Midsomer fayre’s fare

Saturday 23rd June 2012

COIF: a skull-cap of iron or steel worn under a helmet: not for the woolly-headed, judging by the stout-hearted volunteer standard-bearer, who emerges sweat-faced from the chain-mail armour he donned for the drill.

Despite the raindrops, that spread of ham, cheese, bread and fruit looks tempting. The barrel would contain ale or cider. Few people drank water in those days.

“How do we know he was wealthy?”

The glassware, we are told… along with other fascinating facts about life in 1248, when Henry III granted the town a charter, allowing an annual fayre to be held and leading to the Midsomer addition to Norton.

Nobody has, as yet, chosen to be pelted with sponges in the stocks, but children are making medieval pots, throwing bean-bag rodents through the rat-catcher’s hoop, and learning how to brandish spears while carrying shields and wearing (mock) coifs under plastic helmets.

The Church of St John the Baptist hosts many of the day’s activities and displays. Ignore the banter of the costumed knight…

“Now, soldiers of the army, what happens when you attack your enemy? Maybe it’s the government who’ve brought in too many austerity measures.”

…for the setting itself can take you back many centuries.

I would climb the steps to the bell-tower, were it not for the queue – and seeing the man at the bottom using a mobile phone to talk to the man at the top.

“This is for families,” the Mayor declares, showing me the scaffold-embraced Town Hall, being refurbished by and for a re-established local council. “We want to do something different.”

He’s right. It is both fun and educational; a community’s pride in its history; a chance for those present to learn about the past: a day for old stone and wrought metal – with not one bouncy castle in sight.

I score a modest 135 at bagatelle, stop for a chat with the falconer – who hides a plastic lunchbox when photographed alongside his perched Harris hawks – and head off towards what sounds like a medieval thoroughfare: Gullock Tyning.







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