The Cheshire Mid-summer Music and Garden Festival
“Cooey everyone, how’re we doing?” It was Violet, just arrived and all excited by the possibilities of the day ahead. “Aren’t we lucky with the weather. Not a cloud in the sky. God is on our side. As always.”
“Nearly ready,” I said, “Just need to finish packing the basket. Be a sweetie, won’t you, and just fill that thermos from the teapot. Should have brewed long enough. Lemon and sugar already packed.”
“Have we got sandwiches?” she asked.
“Oh yes – strawberry for you, cucumber for Ethel and Brenda, and Marmite for me. Crusts removed. Oh, and some lovely little pork pies from Wienholts.”
“Tootle pip,” said Ethel, coming in from the breakfast room, “This is such fun.”
Within no time at all the three of us were safely ensconced in the old Bentley and ready to hit the road, as they say.
“Full tank of petrol?” called out Violet from the driver’s seat.
“Roger,” laughed Ethel and I.
“A1 with knobs on”
“All present and correct.”
“All tickity boo, mon Capitan.”
“Picnic basket and rug?”
“Safely stowed and shipshape, yer Majesty.”
“Whoops. In the front room,” and Ethel ran back into the ivy covered cottage.
“And bring the sun cream,” I called out.
And within minutes and ne’er a backwards glance, the three of us, Violet, Ethel and I, were bumping down the driveway off to the Cheshire Mid-summer Music and Garden Festival.
“Yee-hah,” called out Violet as though she was some sort of TV cowboy on the way to a rodeo, and we all laughed. “Bring it on,” shouted Ethel and we all cheered, although I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.
The first stop was to pick up Brenda who came puffing out of her house struggling with the three double barreled Purdy’s and the one Uzi while dear old George struggled behind her with the large green plastic storage box loaded with all the ammo and some potato salad, Brenda’s signature dish. Poor old George had to stay behind to see to his bees, so after some quick goodbyes, we were off again, happy-go-lucky queens of the road.
From then on it was to be non-stop all the way, unless it was for a call of nature at one of those nasty motorway stops. Probably for Violet, who, poor thing, doesn’t have the same staying power as she had a while back.
It was like one of those American car journeys the young people sing about – car windows wound down in the summer heat, Woman’s Hour blaring forth, the click-clack, click-clack of Ethel’s size nine knitting needles, and the prospect of a spiffling good time ahead of us. Conversation flowed easily with Brenda and me trying to understand why that lemon drizzle cake recipe works in my oven and not hers; my suggestion is that it’s because Brenda uses a cheaper bicarb, but Brenda says no, it works well enough for her other baking. It’s one of life’s little mysteries.
On the back seat Ethel worries about what to do with two of her hens which have stopped laying. Should she give them more time, or are they destined for the oven, she wonders. Unfortunately the rest of us have no experience of chicken husbandry so can’t really help. Violet’s suggestion that Ethel buys a young rooster for the flock elicits a loud guffaw from Brenda, but Ethel feels that won’t do the trick.
In what seemed like no time at all Violet signaled left to leave the motorway. “Eleven thirty on the dot,” she said.
Brenda checked her clipboard. “Spot on, driver. On schedule. And we would expect nothing less. An extra pork pie for you.”
A news flash on the radio mentioned the festival traffic and warned about some tailbacks on the B roads. Fortunately we had built that into our timing and so weren’t worried at all. I have to say I was delighted at how professional we all were.
About two miles from the festival gates things went quiet in the car, each of us lost in our own thoughts. Brenda lit up a cigarette. I turned to look at her and raised an eyebrow; she had given up in her late fifties and not touched one since. She gave me half a smile and I went back to my own business. Ethel had put aside her knitting and was scribbling in that little notebook she always keeps with her.
We got past the gates with no trouble. The gangly teenager dressed up as a security guard gave us an ironic salute and waved us through without searching the car. We knew they’d do that.
Within only a minute or so we were safely parked up not fifty yards from the bunting and flag bedecked festival tents. We sat there for a short while listening to the jolly music coming from the tannoy and admiring the in-bloom Capability Brown gardens before Violet checked her watch, switched off the ignition, and whispered, “Okay, ladies. Balaclavas on.”