Every summer there's a plethora of village fetes, each organiser hopeful that the sun will shine on their big day (it barely ever does). And every year I get genuinely excited about going to these fetes. For some peculiar reason I seem to think they will be fun. I think the children will enjoy it. I think it'll be a great day out.
They aren't. They don't. And it's not.
In fact, fetes are a lot like childbirth. You don't really remember the pain of it. Your memories are dulled by time so that each year they come around again, you think: It can't be that bad, can it?
Well yes it can.
Let's see, where to begin.
Splat the rat, Welly Whanging, Coconut Shy, Tug of War, lobbing a sodden sponge at a vicar clamped in irons - all of these things might sound super fun in principle and certainly seem like great games for the kids. But in the hard, cold light of day, they are actually just cringingly embarrassing. Surely throwing a ball at a coconut can't be that hard? Actually it is. And trying to whack a rat that flies out of a tube at a million miles an hour is simply designed to make you flail a stick around like an idiot without a hope in hell of ever splatting the rat. And as for soaking the vicar - well unless you know the vicar and genuinely have it in for the bloke (perhaps revenge at too many early Sunday morning services?) it is incredibly awkward to throw a wet sponge at a person you barely know. It all becomes terribly British. 'Awfully sorry. Ooh, didn't mean to quite get you on the noggin.'
You don't actually do these games for your enjoyment. You pay the pound so that your children can have a go. Only they don't want to. They want to cling to your leg and nag for candy floss. So you (or rather your husband) has to do it instead. And believe me, husbands don't like having to compete with 10 year old boys at knocking coconuts off a stick. They certainly don't like to lose. What we would do with a coconut should we ever win one is another question in itself.
There's the cake stalls where you get to buy someone else's victoria sponge that didn't rise. There's the BBQ stand which always smells good and has a mile long queue but actually sells sausages of questionable origin and which will probably kill you because they are still raw in the middle. There's the sweets and candyfloss and ice cream and toffee apples, all loitering at every turn causing your children to start nagging even louder until you give in and then regret it for the rest of the afternoon as they charge around in a sugar high. The only redeeming food/drink stalls are a) the beer tent but if you have a hang over (which you will obviously have if you're going to a fete) it's not really an option and b) the stall selling home made preserves. Can't beat a bit of curry chutney or pepper jelly although once you start sampling the produce, you are legally bound to buy something even if it tastes gipping.
There is always a bounty of different raffles, prize draws and silent auctions. You've already spent a month's worth of grocery money in buying tickets for all these things before the fete has even started, but you still get cornered into buying more. And then you get to see the prizes you're so desperately keen on winning - usually a basket of goodies someone has rummaged from their attic, two tickets to a senior citizens bowling day or a large fluffy bunny stuffed with more sweets (just what the children need).
And let's not forget the ever-popular tombola. A fete wouldn't be a fete without a tombola. Where for just a pound you get to draw three tickets for the chance to win a tin of spam, a chipped hideously ugly porcelein dog, or a bottle of some sickly sweet alco-pop. The amazing thing is, that although you should breathe a sigh of relief when your tickets don't win you anything, you don't. You feel cheated. You put your hand in your pocket and pay another pound in a desperate attempt to win the tin of spam.
While all of this is going on, your children are hanging on your clothes pointing to the merry-go-round or bouncy castle. So you give in and pay the pound for them to hop aboard, except now that they up close to the object of excitement, they don't want to go on because it's too scary. So you have everyone on the merry-go-round stare at you impatiently as your child makes up their mind as to whether to climb aboard or not. Until you're forced to get on to and enjoy five minutes of going round and round and round and round and round and round all the while thinking that the night before's several bottles of wine wasn't that clever an idea.
Eventually you leave, about £30 lighter in cash but carrying an assortment of plastic crap, squashed cakes, tins of spam and two sticky little boys who are too tired to walk. And you vow to never do it again, except that there's another one this weekend coming and it would be wrong not to support it. Pass the wine, we're going to need it.