Did you solve last week’s riddle of ‘Lark Rise and Candleford Fair’, posed by fiendish quizmaster Brit the Elder? Here’s the solution, plus a bonus question…
The key to the mystery was to identify that you were required to do some… bird-spotting. Hidden in the text were 46 bird names (we think – perhaps you’ve found more?). Here they are emboldened below. But for a bonus cream bun… which two don’t belong with the others?
Viewers of the television series Lark Rise to Candleford might be surprised to learn that these two villages still exist today. Whilst not having quite the day-to-day social intensity of the BBC programmes, the villages do get together for various communal events, including an annual fair, which takes place on neutral ground.
I have only been to the fair once, but I was lucky enough to have as a guide one of the fair’s organisers, a small, ardent man named Jack Dawkins. Jack showed me round the stalls and entertainments and told me some of the history of the event. On this occasion he was delighted that the fair was taking place at all, as he and his wife had spent the previous night in gale conditions, battling to keep the displays and all the colourful bunting from blowing away.
“We do so much work together on this celebration,” he told me. “We would have hated to have to call it off.”
As we wandered around, I was surprised by the quality of the second-hand stalls. I noticed a stall selling classic magazines, something I like to collect. I love those old mag pieces with satirical comments on government, and I managed to find three to add to my collection.
There were plenty of food stands at the fair, and even what looked like a flat-packed pub, assembled for the day. It was called the “Duck or Grouse”, an old joke placed over a low doorway, I know, but I still find it amusing. Inside, we surveyed the menu. There were two bitters to choose from, Lark Rise Best or Kathy’s ale. But at £5 a bottle, the wine was a steal, so I ordered a bottle of white. Throats lubricated, we turned to the food, both ordering Dover sole as a starter and chicken supreme as a main course.
This pleasant interlude was enhanced by the view of the countryside through the makeshift window. Jack told me that the superb rambling routes in the vicinity were the best in the whole Fieldfare Vale area. When I asked about his own experiences with running the fair, he admitted that what had once been a hobby was now a huge undertaking. “The fair was run by a local big wig eons ago,” Jack said. “Colin Netherton, his name was. He and his brother Martin had made a complete mess of the flaming organisation and they began netting some of the profits for themselves as well. But it’s all sorted now.”
At that moment a deejay started playing loud music, so we swallowed our drinks, left the pub and joined the folks wandering around the rest of the fair. There was more music to hear, including a live group called The Eastern Warblers who seemed to specialise in wild howling. Then they quietened down a bit and the stage lights turned from blue to red. Polly Pipit, the lead singer, gave a tearful but engaging version of ‘How gullible can I be’? In the end, a good show, rendered more moving by the twilight sky and the mood of the throng watching.
The crowd grew as evening fell. On some stalls the food ran out, till only a meagre bean soup could be obtained. However, the atmosphere remained upbeat, especially when Robin Candipper, a local schoolgirl, won the title Miss L and C Fair 2011, to wild applause.
To finish a wonderful outing, we visited the most bizarre bric-a-brac stall I’ve ever seen. There we found the strangest assortment of items, including a stuffed mongoose, a stuffed beagle, mountains of beeswax, wing mirrors from classic cars and a tin marked ‘Offal Container’, which we didn’t dare open! There were also tools, painted (for some reason) in bright colours: a blue plane, a green chisel, a yellow hammer and a red starting pistol. It sounds crazy, but I was taken with a plaster model of a partridge in a pear tree, complete with French hens, geese, etc. I won’t say how much I paid for it!
Unfortunately the day ended with light rain, so we beat a swift retreat. As Jack and I parted, I told him I would definitely be back next year, but I added: “Great Fair, but considering that this was a country event, something was missing…”
“No,” he replied. “They were there all right. They were just hidden, lots of them.”
And when I wrote this article I realised he was right.