Sunday 4th June 2012
J,K,L,M: we’re a backing group, the girls flamboyantly adorned – Jackie’s red lipstick; Kate’s slip showing; Lynne’s headscarf – and me in tatty tails.
It’s a charabanc day, when we swoop down Somerset lanes amok with hedgerow birds and lace petals… and heed not the scowling clouds, for we are British and this is the long weekend of jubilant, Jubilee-doffing, bunting-strewn parties, of national pageantry and trestle-tabled picnickery.
In Norton St Philip, an inquisitive sun briefly warms the Mead, where you can Splat the Rat, hurl hard balls at shelves of sacrificial crockery, or watch gleeful children cause buckets of water to empty over bare-headed parents.
The girls interview villagers selling bedding plants; a green-uniformed St John Ambulance crew groans at my poetry puns; the first onions simmer in a pan, over by the pavilion.
Margaret is serving lunch when we reach the Wesley Hall in Paulton. The newly crowned Queen, Dorothy, dons her crown once more, for photographs. And from further down the table:
“Have you ever seen an MBE?”
The recipients of the medals, who run a local charity shop, recount their tale to the girls. I take servings of fruit and ice-cream from the hatch, telling the storytellers:
“Here. You’re missing out on the dessert. MBE means My Bowl’s Empty.”
There are spots of rain on Keynsham High Street, where black plastic bag carriers are clearing away soggy paper tablecloths; families bustle among colourful stalls; stewards and organisers are pleased the rain held off till now; tired children wave flags; the PA system blasts out a local crooner, singing Delilah, a little too loudly.
The final visit takes us to Dunster Road, where, huddled under umbrellas, we’re offered beer and good cheer, while residents stack chairs and chuckle at how quickly they had covered the food when the inevitable downpour came.
With soaking wet coat and notes reduced to blobs of unread-writing-blue, I follow the girls down the hill, in need of a very British cup of tea.