Well, Farkfest's Family Field event didn't quite go as planned. The day strted as expected with the arrival of Dorothy, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self in two Rolls Royces; one unique, glass roofed classic for her and her delightful chihuahua, Karlov, and the other for a number of burly gentlemen to whom Her Grace referred as 'her enterouge'. Many present commented on Her Grace's hat, a masterpiece of modern millinery made specially for the occasion. Her opening address was short and to the point before settling down in one of the chairs assembled close to the stage by the aforementioned burly young men.
A few eyebrows were raised, not least of all, those of Ivor Parrish, the appallingvicarbastard of the Farkhams, when his brother pulled up at the wheel of Effie Farr-Quinnell's 1936 Derby Bentley, accompanied by 'his secretary' as Effie it seems, was indisposed.
The field gradually filled up with excited children, stressed parents and grandparents determined to increase the excitement of group A and thus the stress of group B. All in all a very normal family occasion.
A number of the heroes of the recent fire drama involving the visiting party of Old Bishops Fancy Scouts were present. Being off duty, they had arrived early, set up a gazebo and were frequent visitors to the queue at Ken Ellman's cider stall where his 'Coma Toes' scrumpy was being enthusiastically quaffed by many of the locals from the beginning. All the varieties of Ken's ciders were on sale but drinking Coma Toes is something of a local rite of passage for the menfolk. Harry "The Hosepipe" Hotchkiss, Dusty "Dry Powder" Dickens and Ernie "The Extinguisher" Easington, along with wives and children were a star attraction in themselves, attracting a constant barrage of questions about their part in the saving of the scouts.
The first act, Daniel Paul drew gasps of amazement as a train of seemingly inlikely items were produced and made to disappear from props on the stage. He moved into the audience with close up card tricks, feats of pickpocketing and general prestidigitation that mystified all present. Not least in the mystification department was Harry the Hosepipe Hotchkiss when a small number of highly 'unusual' photographs magically appeared in front of his wife and family. A domestic squabble ensued, leaving Daniel Paul to move onto his next victim and Harry to seek solace at Ken Ellman's cider stall.
Dorothy, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self joined in with the fun, choosing cards, gasping in amazement and clapping enthusiastically as each trick was consummately performed.
The next act, Falcon Ellie from Farkham in Flight Birds of Prey, changed her gasp slightly when one of the birds on a demonstration swoop of the audience relieved itself on her treasured and very expensive hat. Her Grace took it in good part though and made a bland comment about how that was supposed to be lucky while the remaining forays were directed to the opposite side of the field.
Drums on Seats were spectacular, getting the crowd up and dancing from young to old. Gail Howling's kids were especially animated owing to a surfeit of e-numbers in the 'treats' she had been force-feeding them.
At last, it was time for the star of the show. Top of the bill, Henry Buckton was ushered onto the stage and announced by Dimitri. He carried a guitar in one hand and what looks like a pint glass of semi-liquid mud in the other. "Good afternoon Farkfesters!". A couple of gentle chords of introduction heralded "Drink down Yer Scrumpy". The crowd, many of whom had been enjoying glasses of Coma Toes already, related to the spirit of the song. Kids danced, toes tapped and all was well in the world of Farkfest.
Henry took a quick sip of mud while the audience applauded enthusiastically. He then burst into "Scrumpy and Weston", which was altogether more upbeat and immediately got a few more of the crowd on their feet. The Howling clan were bouncing about like lunatics and trying to sing along. Other children were getting the idea and the area in front of the stage was alive with gyrating tots between five and eighty.
Cheering and clapping ensued. Backstage, Dimitri beamed and Henry launched into "Down on Glastonbury Farm". The first verse or two struck a chord with a few of the Farkfesters who recognised the motives behind our own annual event. Just beginning to feel a little uneasy about that, I was suddenly aware of Doris, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self standing beside me, looking less than happy. "And where did that man in the song stick his jack plug?" she spat. I stammered and looked pleadingly to Dimitri to bail me out. "I do apologise Your Grace, I believe an adult version of the song may have slipped in to the act. I can assure you Ma'am that the rest of Henry's set is purely a pastoral look at Somerset life set to music." Seemingly passified, Dorothy, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self turned on her elegantly shod heel and disappeared as suddenly as she had arrived.
By the time we re-focused on the stage, Henry was well into "it's Carnival Tonight", definitely restoring the 'feelgood factor' to the Duchess' party. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Dimitri and I got back into foot-tapping and enjoying the music. The dancing area was still full of village children leaping and bouncing enthusiastically, some were doing cow impressions to mirror the theme of Henry's carnival float. Only the Parrish tribe sat solemnly, dressed beyond their years and looking distinctly uncomfortable. Ivor Parrish, the appallingvicarbastard of the Farkhams watched over them alone. His wife it seems hadn't returned from their spell on missionary work yet.
His attention was snatched away from puritanical parenting for a moment by the sound of recorded church bells announcing the start of Henry's song "Country Wedding".
The final chord and farting sound had hardly died away before my reverie was disturbed once again. "Balls, pissed, shit, fart, c... c..., I cannot bring myself to say the word! Fancy dress wearers being raped by bulls!" Dorothy, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self exploded into my office.
"Blasphemy, profanity, partying, no solemnity, vicar pissed, pisser in a ditch behind a hedge". Ivor Parrish, the appallingvicarbastard of the Farkhams chimed in. "This is an outrage!"
It seems they had bustled into my makeshift office while I had been anjoying the music.
Outside, a syncopated, bluesey introduction heralded "A Pair of Great Tits". Luckily, Dorothy, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self and Ivor Parrish, the appallingvicarbastard of the Farkhams were both so enraged and so wrapped up in explaining to Dimitri and I that we were not fit to be scraped off their shoe soles that they missed most of the song.
The assembled children of the area, who were all clamouring around the stage, loving not only the songs, but also the discomfiture of their parents, danced, clapped and sang along wildly. Many of the older children joined in even more when Henry delivered "Country Boy". The twin boys of Gail Howling were pack leaders in this respect, leading a happy train of kids dancing in and out of the chairs giving it full voice. Futile attempts by parents to drag their offspring from this spectacle were being made but restisted with equal fervour. The local Fire Service contingent also seemed to like this one best so far and were bellowing out their own accompaniment. The FireWives of Farkham were fighting a losing battle between trying to shut their husbands up and drag their children out of the cats' chorus at the same time. Gail Howling was living up to her name and most of the other mothers were close to tears as there were now four factions in the choir, each singing their own favourite rude bits over and over again.
With a sad tone of voice, Henry introduced "A Dock Worker's Lament". I had persuaded Her Grace and the incensed appallingvicarbastard that what they had heard was only a temporary aberration and the title announced by Henry reassured me that I was right. What harm could there possibly be in such a song?
Well, I soon found out when I heard the words 'I work for Cunard' repeated through most of each verse and every chorus. Ivor Parrish, the appallingvicarbastard of the Farkhams went whiter than usual while Her Grace took on the colour of an over-ripe tomato. I seriously thought she would explode. Dimitri appeared at that point, humming along happily. He was immediately confronted by an incandescent Dorothy, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self. The conversation went along these lines:
Duchess: I have never heard such offensive language!
Dimitri: How do you know it is offensive then?
Duchess: Who are you to speak to me like that? What's your name?
Dimitri: Varkov Ma'am
Duchess: I beg your pardon? I asked for your name, not obscenity! In my great grandfather's day they knew how to deal with insolent peasants like you
Dimitri: He isn't alive now
Duchess: No, but his spirit lives on!
With that, Dorothy, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self marched out of the office with such force that Ivor Parrish, the appallingvicarbastard of the Farkhams was all but dragged along in her wake.
I lost track of Dimitri after that, guessing that he had gone to seek the safety of setting up the Folk Hall, Rock Face and Rap House. Quite frankly, I didn't blame him.
Rosemary and Marjorie Notweed were sitting slightly to the quieter side of the field. They were passed by a crocodile of mixed infants, who between them were happily singing "She's got grt big jugs, grt big jugs", "I works for Cunard, I works for Cunard, I works for Cunard" and "I saw a great pair of tits above her bush, bleeding great tits, a great pair of tits" along with various other snippets of the songs from the afternoon. Just then, Henry burst into "The Farmer's Market". Marjorie asked what the children were singing "I works for Cunard" replied Rosemary. "No you don't dear, we are retired, remember? And please consider your grammar. What you mean is I WORK for Cunard. There shouldn't be an 's' on the end of that".
They were both silenced when they heard of the baker's offer to shove in his Dorset Knob if Mrs Brown would open her mouth. Rosemary blushed… "It's a traditional bread form", Marjorie reassured her. "Rather like a male version of Lady Arundel's Manchet". She continued "You have a mind like a sewer, and I can't think how a sister of mine would ever think the way you do. Don't think that I have forgotten the exhibition you made of yourself at Morris practice that time. A woman your age in foundation garments like that. I am so glad that ma and pa aren't here to see you!"
Rosemary had stopped listening to her sister long ago and was now deeply engrossed in "I'm Only a Turkey Stuffer", which took her back to many happy memories of her young days on the family farm. Smiling beatifically, she tapped her toes and wriggled in her seat.
Meanwhile, the field resembled a cross between a bachanalian orgy, a kindergarten riot and a suffragette meeting. There were drunk fathers laughing at the antics of their children and the vain attempts of mothers to pacify the racket they were making. Cider was still being spilt, kids had learned new songs to howl and tears were being shed everywhere you looked. There was no sign of Dorothy, Dowager Duchess of Upper Self or her entourage, as I pronounce it.
Henry was still on stage, still taking occasional sips from his pint of mud while delivering song after song, each with a bucolic, pastoral theme drawn from Somerset life. He closed his act with "Scrumpy and Weston" and left the stage smiling to huge cheers from teenagers, children, scrumpy-filled Firefighters and fathers-in-general. One Notweed sister cheered enthusisatically while the other made a noise like a pressure cooker being uncapped.
When all was cleared from the stage, I walked with Henry to his car. "My audience isn't usually so young, I hope everyone enjoyed the songs" he chirped enthusiastically. Looking over my shoulder for the ominous presence of two large Rolls Royces, I assured him that his act was greatly enjoyed and perhaps we could do it again net year, but perhaps in the Folk Hall rather than the Family Field…
I continued to wonder where Dimitri had got to for the rest of the evening.