Community Spirit – Episode 47

ON Saturday morning, Nate lifted his nose into the air and followed the most wonderful smell out of the Mucklebury Arms and on to the green, right up to Jeannie’s pies and pastries stall.

It was the day of the WI fête and she had decorated her table with a pink gingham tablecloth and hand-painted a banner decorated with daffodils and buttercups, which hung between two posts secured to the table legs.

On top of the table was a warming oven from which flowed the aroma of freshly made pies. Sage green take-away trays and peach-coloured napkins completed the look. Nate studied the freestanding menu on the grass just in front of the stall whilst Jeannie studied him with a satisfied smile on her face.

He turned towards her and smiled.

“Hello,” he said in a funny voice, “I’m the official WI fête mystery shopper and I’d like a breakfast pie, please. I do have to tell you in advance that if I am pleased with the quality of the pie you will be nominated for the Perfect Puff Pastry Pie Of The Year competition.”

Jeannie laughed and took a golden pie from the oven, steam escaping from the two cuts in the lid.

She placed a napkin in a tray and put the pie on the napkin before holding it out to Nate. At the last second, she pulled it back.

“Hang on a minute,” she said. “I’ve never heard of the Perfect Puff Pastry Pie Of The Year competition, and if you were the official WI fête mystery shopper I don’t think you’d announce yourself.”

“Good point,” Nate replied, “but can I still have the pie?”

Jeannie laughed again and handed it over. Nate offered her two pound coins, but she waved his hand away.

“First customer always gets a free pie,” she said.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Nate replied.

“OK, I’ll take a drink from you in return.”

“Deal.” Nate bit into the pie.

He was just recovering from the fabulous taste of smoked bacon, tomato, sausage and herbs when he was elbowed aside by a group of teenage boys.

He waited while Jeannie served them, but then a group of other stallholders joined the queue, then people who had started drifting into the fête seemed to be making a beeline for Jeannie and her pies. She cast him a rueful glance and he gave her a wave and went back to his own pitch.

The green was filled with stalls of every kind, with bunting strung between the streetlights and a Tannoy system playing big band songs and Andrews Sisters hits. There were bric-à-brac stalls, home-made cakes and jams, a tombola, hoopla, and Nate’s favourite, a coconut shy.

Fergus had secured a double pitch and his huge stand, decorated in the colours of the Goose and Gander, dominated his side of the green.

He had gone for a “Beers Of The World” theme with lots of imported ales and was also serving taster dishes from his pub menu.

From his own side of the green Nate watched as Fergus issued orders to staff who then scurried back to the Goose to carry them out. Of Debbie there was no sign.

His own stall looked much less grand, but he was pleased with his “Taste Of Britain” theme, and the red, white and blue he had decorated it with. All Nate had were a few bar snacks, as the brewery still hadn’t responded to his proposal for the Mucklebury Arms to reopen its kitchen.

Alison Cook