gay abandon.
By the time we got there (within five minutes), she’d struggled down that path under her own steam and was hanging onto the gate for dear life, bent double and weighted down by three huge leather handbags and a rather fetching cloche hat. Thankfully she was wrapped up in a bright red woollen coat (avoiding any concern of pneumonia) and looking for all the world like a little crunched up garden gnome. Now, due to her inability to walk any distances, we actually have to drive her the length of three detached houses from her gate to the village hall at the end of the lane. TMM typically drops us off and goes to park the car back outside her house (as the carpark at the hall itself fits four small cars at a push) and I chaperone her initial entrance. This time though, we’d barley made it past the first house before we had to turn back because she had gotten herself in a tizzy and was convinced she’d left her blue handbag in the house. Rather than let her escape the car and try and tackle the hunt for it, I went back to the house and bravely fought off Benji who was hysterically hyperactive and basically tried to climb me like a tree. I searched high and low for the missing bag, forced to shove Benji off the couch, my leg, the chair and anywhere I was actually trying to look on numerous occasions. I managed to find one handbag (the brown one she typically takes shopping) but the blue one was nowhere to be found. I rang TMM to query this and heard her chunnering away in the background whilst TMM tried to explain my dilemma. Taking the bag I’d found back to the car to double check it wasn’t the one she wanted, it turned out that she already had the blue handbag, safely tucked inside one of the other ones as it had been all along.
The seemingly endless walk from the gate to Molly’s front door. I imagine it was a little like a scene from “Everest” for her trying to make it up here.
We all pile back in to the car and thankfully make it the 100 feet to the village hall without any other distractions. TMM deposits us by the front door and executes a picture perfect turn to get back out whilst I gently shepherd Molly up the ramp and into the hall itself. She shuffles through the little coat room ante chamber and takes a good minute to stand smack back in the middle of the doorway. I’m still unsure if this was to allow her to properly evaluate the layout and formulate her plan of attack, or in order to give everyone already there a chance to bask in her arrival – local celebrity that she is. Before we even make it to the first table (cakes) she’s been hugged by three people who’ve all loudly introduced themselves and who, I’m pretty sure, she remembered none of. By the time we make it to the stall itself TMM has thankfully returned and we manage to divest her of all the bags so she can at least lift herself up enough to look over the table edge. It’s something we’ve got down to a fine art by this point – trying to wrangle all the bags, pay the correct amount (with no change because all she ever seems to have is notes) and keep an eye on the wily old girl before she brandishes her stick threateningly at someone and falls over. Considering she can barely walk normally, she can get a right turn of pace on when she sees someone she wants to shout at.
Before we’ve even finished getting ourselves past the first table, she’s got us cramming the biggest of the leather bags with a whole plate of flapjacks, a bag of chocolate fridge cake and a bundle of mince pies for us (she asks us what we want at every single table, and gets quite offended if we don’t manage to distract her quickly enough). Canned goods is next and Wendy, bless her heart, tries to shepherd Molly along and encourage her to not spend all of her money on tins of salmon. Alas, it is to no avail and we leave this one with tuna, peas and two chocolate oranges.
The next hurdle is the jam table which I really do think might be the bane of my life. I get rather peeved about this particular section as the two who staff it see Molly and her purse coming a mile off and can’t help but rub their hands together. Unlike Wendy who is loathed to take money from her, these two are more than happy to encourage Molly to take seven (7) jars of jam and chutney, knowing full well she’s still got cupboards full of the stuff at home. One man pauses just behind me and asks in a low whisper if she plans on leaving any jars for anyone else and I tell him that he really is best getting in there quickly before she her second round. We load down the bags with jars and TMM pays whilst I try and stop Molly barging her way through to the Tombola table. I am still surprised there wasn’t a throw down here the way she kept shoving at the old gent in front of us. I’m unsure if she doesn’t understand the etiquette of waiting your turn or if she’s just decided she’s too old to be arsed waiting around for others. I manage to distract her long enough for the man to get his prize and move on and then we all have to have a go at taking a ticket and trying our luck. Thankfully we won (she gets incredibly fractious if we leave a table without something) though the prize of a multipack of cereal boxes did leave her rather baffled.
Eventually we make it out of there and guide her past the book/calendar section without too much fuss. (She loves, LOVES, a calendar. There are at least four on the go every time we go round and rarely do any of them show the right date). We take a brief respite with the man who sells cards (hand drawn scenes from Keele – very lovely) though there is a slightly bit of confusion when Molly tries to buy some for herself and some for us at the same time we’re trying to buy some for ourselves and there’s cash flying all over the place. Molly gets bored of this and moves onwards swiftly to the decorations table and I sacrifice TMM to settling up and hunker down to discuss the merits of Christmas Crackers with her. Annoyingly I cant help but talk to her like she’s a child sometimes which must come across as horribly patronising, but I can’t seem stop myself. Either she doesn’t care or just thinks I’m a complete dick, but regardless we get along all right. We barter for a while over the crackers and end up purchasing a box of six small ones (rather than the 12 she was initially dazzled by). I’m pretty sure the crackers from last year are still under the stairs, but what the hell.
The sum total of our haul from this year. Thank God.
The next table is that one that every good village hall fair has – the random shite table. This keeps her entertained for a good 10 minutes and I only make it away without a cuddly toy, glittery butterfly candles or fake crystal flower vases by the skin of my teeth. We also bump into Gladys (cheery neighbour form across the street) and have a quick chat whilst Molly picks up every item on the table and tries to work out if it would do Benji for a Christmas present. Spoiler – Benji is a dog and is not interested in wooden puzzles or bath soap, so that debate ended with limited results.
Finally we encourage Molly to give it up as a lost cause and take a seat at one of the tiny cramped tables and have a warm drink. TMM ushers her down whilst Gladys and I sort out tea and cakes and eventually we’re all seated and able to take a breather. It doesn’t take long though and before I know it Molly’s got her grumpy face. This happens every year without fail, because it works her up terribly that doesn’t recognise half the people who’ve turned out and this starts her on the standard rant. She thinks it’s shameful how the local Keele people don’t take the time to come and patronise these things, and they should all be given a kick up the backside with a pair of winklepickers (her punishment of choice). She’s seemingly unaware that the reason she doesn’t recognise anyone is that most of the locals she’s thinking about are dead, but we haven’t the heart to tell her that, so we all just nod along and Gladys and I share a pointed look over a tea cake.
Before long though, various old ladies in aprons come by to fuss over her and my face starts to ache from smiling at each one of them whilst Molly introduces us all like we haven’t met before (we have). There’s a complete flurry of excitement when Jean from down the lane appears (her husband recently passed away and poor TMM had to have an excruciating phone call with her because Molly wanted to know how he’d died approx. 2 days after it had happened). Jean has brought along her two sisters though (Hilary and Valerie) which brightens everything up no end and they all chatter on happily as old ladies do. Eventually things start to wind down and the sisters leave whilst TMM goes to fetch the chariot. I gently lever Molly out of her chair and we make three or four pit stops on our way to the door (which, I would like to point out, is less that 5 feet away from our starting position) in which time Gladys has done a runner and TMM has come looking for us because we weren’t where we were supposed to be. There is a slight highlight though – as we’re leaving TMM overhears an old doctor gentleman (who I think I might have been hopelessly in love with in his youth) tell his wife that he nearly complimented me on my nice green hat before he realised it was hair and how embarrassing would that of been. I kind of wish he had to be honest.
We finally manage to get her to the door and there is one heart stopping moment where she stops and does one final sweep of the room and I am terrified she’s spotted the vicar who’s sat at the other end. Molly has what I can only describe as “serious beef” with him and I don’t think I’m strong enough to try and stall any thinly veiled insults about his weight at this point. Previous meetings between the two of them have included such classics as “do you think he’s might be pregnant? It looks like twins” and “if I popped him with a pin I bet he’d go off like a balloon”. Apparently he’s promised to go round and see her and still hasn’t made an appearance (I wonder why) and the vendetta is brewing. Thankfully though, her eyes gloss over him and I whisk her out of the door and into the car before she can do anything. We make it back to the house just in time for a heavy hail storm and it’s like a scene from Noah’s Ark trying to get her back into the house with all of her bags whilst trying to keep Benji from killing either of them in his excitement. Eventually though, we drop her off into her arm chair, help her go through all her purchases and make our escape before it gets too dark.
Overall, we’ve definitely had worse, but I am immensely grateful that we don’t have to do it again until next year.