As summer draws to a close the next event in the Chieveley season is the village fireworks due sometime in early November. A bit soon to be thinking about it I know but these things require rigorous planning and I am aware that the Chief Sparkler, or however he currently styles himself, is already busy perusing a well-thumbed copy of the fireworks catalogue trying to decide which ones to order for the big display. Once he has made up his mind on the pyrotechnics he then has to calculate the right length of blue touch paper for each firework to ensure the display goes off at the correct intervals and source his wind-proof matches with which to light said touch paper. Then, like a child anticipating Christmas, he will eagerly await the knock on the door signalling the arrival of the postman delivering a large cardboard box of incendiaries which will be stashed safely away until the night. But more on the fireworks next month.
This village is blessed with a multitude of leisure opportunities. Wicksy is always keen to try and retain the last fading vestiges of his youth and has lately taken to exercising on the out-door gymnasium at the Rec prompting one elderly lady dog walker to ask him if he wouldn’t mind doing it under cover of darkness. He also cycles everywhere, although mainly down to the pub if the truth be told. Fortunately he eschews lycra in favour of a tee shirt and baggy shorts of dubious vintage which afford no greater modesty than the afore mentioned lycra. He is a man widely noted for his sartorial inelegance. Not for Wicksy the latest carbon fibre racing machine which he once described as “a characterless lump of plastic and soot fit only for Ponces” but rather a vintage steed older than all of his kids and which was hardly at the cutting edge of bicycle technology when he bought it originally.
Imagine his child-like delight last year when he discovered that the council had constructed a bike park up at The Green complete with a multitude of ramps and jumps around the perimeter. For months he has bored us rigid with his talk of “hucking” at The Green which, once our initial incredulity had faded, turned out to be nothing more interesting than jumping off the new ramps.
Imagine our child-like delight to learn over a pint of Swindon Effluent at the PP last Friday that his bike had succumbed to a combination of over-exuberance, tin worm and his expanding waistline resulting in him rolling down the slope still gripping the handle bars with just the forks and front wheel attached to land in an ungraceful heap at the feet of the afore mentioned elderly lady dog walker. Apparently he is now seriously considering becoming a “Ponce".
It’s high summer and the village has taken on a somnolent atmosphere as a large part of the populous seems to have temporarily emigrated to the Continent; presumably whilst they still are able to do so before the wall goes up. School Road and the environs are mercifully free of large 4x4s abandoned on the pavements and verges as parents attempt to deliver children as close as is unreasonably possible to the school in an effort to ensure the minimum of exercise for their offspring or alternatively because they consider the pavements to be far too dangerous to walk along due to all the large 4x4s being driven along them.
Little of any import or interest seems to be happening but that does not stop the Webmeister from harassing me for more copy. With his monthly request for “a series of articles based on things in Chieveley, oh, and please DO try and make it vaguely interesting” (and when I say “monthly request” it has now morphed into a persistent whine, a bit like a bored child in the back of the car on the way to the beach) the summer has proved to be a bit of a cultural desert as far as this blog is concerned. Half the bell ringers are away, not that you could tell, so the sight of white smoke emanating from the bell tower foretelling not the next Pope but the end of the end of a hand of whist and the muffled arguments are absent on a Sunday morning. Even the grass in the churchyard is taking it easy in the warmth of August meaning that the mowing teams are a rarer sight. One evening earlier in the year I passed through the church yard to see that Wicksy and Doc had finally plucked up the courage to tackle their allotted space. If only they had done so a few weeks earlier the task would have been so much simpler but the vigorous growth of late spring meant that the going was tough so Doc was lounging like a large Reubens-esque cherub on the grass, propped up on one elbow with a can of beer in hand while offering words of advice to Wicksy who was valiantly attempting to force the mower forwards against the tide of the grass.
At home about the most exciting thing to happen was being coerced into clearing out redundant clothing. I really cannot see the reason for throwing out perfectly serviceable items, even if they were manufactured and purchased in the last century. I strongly suspect that in common with the vast majority of the male population in this country, without outside interference I could easily make 12 pairs of underpants last an entire lifetime.
Summer has finally arrived and the summer sport season has already commenced. England gave their second best performance in the football world cup in 52 years and the cricket world cup is looking good for England with a memorable victory over the convicts/despite a spirited performance England were very unlucky to lose narrowly to the ball-tamperers (delete as appropriate at the time of reading). Apparently there is even some sort of tennis competition going on in London at the moment.
Chieveley luxuriates in sports facilities with football, tennis and cricket all being represented at the Rec. I’ve not watched the football up there, but judging by the language drifting across the sward on a frosty November morning it must be Premier League level stuff and Wicksy has told me on several occasions, although always whilst gripping a half drunk pint of Arkell’s finest, that the tennis courts are so highly regarded that Tim Henman plays there. I suspect that the Arkell’s is having a similar effect on his metal capacity as it has on my alimentary canal.
On another note I have still not seen any signs of the promised beaver colony despite several lengthy expeditions along the banks of the Winterbourne. In order to further my quest I fear that I shall have to resort to asking the early morning dog walkers if they have seen any beaver recently.
The Norse warriors from the frozen north believed that the Norns, or Fates, drew water from a pool which they used to sustain a giant ash tree at the very centre of the cosmos. This was, of course, in the days before ash die back became such a problem. The (Chieveley) fete still sustains the tree of life, different spelling I know, but that’s the French for you. Only now it is not the Norns doing the work but the likes of my good friends Rumpo and Wicksey who will be part of Doc’s security team providing stalwart advice on clutch control to young mothers in large four wheel drive vehicles and relieving villagers of a small sum to enter the grounds. Yes; you do have to pay to get in so please don’t complain, it is well worth the paltry cost as once inside you will be regaled by a cornucopia of attractions.
Foremost in my mind is the beer tent and the connoisseur of the hop can be reassured that the fare will not have been sourced from the Bell Tower Brewery. Use a glass of beer to wash down one of the burgers from the BBQ. Sadly the Burgermeister of fireworks fame will not be providing villagers with his signature “Bonfire Burger” – black on the outside, frozen in the middle; but a rather less adventurous team will be serving up the more mundane “evenly-cooked” version. For the adrenaline junkie there will be gambling at the tombola and the swing boats. Sadly the rifle range would seem to be no more. Beer and bullets. How American, and what could possibly go wrong?
Proceeds support local causes including our new Beaver colony apparently. The Winterbourne, as its name suggests is rather seasonal in its presence and so I don’t know just how successful a beaver colony will be in Chieveley but do be prepared for flooding down by the sewage works if they do manage to make a go of it. And that brings me neatly back to the Fates and the pool of life. See, you do not encounter writing of this standard in many places now which goes a long way to explain the phenomenal success of this website.
And They're Off
First we have the Gold Cup at Cheltenham followed by the Grand National at Aintree and then third in this triumvirate of classic cross country races is the Chase at Chieveley. Although on this occasion the only nags in sight will be those on the by-line urging recalcitrant children to get their plimsolls on before the race starts. In its short history this race has become one of the Spring Classics and provides the dual purposes of some welcome fund raising for the school as well as an excuse for many to up their training regime and aim for a new PB over the 5.7 mile course.
As a former near-elite level athlete many of my acquaintances have expressed surprise that I will not be gracing the hallowed turf at the Rec with my spikes but just as David Gower never lifted a bat after retiring from 1st class cricket so I have vowed never to race competitively again. Plus there is every chance of sullying the pale blue genuine man-made fibre uppers of said shoes with mud or worse. I shall, of course, be availing all those willing to listen, plus quite a few who are not, with my not inconsiderable wisdom and coaching skills from the edge of the fray and offering moral support to the stragglers.
Bells and Beer
Exceeding all the Webmeister’s expectations this “blog” is rapidly becoming the most popular page on the website, if not the entire internet, despite his decision to affect a “soft launch” which I now understands means that he couldn’t be bothered to put any effort or resources into advertising it.
Chieveley once boasted three pubs but now we are down to just one; the Pink Pussy; the jewel in the crown of the Arkell’s empire; source of that unique beer, 3B. Well, it seems that they now have some competition.
The other week I attended a quiz at the church to find that the vicar was running a bar. Obviously the beer was not a patch on the oesophageal numbing qualities of Arkell’s and the barman never once threatened to ask me to leave but from little acorns and all that. Next week they will probably have Tripadvisor reviews hung on the vestry wall. I understand that the lucrative alcohol concession in the church is normally operated by the bell ringers, the vicar only serving wine at the altar. Apparently on this occasion there was an unresolved dispute over the previous Sunday’s Bell Tower Sweepstake, a betting syndicate based on the length of the sermon, and the bell ringers were refusing to talk to each other.
I am reliably informed that they brew their own beer in the tower which they imbibe on a Sunday morning after the initial peel, along with a couple of fags each and a few rounds of whist. This generally sees them finishing just in time to ring the bells again as the congregation leaves at which point they can then descend from the tower complaining that the organist missed a couple of notes in the last hymn
Walking in Circles
I have recently noticed a group of people in the village walking round in circles. Well, a circle to be a bit more accurate. Or an irregular loop to be even more accurate. Which started me wondering. What is the collective noun for a group of walkers? Google is the obvious solution to this important question and of course fails to provide a definitive answer. An “amble” or “stroll” seem the two most popular suggestions, and one web forum that I consulted had degenerated into personal abuse within seven posts. The internet never fails to disappoint.
Turns out that these are not lost souls aimlessly wandering the village like the Flying Dutchman neither are they doing it because they are at a loose end, but rather for Loose Ends a local charity looking after the homeless and vulnerable. The Webmeister has thoughtfully included some details elsewhere in this emporium so do have a look after you’ve finished reading this. The last night will include a torchlight procession to the pub. As in flaming torches with real fire, none of your cheap LED stuff. Naked flames and alcohol. What could possibly go wrong? That is before you start thinking of the connotations of a group of villagers carrying fire marching on the local pub like something from the Wicker Man. The Red Lion? More like the Charred Cheetah.
You have been warned
In an effort to revive the fortunes of his flagging website the Webmeister has been casting his net wide and far in search of new material and so in desperation has commissioned me to write a series of witty and erudite articles for him on any subject matter that I care to choose. For those of you who are now concerned that the village’s financial resources are being frittered away on mere fripperies I would seek to console you with the observation that in my wide experience his promises and deliveries are two camps separated by a wide chasm. To be honest I have far better things to do with my time than to serve as his lackey in his quest for dominance of the lucrative market for digital ephemera and therefore my output is likely to be limited not only to maintain the high standards which I strive to achieve but also to ameliorate the effects of my efforts on his quest for electronic dominance
Please do hit the refresh key on this page from time to time as without a steady stream of the curious, inquisitive, desperate and easily pleased my tenure will be cut short. However do not expect a daily or even weekly update as producing material of this quality does take its toll and is no task for the faint hearted. Maintaining the high standards that we have all come to expect from the internet in the 21st century requires a broad range of skills each finely honed to the keenest of edges with the slipstone of experience and thus this will very much be an exercise in quality rather than quantity. Possibly.