“It is my pleasure,” boomed Lord Lah-di-Dah, “to declare the Bell End May Day fête…OPEN!”
“Oh, Your Lordship, Your Lordship.” Mrs Sanctimonious simpered around the minor aristocrat as the opening ceremony drew to a close, virtually clutching at his sleeve in a bid to ingratiate herself. “Please, allow me – I mean, it would be my honour to show you around…”
“What, what, what?”
“Show you around, Your Lordship. Perhaps some refreshments first?”
“Splendid, a bevvy or two sounds like a blahdy good idea. And there’s no need for the Lordship malarkey – yer can call me Rupert.”
Mrs Sanctimonious’s laugh positively tinkled. First name terms with an aristocrat…
“Yah, got stripped of me title a year ago. Spot of bother on Clapham Common.”
“Ew,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, a little deflated. “Well, er, how’s life at Lah-di-Dah Hall?”
“Sold it!” The former Lord Lah-di-Dah slapped Mrs Sanctimonious on the back and gave a bark of laughter. “Gambling debts, what?”
“Ewww.” Mrs Sanctimonious looked all of a sudden as though there was a nasty smell under her nose. “Well if you want refreshments, Rupert, might I suggest you’d be more at home in the pub?”
“The Drover’s Arms? Jolly good idea. Spent many a night in the barmaid’s arms, what?” The disgraced aristocrat guffawed unrepentantly. “Tally ho!”
Her mouth tighter than a duck’s arse, Mrs Sanctimonious watched him go.
“Common as muck,” she muttered. Feeling a tap on her arm, she painted a smile on her face which faded the second she saw it wasn’t anyone worth cultivating.
“Mrs Sanctimonious, is there anything I can do to help? Only Farmer Rosy-Cheeks seems to have everything under control in the refreshments tent…”
“Farmer Rosy-Cheeks is meant to be manning the produce stall.”
“The only produce he’s brought along is his apple juice,” replied Mrs Downtrodden. “It’s going down a storm. No one wants tea.”
“Oh, for goodness sake, woman, you’ll do anything to get out of working,” snapped Mrs Sanctimonious. “Go and see if Justin’s elephants are ready for the maypole dance yet.”
Feeling self-righteously superior as Mrs Downtrodden slunk away, Mrs Sanctimonious started walking across the village green to see how the raffle tickets were selling. She didn’t get far.
“Mrs Sanctimonious?” A woman holding the hand of a confused looking small boy stopped her in her tracks. “Mrs Sanctimonious, that man you’ve put in charge of body painting is, quite frankly, inappropriate!”
The last word came out as a scream and the small boy started to cry.
“Show the lady, Tarquin.”
Tarquin held up his hands. Painted across his small knuckles were the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’.
“I wanted a Spiderman face,” he wailed.
“Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose did that?” asked Mrs Sanctimonious in disbelief.
“Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose is running backwards and forwards to the refreshments tent,” snapped Tarquin’s mother, “getting an endless supply of Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s apple juice for…”
“Oh dear God, no!” exclaimed Mrs Sanctimonious, clapping her hands over her face as the unmistakable roar of motorbike engines cut across the tranquillity of the spring afternoon. Squinting through the gap between her fingers, she saw her worst fears had been realised.
The local Hell’s Angels had turned up in support of their leader, Horace, who was currently engaged in painting nipples on to a five-year-old girl’s chubby cheeks.
“Horace!” Mrs Sanctimonious summoned her courage and stormed over to the large and hairy man. “You…you…what are you doing?”
“Tattooing the kiddies, Mrs S,” replied Horace affably, draining his mug of apple juice and sending Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose scuttling off to the refreshments tent for a refill.
“But”, Mrs Sanctimonious laid her hands on the shoulders of the baffled looking five-year-old, “this is highly inappropriate…”
“No it ain’t, Mrs S.” Horace gave the nipple adorned cheeks a friendly squeeze. “Just givin’ the little ’un a fine pair until she grows a fine pair of her own.”
“Jolly good show, man,” roared the former Lord Lah-di-Dah, glass of apple juice in hand, clapping Horace on the back. “Can’t have too many titties about the place, what?”
“I thought you were in the pub,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, rubbing the bridge of her nose wearily.
“Came back with the Morris dancers.” The former Lord Lah-di-Dah clinked his glass against Horace’s. “Mighty fine apple juice, eh?”
“Oh heck,” groaned Mrs Sanctimonious, “the Morris dancers…”
Jingle, jingle, jingle, clack! Jingle, jingle, jingle, thud! Thud! Raucous laughter. The Morris dancers, complete with a splendidly toothy Reverend Benign and an equally toothless Mr Wolf, were gathered outside the refreshments tent, giving an impromptu display – of falling over.
“Justin!” shrieked Mrs Sanctimonious. “Justin, where are you? Get the maypole dancing going, now!”
“Can’t,” replied Justin.
“What do you mean, you can’t? You’ve had an hour to train the children…”
“Yeah, and things were going swimmingly until Mrs Rosy-Cheeks instigated an ‘eat your body weight in burgers’ competition.”
“And,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, looking over to where the children were now slobbing out around the maypole, electronic tablets in hands, “I hardly dare ask, but did any of them manage it?”
“No.” Mrs Sanctimonious’s relief was short lived. “But only because there aren’t enough burgers in the country. Once they’d finished Mrs Rosy-Cheeks’s supply – in record time, I might add – they started on the…”
Justin was interrupted by a scream from the raffle stall. Mrs Downtrodden was staring in horrified disbelief at the empty stand where the magnificent prize cake, the weight of which eager fairgoers had been paying a pound a go to guess, had once sat.
“Once they’d finished, they started on the cake,” murmured Mrs Sanctimonious, feeling a little faint. Someone shoved a glass of Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s legendary apple juice into her hand and she drank a healthy slug before continuing. “And what, pray, are the not so little darlings doing now.”
“Dancing,” replied Justin as chubby fingers whizzed over tablet screens. “They’ve all downloaded ‘Killer Zombies’ Dance of Death’ and they’re bloody brilliant at it.” Grinning, Justin produced an iPad from his man bag. “It’s great. The zombies dance round the maypole, binding the living with the ribbons, then they feast on brains. I’m on level two.”
His finger already busy, Justin returned to the maypole and disappeared into a sea of fat and ribbons.
“It’s all going wrong!” wailed Mrs Sanctimonious. “Give me strength…”
Taking another gulp of apple juice, she discovered her prayer had been answered. An inner strength she didn’t know she had came to the fore and she regarded the mayhem around her with a new appreciation.
“This stuff’s delicious,” she said, draining her glass. “Any chance of some more?”
“Ish nectar from heaven,” slurred Reverend Benign, draping an arm round her shoulders. “A gift from almighty…wash ’iz name again? Ooh,” his teeth turned in the direction of the newly crowned May Queen, Miss Pretty-Young-Thing, closely followed by the rest of his face, “don’t mind if I do.”
Reverend Benign scuttled off rather unsteadily in pursuit of Miss Pretty-Young-Thing, accompanied by wolf whistles and an accordion rendition of the Benny Hill theme tune courtesy of the Morris dancers. Meanwhile at the body painting stall, Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village was sharing a large roll-up with the former Lord Lah-di-Dah while Horace showcased his artistic talents on her Leanne’s face.
“Is that a…” began Mrs Sanctimonious, looking bleary-eyed at Horace’s artwork.
“Nah, Mrs S,” replied Horace with a grin. “Dirty mind you’ve got, lady. It’s just a nice picture of meat and two veg.”
“What a relief,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, turning with a beaming smile as Mrs Downtrodden appeared at her side.
“Mrs Sanctimonious,” said Mrs Downtrodden, her voice quavering, “it’s a disaster.”
The Morris men were back at the refreshments tent, singing a collection of bawdy songs at the tops of their voices, their bells jingling frantically as they swayed to and fro, while random declarations of “Brains” from the direction of the maypole heralded more victories for the zombies. Giggling and rustling coming from a nearby bush, punctuated by the occasional “Glory be to God”, suggested the whereabouts of His Reverence and the May Queen, and the large roll-ups appeared to be multiplying at an astonishing rate as Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village got increasingly mellow with the local Hell’s Angels chapter and the disgraced aristocrat.
“Disaster, my arse,” replied Mrs Sanctimonious, linking arms with Mrs Downtrodden and leading her in the direction of the refreshments tent and Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s glorious apple juice. “It’s the best fête ever!”
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