Village Fete

Packed, like sardines, in a small metal tin,
we left, in our big metal tin:
bags full of wet and dirty clothes,
the oil between flesh for us.

Headed for Boscastle: we’d heard the name,
the floods of 2004, seven years, almost to the day:
And we found, England, on that sunny Sunday afternoon:
a village fete, like only England can do.

The stilt walker, announced his arrival:
his jovial air (which you need if you’re on that pedestal).
Everyone stopped to throw wooden balls,
at 70s plates, for a pound (guffaws aplenty).

The white collared vicar, honesty and trust,
in a suit, sold tickets, pound a strip,
fifty the prize. I wasn’t going to be there,
when they drew, “I’ll send it to you” he said.

And the old ladies, serving tea from a tent,
the sign said fifty pence: “How much?” said one,
to the other. I didn’t dare feel hungry,
for a slice of carrot cake, it looked good!

And the old boys, almost hidden, in a cave;
one in stocks, the other, dry, amassing
the throwers, to drench his friend. I’m sure
a pint would be shared, drips and all.

And the dog show, what a fuss they made,
of the dog show, two Jack Russells and
a Great Dane, competing “Best in Show”:
what fun as only England, and the English, do.

This was England, an old England,
a beautiful bygone England.
Where everyone, is very polite,
and does their best, to talk like the Queen.


I was reading Philip Larkin’s “Show Saturday” and it reminded me of last Sunday when we visited Boscastle in Cornwall on the way back from our camping holiday near Newquay. It reminded me of a way England used to be, so quaint and beautiful in its’ honesty and some might say – naivety. For me it was the exact way I like to picture and think of English village life so I thought I would have a go at my own “Show Saturday” – Larkin’s poem can be read here.


Shared for dVerse Poets Open Link Night – week 8.


20 thoughts on “Village Fete

  1. your pace is slow and steady, calm, which i like, makes it a soothing read. this was my favorite stanza:
    “The white collared vicar, honesty and trust,
    in a suit, sold tickets, pound a strip,
    fifty the prize. I wasn’t going to be there,
    when they drew, “I’ll send it to you” he said”
    beautiful imagery/story drew me in deeper, anticipating the rest.
    i’m very much enjoying Larkin’s High Windows and i love that you were inspired by your reading to write your own. i very much enjoy your written words. thanks for sharing!

  2. You’ve brought another scene to life so completely here. Though of course I”ll never have a chance to see this in person in the benighted States, I’m oh so familiar with your characters and scenes from a lifetime of immersion in Golden Age murder mysteries, which are entirely constructs of these personas. Nice to know that they still exist, and sad to know that they are rare instead of definitive. The dog show, especially, was a treat.

  3. This was England as I saw it in all its garden grandeur in ’92. There was nothing Americanized then. They’d all seen Dallas of course, and asked if I knew J.R. – less impressed (and somewhat unbelieving naturally) when I looked puzzled, said no, but I was Buddy Holly’s cousin. Yet there was no snobbery anywhere. Even when they talked posh, a question about trees, parks, gardening or dogs unleashed family histories that took me from London to Carlisle from Bath to Kent, from Exeter to Canterbury. It was the most lovely memory I have in my whole life. Your poem is superb. I’ll tuck it in my memory along with. Gay

    1. Hi Gay – you’re absolutely right – there’s no snobbery like you would get in other places around England – I was pointing towards this when I mentioned “naivety”. My boss for nearly 10 years grew up at Knebworth House – son of Lord and Lady Lytton-Cobbold – now he and his parents had the right to appear snobbish but although they spoke well – you would never meet more down to earth people !! Thanks for the lovely comment !!

  4. Ah, the England of misremembered yesteryear! No foresters paid by the king to prevent poaching of game in His forests by the poor and starving villagers. No rievers riding hard from the Borders to steal the King’s cattle. No religious wars. No Viking raids. No London of Dunkirk or the Blitz. No Roman armies camping south of Hadrian’s Wall. No fractious Plantation of Ireland. No beheaded queens. No murderous, scheming royals from the Shakespeare plays. No Canterbury Tales rascals and rapscalions! The jolly ol’ boring England that exists only in our whistfulness. And a pretty thing it is. You make lovely art. You history may need restudy.

    1. Hi Charles – all those “wonderful” times in history (wonderful while we are here and now – not so wonderful if you were in the now) indeed. Exactly right – the tea lady didn’t live in the village and even said it was too busy for her – I was astounded – her nearest neighbour was 3/4 mile away from her house. An England I am working to be part of 🙂 I must ask what you meant by “You history may need restudy” – I’ll try and find you on the net in the meantime 🙂

  5. This is brilliant and very accurate – i enjoyed every word – these gatherings still go on in my parents village – its just like an agatha christie story – i always sense sinister undertones – but thats just me – although theres that sense of forced restraint – anyway i loved this poem


  6. Very lovely description of a day (or evening as my mind wandered into) at a festival…… I feel as though I was there, and of course I have been, a couple of dozen fairs and carnivals over the years…. beautiful… and i hope you’ll allow this yank his romantic view, because that last stanza absolutely made this poem……

  7. fabulous…keep it up.

    Hello, Steve:

    Glad to discover your poetry talent, invite you to join our poetry picnic today, free and fun, free style commenting.
    First time participants are encouraged to share 1 to 3 random poems, or old poems!
    We’re Open until Thursday, 8pm, American Central!
    Hope to see you in!
    Thanks in advance,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s