Village Celebration, in Seven Acts

5 June 2016
Ben Pentreath

This is a story in seven acts. It was the village celebration for the Queen’s 90th Birthday this weekend.  Okay, okay, a week earlier than everyone else in the Country, but months and months ago Charlie and I had inadvertently booked a few days off in Scotland, not realising that we were going to be no-where to be seen for the Queen’s official celebration weekend. With the chairman and the vice-chairman of the social club threatening to be away, the committee decided to bring the village affair forward by a week.

And here are the results.


Mavis and I stayed at home in the morning, drawing certificates for the prize winners. Charlie rushed off to Bridport and returned to create a frenzy of activity in the kitchen. He was entering both categories of the village bake-off.  Best Victoria Sponge, and Best Scone.

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We arrived at the Cricket pavilion to find many entries had already been submitted.P1000455 P1000457

Rosettes and prizes laid out for the dog parade.P1000458 P1000459

Early arrivals for the wheelbarrow race.

Cake stand filling up:P1000462 P1000463

Ring side seats.  Wheelbarrows lined up.P1000464


Clare, who was a friend of a friend of a friend of someone who lives in the village, and who happened to be a part-time professional cake-baker, was designated as the perfect judge for the competition. No bias. She was very professional at cutting out a slice of each cake and laying it on top, first to test the texture, then the appearance, then the taste of the sponge. Presentation was taken into account also.P1000469

Kettles were readied on the stove.P1000470

Tension was rising. There was much discussion as to whether a Victoria Sponge can contain cream.P1000471


A certain Mr Charles McCormick was the winner in the Best Victoria Sponge and Best Scone categories. FIX!!!   That smile said it all though.

The best overall cake was won by a wild-card ‘Breaking the RULES category’. A Lemon Drizzle.  Delicious. We all stopped and celebrated by having tea.  All the cakes and scones were eaten in about 15 minutes flat. The village snoozed for a minute or two.



It was time to take the hounds to the ring. Mavis was out of herself with excitement.P1000483 P1000484 P1000485

Best six legs category:P1000488 P1000489 P1000494

Waggiest tail:P1000497

THAT was a very very very waggy tail:P1000498

Best pair of dogs:P1000500

Mavis and her best friend won second prize.
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Dog most like its owner:P1000507 P1000509

In the distance, by the lake, the big house shimmered in the haze of the afternoon:

Worst behaved dog competition:P1000517

Mavis won that category, which is actually quite untrue when you think about it.P1000519

Prize giving:
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Three legged race:
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Junior egg-and-spoon:P1000534 P1000535 P1000538

The sudden arrival of our esteemed landlord, and patron of the village show, dressed up in his uniform of High Sheriff of Dorset, was the next attraction.   For American readers, this is how we dress every day over here.  For Bridget Jones fans, no, we didn’t forget to tell him that the fancy dress competition was cancelled.P1000540 P1000542 P1000544 P1000546

The Senior Egg and spoon:P1000547

You could tell from the position of one or two competitors at the line-up….P1000551

That this was not going to be an entirely fair race:P1000552 P1000553


The main wheelbarrow race I did not photograph, because Charlie and I were too busy barrowing and being barrowed….

But it was a game enjoyed by all ages:P1000561 P1000563 P1000564 P1000565 P1000569 P1000572

Picnic time.P1000580

Charlie’s table looked like something out of Glyndebourne:P1000582 P1000584 P1000585

Much merriment had by all. The beers and rose were slipping down extremely nicely by this point. A bit like the occupants of the famous Gallic village that starts and ends every story of Asterix, we were all completely drunk, in the nicest possible way.

Egg tossing competition.  You start close, and then each line takes a step apart before passing the egg to your partner.

And again…P1000594

And again….P1000595

And again….P1000598

And again…P1000600

Getting pretty nasty now.P1000601



WINNERS!P1000615 P1000624

Dorset Knob tossing competition.  If you have no idea what a Dorset knob is, then please read here.P1000633

Victor.  Although someone had loaded their knob with additional weights and threw it twice as far as the others. Disqualification ensued.P1000634


Chatting late into the evening and putting the entire world to rights.
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It had been the most brilliant evening ever. One of the best the village has had in living memory, and my and Mavis’s lives were certainly made a great deal easier by the fact that Charlie had not had victory snatched away from him this year as in last years floral episode (remember that shocking tale?).

This morning we’d made a plan to visit our neighbour Kate for coffee. Bliss. We had popped down early to the Cricket pavilion to do a bit of clearing up, and then had a slice of two of left-over bacon and egg pie for breakfast, and a couple of cups of strong coffee, and then pottered down the valley.

Kate lives in an old dairy shed next door to the extraordinary farm that her parents bought here some 50 years ago. On what was a sloping potato field, her father has created over this time a magical, beautiful, extraordinary garden, like nothing else you have seen.  After all the jolly japes, here is something a little calmer to start your Monday morning with.
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The ancient house, with its beautiful interiors, is one of the most SPECIAL of all the buildings we were lucky enough to photograph for my new book (sorry to keep on mentioning it, but it just fits in the story, that’s all).  It is serene.  For now, you can get a sense, I hope,  of this extraordinary place.P1000650 P1000652 P1000654 P1000658 P1000662 P1000667

Kate’s perfect veg patch, surrounded by fields of grazing sheep:

We came home, after making another valley-stop with our friends Chris and Caddy (who’s interiors you might spot if you read my last book carefully).  We interrupted completely their afternoon of busy work in the garden and we descended in to refreshing beers and chit chat and sitting in the hot hot hot sun.

We finally got home. Charlie planted things out in the veg garden while Mavis and I went for a long walk, taking in along the way the cricket ground, where a match was in progress on what is I suppose the most idyllic (if not the most level) field in England.

Mavis was MOST disappointed to find that there weren’t fifty dogs running wild on the pitch this afternoon.

We went past the lake, P1000688

And called in at the walled garden:P1000689

And it was with a slightly heavy heart that I said goodbye to all this, this evening, and took the train back to London.

We’re really, really sad to be missing the great Dog Show this weekend at the shop, when Rugby Street and Lambs Conduit Street get taken over for a huge street party for the Queen’s Birthday.  Mavis, we now know, LOVES a dog show.  But she, with us, will be on the shores of the Mull of Kintyre, far, far away from the world. Have a great celebration, wherever you are!

25 comments on this post


I for one will never forget how Charlie was robbed, ROBBED, at last years flower show. Never. What a delightful post! I too would love Charlie’s scone recipe. I won’t be greedy and ask for the Victoria Sponge recipe but if he wants to cough that one up as well, I won’t complain! XOX

Like a flock of goldfinches this was a charm from beginning to end! However I now *have* to go and bake – serious sponge lust…

Of all your readers, I win, I wait until evening and pour a glass of champers and eat your posts up!


Since i was 5 years old I’ve wanted to live in England. Someday I’ll cross the Channel for good. Where else on earth would I find this kind of perfection?

i wrote a nice long comment last night on the ipad and it disappeared in to the far ether. oh well

the sentiment was how delightful to read this post – it should be a short story – ‘a summer fete in a small village’

its one of my top favorite posts of yours (and thats hard …)

bucolic idyll


Captures the true bonkersness of the English at play on the village green. And love Mavis’s grin to camera as victor. But. But. French jam, Charlie. Really? Also looking forward to another suberb book on the English at home seen through the Pentreath prism. Best, Nicola


So joyful and great photos.

wonderful post…I shall have to look up this ‘new’ book.

This may just be my favorite post of all time. The baking, dogs, party and garden were just spell binding. Thank you for such a wonderful start to the week!
xo, Lissy

Lindsay Goodalesays:

I love your posts…just wondering if you need a 66 year old housekeeper in these beautiful environs. I have a cat who would love to play with Mavis. Just need to gei my passport updated. 🙂


What a truly delightful celebration of village life!

Daryl A. Mullersays:

Hi Ben,

Always look forward to your posts each Monday morning as I prep for my week in Washington, DC.

Would Charlie mind sharing his scone recipe? It’s the second time you have mentioned it and would love to give it a try.



Utterly fantastic. All of it!! Thank you.


another wonderful post; smiled all the way through it, thank you!

Pierre B.says:

If I am not mistaking, Mr Ben Pentreath does a rare apparition on this glorious post. Congratulation to Charlie and Mavis!

Barbara Leblancsays:

I am following your blog from sunny, hot Northern California. I am curious, how many people live in your village?

Thank you for the tiny glimpses into your special life!


What a lovely Victoria sponge – I was starving for a slice by the end of Act I.

Allison Holmessays:

No, how could we forget last year’s flora-gate controversy… a dreadful business.

Sorry to hear that you won’t be in London for this weekend’s party. I was looking forward to meeting Mavis and giving her a good old pat. Enjoy Scotland though!


oh bliss and heaven and delightfulness all rolled into one. So quintessentially English-at-its-very-best too. Still have a broad smile on my face having come to the end of that record of yet another wonderful Dorset weekend. Thank you again for giving your viewers/readers such great pleasure

Gill Csays:

I’m ecstatic at the idea of a Worst Behaved Dog competition! That’s the kind of village fete I love. We had such miserable weather last week, but the sun is shining today and your photos really make me feel that proper British Summer Time has arrived at last.


Seconding mlleparadis..:-)
I didn’t know you were working on your next book- happy news!

Catherine Mccormicksays:

Ben classic I have to gate crash this one year xx

Jenny Sladesays:

What a whirlwind!I am laughing so much at all the antics…brought back happy yet disturbing memories of a school pet show where the eminent veterinary judge didn’t turn up and so the rabbits were judged by the school cook!

Happy Days!!!! Oh that garden – and…..didn’t you marry well?! (And loved those olives in the moroccan bowl.)

Nicola Lawrenceesays:

Dear Ben….. this looks so much fun… every little bit of it is heaven to me. I don’t blame you for not wanting to leave, esp if you had to leave Charlie and Mavis behind. Enjoy the Mull of Kintyre next weekend. xx

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