Blossoms and Bygones: A Little-England Pic-spam
When I moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire it felt as if I’d also moved twenty years back in time. There were no McDonalds. None of the pizza shops delivered. There was even a tiny petrol garage where you had to wait for someone to come out and operate the pump for you.
It was unsettling, but also rather reassuring. Hand in hand with the lack of modern fast food went a community feeling and a tendency for people to stop and chat as you walked down the street. Gradually I got used to it, and forgot that it had ever felt strange.
But this weekend I went to an early Summer Fete in the tiny villages of Haddenham and Aldreth. I went dressed as a Saxon, representing the local attraction ‘West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village,’
where I am one of the ‘friends’; the costumed villagers.
Haddenham and Aldreth were having a themed fete, or at least that’s what their poster proclaimed. It was to be called ‘Blossoms and Bygones’ and to feature Saxons:
A Napoleonic soldier with his family:
An archaeological exhibit about a locally unearthed Saxon chief, (which nobody I spoke to had actually managed to find). Classic cars and traction engines:
Flower stalls, and Daleks.
Don’t ask me where the Daleks fit in with the theme!
But they were wonderful. There was one Old Who Dalek and one New Who Dalek. They shared a single operator who alternated between both, unscrewing the lids, getting in and making them roll about and talk to people. The Old Who Dalek was very indignant to find out that most of the children didn’t think he was a proper Dalek at all. But I thought he was the cuter of the two
Because the two villages were a fair walk apart and the attractions were spread out between both, there was a park and ride. This consisted of a tractor with a trailer attached. The trailer was lined with bales of straw for the passengers to sit on.
The sun shone all day long. The tractor’s stop in Aldreth was just outside the church hall, where they were serving tea and home-made cakes. And it was just across the road from this:
The most picture postcard cottage I’ve ever seen in my life.
As we left, we wound down narrow roads lined with flowering may and passed the Haddenham windmill, which was also open for the day.
Altogether it was like being in an episode of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple – though with less of a body-count.
I was astonished because I had thought this was an England that only lived in idealised memories of pre-war years, yet here it was, still gently going on. I feel very reassured that if I wanted to write a cosy village story of my own, I could still point people at Haddenham and Aldreth and say ‘see, it is realistic! So there!’