My childhood memories of the Borden Village Fete are bittersweet, looking back through battered old rose-tinted spectacles to a time when the sun always shone, everyone was happy and I always got a new frock for the occasion.
On the Friday evening and Saturday morning organisers and helpers were out on the Playstool in force, putting up stalls and tables and bashing in fence posts. Our bungalow backed on to the Playstool and so it was put to good use throughout the day. Everything had to be brought down from the loft, toys for the Lucky Dip and Bunty Pulls A String, prizes for the Hoopla, a donkey with detachable tail, bunting and goodness knows what paraphernalia that had been stored up there from the year before. The fete was powered by our electricity so men dragged the cables up the garden and through the conservatory and living room to plug it all in.
On our dining table there would be a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates. Each year a child in the village would be chosen to present the flowers to the 'celebrity' opening the fete. The chocolates were for the celebrity to give to the child. The year that it was my turn to present the flowers it was Mr. Pastry who opened the fete. I remember my yellow dress with white trimmings and white boater with yellow ribbon. I remember the huge bouquet. I remember that Mr. Pastry did not give me the chocolates. I gave my parents hell over that particular organizational disaster.
Someone from the school came and delivered the beautiful dresses that the children would be wearing for the maypole dancing. They were piled up on our settee and the children crowded into the living room to change into them. My parents' decision to send me to a school in the town rather than the village school, which had hitherto never been an issue of contention, was suddenly revealed to be a grave mistake when I saw the awesome maypole dancing and realised sadly that I could never be a part of it.
In 1966 it was deemed by many to be a very ill-advised, if not completely insane, plan to host the fete on the same day as the World Cup Final. The Borden Fete committee members, however, were never ones to be intimidated by the possibility of their big day being overshadowed by a major international event. My dad carried the television set from our living room across the Playstool to a huge tent. The beer tent was placed right next to it and the TV tent was later considered to be a stroke of genius.
There was always a spectacular opening ceremony to the fete and in 'the year of the sky divers' it would have been reasonable to expect that someone would know they would be responsible for providing landing targets for the four divers. Never mind. My mum grabbed the sheets from our beds and they were hurriedly placed on and around the cricket pitch and everyone got out of the way. If I remember rightly, one diver landed neatly on one of the sheets, another landed near to one. One landed in the adjoining field and I'm not sure that we ever saw the fourth one at all.
When the impressive opening ceremony and flowers/chocolates debacle was over, the fete could begin. The cricket pitch was the main arena for all the events, and chairs and benches were lined up all around for the spectators. Apart from the maypole dancing, my favourite thing to watch was the drum majorettes display. It seemed very glamorous and clever.
I won the Baby Show in 1961, aged 9 months. This doesn't really count as a memory as, not surprisingly, I don't remember it. I do still have, though, the photo that appeared in the East Kent Gazette of chubby little me sitting on the cricket pitch with my prize, a toy rabbit. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I don't have a picture that appeared in the East Kent Gazette some years later of the Fancy Dress competition. I don't recall what year it was but someone will be able to work it out as it was the year that the fete celebrated it's 25th anniversary. I've got to explain that to make some sense of the fact that I was entered into the Fancy Dress as The Borden Fete 25th Anniversary Cake. Yes, that's right, a cake, and considering the amount of pink and white crepe paper I was wrapped up in, not to mention balancing the actual cake with 25 pink and white candles on my head, I think I should have done rather better than take second place to the Little Dutch Girl in clogs pushing a windmill round in a pram. I beat The Daffodil into third place, poor thing, stuck in a giant green toilet roll holder stem should surely be considered child cruelty.
A brilliant inclusion in the fete was the Borden Horticultural Society's Summer Show, in a large marquee next to the Pavilion. It was a gorgeous experience to walk into the cool marquee full of the heady perfume of fabulous flower arrangements to see how my carrot had fared in the funny-shaped vegetable competition.
There were races on the far side of the Playstool, three-legged, sack race, egg and spoon, the whole lot, some for the kids and some for the grown-ups. The tug-of-war was terrifying. Huge drunken men growling and bellowing and if the cricket pitch wasn't already ploughed up it was by the time the tug-of-war was over. A fire engine from Sittingbourne Fire Station was popular with the children who were allowed to clamber over it. I loved lying in the swing boats in the morning before the fete started.
At the end of the day there was the Grand Auction. Anything and everything was auctioned off and by this time the party atmosphere had got so silly, people were bidding the most unbelievable amounts of money to get the winning victoria sandwich from the Horticultural Show or the last remaining coconut from the coconut shy.
The fete we have now is not yet as big an event as it was then but it certainly will grow to be as people increasingly realise what it means to take part in an annual get-together every summer, keeping a village tradition of having fun doing silly things.
I'm going to help out with the Pimm's Tent this year so I look forward to meeting everyone who wants a drink and I beg for patience as I've never done a Pimm's Tent before. I'm told the maypole will be placed nearby and as the school children will not be taking part we will be doing a Have-A-Go Maypole Dance for anyone who's up for it. So at long last I'll get my chance to do some maypole dancing and perhaps I'll even get myself a new frock for the occasion.