27th July 2013
The sunflowers seeded in Jackie’s pots by birds, no doubt as a reward for her feeding them, have came into bloom today. They are rather like cuckoos in that they are planted in someone else’s nest. I don’t think, however, that they have pushed out any other flowers.
Just before we left for Mat and Tess’s, I heard a neighing coming, I thought, from a pony that must have found its way over one of the cattle grids. ‘Good grief!’ exclaimed Jackie when she saw the source of the sound. A child, accompanied by a woman with a very long lensed camera, was riding a largish foal around our lawn. We could only assume these were visitors to other residents. We didn’t have time to investigate.
On 12th May and 20th October last year I described how Tess Flower, our daughter-in-law, proprietor of The Village Shop in East Sussex’s Upper Dicker, has transformed the establishment and consequently the lives of her customers. Her numerous innovations have fostered social relationships and made ‘Care in the Community’ mean something real. This has not been without considerable opposition from killjoys.
The shop lies at the end of the small village green. A few objectors to almost every event she has introduced spread fears of rowdiness and late night noise, none of which ever takes place. The cafe area of the shop closes in good time for people to sleep. The only sounds are from the muted music and gentle hubbub of civilised conversation within the confines of her building.
Some years ago, to the delight of the long established residents, Tess reinstated the defunct annual Dicker Day. Those few incomers who have no idea of what a village green is all about, made their usual objections. The event has fortunately been revived by the new owners of The Plough Inn, who are hosting it this year. Tess is generous in her support of this.
The fact that today’s event was beset by, at times, torrential rain did not deter the crowds that had come to The Dicker from the surrounding areas. It had a slightly different flavour from earlier times, but doubtless benefitted from the shelter provided by the pub. The numerous garden tables all had generously proportioned umbrellas attached. Unfortunately the one I sat under dripped steadily onto my jacket. Tess told me that the new publicans have thought of everything. There is even a basket of blankets for those feeling the evening chill.
The banner announcing the event got a bit soggy, but at least the colour didn’t run.
There was a bouncy castle; a raffle; face painting; and a lively young female singer. A hog roast and burgers were obtainable during the day and the meals we enjoyed in the evening lived up to Tess’s billing. As I said to Peter, the new proprietor, any food Tess praises is bound to be excellent. He certainly values her judgement as much as we do.
We didn’t arrive home in time for me to post this on the day, so I am doing it the next morning. As far as I can remember starters were a spicy carrot soup for me; pate for Mat; some kind of pancake roll for Tess; and halloumi for Jackie. Our main courses were haddock and chips for Tess and me; burger for Mat; and salmon and cod fish cakes for Jackie. Summer and sticky toffee puddings and a cheeseboard followed. Becky and Ian, somewhat tardy, joined us while we were on our desserts. It was a good thing they brought their dog Scooby along, because he did a good job of dislodging and disposing of the piece of Tess’s cheese that had found its way into my sandal. It saved me from the difficulty of getting down under the table. Peter made up a small portion melange for Becky. Ian enjoyed his asparagus and peas risotto. I can’t be sure who drank what, but there were a couple of bottles of New Zealand Marlborough pinot noir; some white wine; and various beers dispensed.
Somehow Jackie was able heroically to stay awake for her two hour drive back to Minstead, which is more that I did, although I did manage, intermittently, to keep her company.