Fear and loathing in a small village
The phrase ‘it’s that time of year again’ strikes fear and loathing in me like no other. These 6 little words, written so innocuously in our son’s Friday Newsletter at the beginning of every February, kick start months of cutting, ironing, sewing (occasionally on my part, I must confess, and you’ll know why if you’ve read ‘These things are sent to try us’) and assembling mini scarecrows that represent the Parent-Teacher Association’s major fund-raising activity. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – but what about the usual raffles and craft fairs? – nope, not at our school. You see we were foolish enough to move into a village famous for its annual Scarecrow Festival.
For two weeks in May, sandwiching the first bank holiday weekend, throngs of people flock into our normally sleepy village to witness our (I use this word loosely – more on that later) toil and strife, bound in chicken wire and stuffed with hay, standing, almost always soggily, outside our front door. It’s great for raising the profile of the village and funds for the school, but as both village resident and parent of a school-aged child, I can assure you it’s a commitment – and not a good one like watching Breaking Bad or The Wire – a bad one like attending a 3-hour Confirmation service.
It’s not just the cutting, ironing, sewing and assembling; it’s also the baking and selling of cakes, the serving of coffee and the washing of dishes. For the older children, it’s the car-parking duty (although not viewed entirely by them as ‘duty’ as they do get to bark orders into a walky-talky and wear a bright yellow vest – the ultimate symbols of power in any village-organized event). For Boy G, and really this is the most humiliating of all chores, it’s the dancing around the Maypole twice a day every day for an entire week and singing a half-hearted and very white version of La Bamba to a crowd of pensioners who happened to stumble upon the chairs outside the school, grateful to take a load off, even if they are chairs for little people and upon which only one butt cheek can find solace.
But even being paraded outside every day at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock like a performing sea lion is nothing (and does get Boy G out of schoolwork as he’ll happily tell you) compared to the sheer number of hours that P puts into building his masterpiece. Yes, every year without fail P will tell you that he doesn’t care and that it’s just a stupid scarecrow, but every year he manages, somehow, to take a good 3 days off work to saw wood, hammer nails, mould chicken wire, stuff hay and generally curse the day we ever moved into this damned village!
The problem is, the second year we were here his creation was awarded a first prize, garnering him £50, which, when you count his labour costs, materials and total time off work, only resulted in a loss of about £600. But, the smell of victory was sweet and so every year since he’s been trying to replicate that golden moment. Though children ask to help, he shoos them away like flies, resolute that only he, the master craftsman, can return our family to the top of the scarecrow podium. And so, as February dawns, the cycle begins again … watch this space to find out if we, oops I mean P, is able to reclaim victory and if Boy G is able to weave his magic on the Maypole.
Oh, and, if you need any top tips on building a scarecrow or if you would like to commission an original piece, do leave a message below!