Christmas in summer.

stupid sockAll I want is a washing machine that washes clothes. Is that too much to ask?

It needs three programmes:

(1) Ordinary stuff.

(2) Putrid stuff.

(3) Almost clean stuff that just smells a bit funny.

For years, my mum had a twin-tub. You washed the clothes in the big tub and when they were done, you dragged them out with the wooden washing tongs and dumped them in the little spinning bit. Then you either held on like grim death or got out of the way while the whole thing waltzed all over the kitchen. Her washing was always spotless.

Now you need a qualification in differential calculus to operate the bloody things. I finally bought one of the most uncomplicated models on the market, and it still has 16 programmes, 12 of which I don’t even understand, let alone have any intention of using. I have, however, worked out which ones are ‘Ordinary’, ‘Putrid’ and ‘Just smells funny’ so those are the three I’ve marked with a felt tip pen.

None of which is anything to do with what I want to say – it’s just sort of a generalized drive-by whine.

I am here today to ask a favour.

If you ever hear me saying ‘I’ve volunteered to help at the local Summer Fayre’, would you please throw a tarpaulin over me and nail it down at the corners.

It was all Maggie-the-Farmer’s fault. There she was, standing on my newly washed utility floor in her cow-muck encrusted gumboots, saying “You will help out with the Summer Fayre, won’t you?  I’m organizing the Craft Stalls this year and I thought I’d better get in first before anyone else nabbed you.”

I was so busy bleeding inwardly about the mess she was making on my beautiful floor that I would have agreed to almost anything just so she’d take her gumboots somewhere else – and that’s why I spent a large chunk of today in the Church Meadow, standing behind a wobbly trestle table, trying to sell handmade Christmas baubles to people stuffing ice cream in their faces. In the drizzle. In June.

It was, theoretically anyway, a covered stall, but the cover had long since become more theory than fact, and had been supplemented over the years by a variety of plastic carrier bags, pieces of agricultural polythene and bin liners, all held together with duct tape. The effect was more shanty town than Thomas Hardy, but it did go very nicely with the bunting which, my neighbouring stallholder told me proudly, had been made by the ladies of the WI, to save the village money. It saved on colour and pzazz too, being composed almost entirely of material from old suits and shirts in varying shades of grey and brown with the occasional touch of dark blue to cheer it up a bit. Not so much Shabby Chic as Fraying Funereal. Bunting with attitude, and all of it depressed.

I was issued with a clear plastic sheet to put over the precious items on my stall and keep them safe from the rain, along with thumb tacks to hold it in place. (“They have,” I thought to myself, “had to do this before.”).  I couldn’t actually imagine that anything short of a Storm Force 10 would do a knitted Christmas pudding much harm, but I dutifully organized things so that the sheet could be lifted easily and the wares examined by prospective punters. After all, I reasoned, some poor soul had probably sat for hours making them especially for the Summer Fayre, and the least I could do was try and flog the bloody things.

It was the Vicar’s wife, Jane Ruskin, who disabused me of my noble, if romantic, notions. Swathed in a voluminous rain cape, she swept up to the stall and introduced herself.

“You’re the woman with the tortoise, aren’t you? I’m Jazz. Well, my name’s Jane really, but everyone calls me Jazz. I’m Norman-the-Vicar’s wife. You must come down to the Vicarage for tea some time soon. I’ll tell you who you need to steer clear of and who you need to suck up to. Now let’s see what ghastliness lies beneath.” She lifted the plastic, took one look, and snorted. “Ah. All the old faithfuls. They wheel them out every year and nobody buys them, but that doesn’t stop them trying. Anyway … chin up.” She dropped the cover again. “It’ll all be over in three hours.”

Between 12.30am and 3.30pm, with the local brass band enthusiastically annihilating Songs from the Musicals right in my ear, I sold precisely two things: a doll made from an old sock and a crocheted star in a particularly bilious shade of pink. My total takings in the three hours amounted to £1.50 and a sherbet lemon, the latter donated by a five year old who felt sorry for me.

The day’s other highlights were:

(a) A fight breaking out over at ‘Smash the Rat’ when a spotty teenager, off his face and deficient in syntax, declared that the effing stallholder had his effing thumb on the effing tail of the effing rat and the whole effing thing was effing fixed and he effing well wanted his effing prize.

(b) The bookstall collapsing under the the combined weight of four dozen copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, ten years’ worth of hoarded Reader’s Digest magazines and an entire set of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

(c) The stampede at the cake stall when they announced  that everything was half price, resulting in a pair of spectacles being stepped on and an unseemly tussle between two elderly ladies over the last fruit loaf.

It was only much, much later, when I was sitting at home on the settee, staring blankly at the wall and wondering if I’d ever get back any feeling below my knees, that I realized I hadn’t seen Maggie at the Fayre. I rang her up on the pretext  of asking how she thought it all went.

“No idea,” she replied cheerfully. “I never go to it.”

(Photo credit: I am indebted to Evil Erin on Flickr for the perfect image, Stupid Sock.)

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