A Conversation for British Village Fetes

Prize Wine

Post 1

a girl called Ben

There is definitely a particular English battiness attached to the summer fete; and as a long-standing and sceptical resident of deeply rural England, I have adored and participated in these events for years.

Mrs Smith, boss eyed, buck toothed, inbred, and with an idiot daughter, used to produce homemade wine for the village fete. (I am being truthfull, and not unkind - she looked and dressed exactly like the woman who runs the local shop in the British TV show The League of Gentlemen).

This wine was opaque, and looked more like ginger beer or lemon squash than wine. But she entered it in a category with only one other entry; and so it one second prize. I dearly and devoutly hope that the judges did not taste the wine; when Mrs Smith gave some of this "Prize Wine" to her neighbour Helen, Helen didn't even take it into the house, she swirled it down her ouside drain; where it bubbled and fizzed and cleared out the slime and sludge. In fact it "brought it up a treat", as Helen said. But even she wasn't quite cynical enough to ask for a spare bottle to clean the drain next year.

The prize contests in summer fetes and flower shows can get extremely viscious. One girl in the village entered every single competition - six daintiest fairy cakes, lightest victoria sandwich, best garden on a plate, best flower arrangement with no flowers, and 20 other similar competitions. The accumulated points by volume and persintance, and year after year she won the cup.

So there was joy amongst the judges the year my sister did the same thing and came joint first with Caroline; although they were to have the cup for 6 months each, and a second miniature would be made; the judges gave both the big cup and the miniature to my sister to take away with her that afternoon, which seems rather unkind to the nimble fingered Caroline.

There are certain categories of foodstuffs and fancygoods which have no other purpose than to do the rounds of village events, being bought at a bring and buy, put on the produce stall, and turning up again at the Harvest Supper, and before making a festive outing at the Christmas Fair. These are things like doilies, or crotcheted dolls in crinoline dressess for covering up toilet rolls. The foodstuffs that go round and round are more sinister. My mother finally bought and threw away the bottle of grapefruit juice which had aged over a couple of years from yellow to ochre and finally grey. Remembering Helen, she tried it on her drain, but it was nowhere near as effective as Mrs Smith's Prize wine.

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