Ah! It is that time of year again. We find ourselves privileged to be invited once again to dance at the fete of the College of St Barnabas, a home for retired gentle-vicars in the heart of the Sussex countryside. In we walked. A blazers-and-straw-hats jazz trio, comprising banjo, trombone and sousaphone, were playing in the marquee; the retired clergy were entertaining visitors with witty anecdotes that ended in uproarious laughter; the ladies in the tea tent were armed with a resolute cheerfulness and an apparently endless supply of cream scones, victoria sponge and chocolate cake served on china plates with carefully folded napkins, and tea served in cups with handles too small for fingers swollen by years of being thwacked with sticks; the hobby horse was unharmed and had recovered his composure if not his dignity after falling off the miniature steam locomotive that ran, temporarily, over the croquet lawn; and the dancers had just finished a handkerchief dance that was first recorded over a century ago in the Cotswold village of Fieldtown. It was, in short, as though in this election week Britannia had stepped off her wild chariot of political upheaval and for this brief moment was clutching us tightly into her strong and stable bosom.
Man of the match must surely go to Ray today for not only the imagination to see what the train would look like with Old Tom on the back of it and the courage to try it out, but also the perseverance to get back on again once he had fallen off once! For safety reasons I should add – Do not try this at home, it must only be done by trained professionals: I did ask the train operator and no one has actually done a risk assessment for a horse on the train. The expression on the girl’s faces is priceless, as though when they had woken up that morning they had absolutely no inkling this was a position in which they might find themselves during the day….!
Thank you, College of St Barnabas for another memorable day.