12.Village Survival: May Day mayday!

May Day – an internationally recognised distress signal or celebrations on The Village Green…………….?!?!

Hillie: Small village survival expert
Anna: local best friend. LBF. Mum and prof cake maker/decorator
Lorelle: newbie mum to the village (American)
Babs: Mum friend in the village, over achiever at playing tennis.
Ted, Lottie and Toby: Hillie’s husband and children.
Bob Dibden: May Day organiser and Head Judge.
Clare: Deputy Judge and Vice Chair of the PFA.
Deirdre Snellon: from the The Vertonbridge Horticulture Club (and Dictatorship Regime).

As a small village dweller, some days I feel like shimmying up the church spire and shouting at the top of my voice “Mayday mayday, I’m living in bloody provincial hell…..get me out of herrrrrreee,” and hope to god some handsome rescue helicopter guy turns up in a Chinook and winches me off somewhere and then drops me in a cool city like Manchester, London or Bath. I’m liking the term winch me off! Often this mayday mayday moment occurs after the internet has dropped out for hours (and I’m shaking with Twitter withdrawal) or Deirdre Snellon (from The Village Horticultural Club (dictatorship regime) has popped around to tell me that my rear hedge is overly bushy – needs trimming, and that my hanging baskets are a bit dry and did I actually want to help win the coveted Village In Flower title this year????

And then there’s also the times when I love being a small village dweller! Especially when said village is throwing a party or rather – The Vertonbridge Village May Day Celebrations! Then living in the village feels like a great big wraparound hug and everyone gets together – family, local friends and neighbours. The rows of portly cottages and crusty village hall are decorated in bunting, the cosy pub (with the annoying dog) and the (over priced – slightly wedged up its own arse) village shop are both festooned with flags and flowers and it all feels so…. homely and like a scene from the Darling Buds of May (with the absense of famous actors). Could they bring back The Darling Buds of May with Tom Hiddleston in it? I’m making it my mission to shoe horn him into every one of my blog posts and I think it’s working…..


Devon scene copy
So last weekend was the Village’s 139th Annual May Day Celebrations and Welly Wanging Games. Actually the Welly Wanging is a fairly new addition to proceedings but it has got a bit big for it’s boots (pardon the dreadful pun) and seems to be the major pull to the celebrations these days! People travel, yes travel to see and take part in the spectacle, but the fun doesn’t end there! The celebrations also consist of the great plastic duck race down the village river and of course Maypole Dancing and an arena (just a bit roped off really) for the Morris Dancers. Hey when in Rome, eat gelato, admire the Trevi Fountain  and visit the Colosseum. When in Vertonbridge Village enjoy throwing rubber footwear, chasing plastic ducks and watching bell bedecked blokes leaping about. Now I’m going to put it out there right now, brace yourself…..I love Morris Dancing. Yes I adore all that clacking and thwacking of nobbly sticks and jingling of bells and folkly music. I’ve even been known (after a few babyshams) to jump up and with them and throw a few Morris Dancer shapes myself (until I was politely asked to sit down again by the troupe leader) ok it was several pinots grigios……! This year there was to be a Morris Dancing have a go lesson for beginners and would-be morris men/women. Anna (local BF) and I tried to get Babs (local friend) and fervent anti morris dancing non-enthusiast excited about having a try. Her reply was succinct.“I’d rather slide down the maypole naked balancing a lemon drizzle cake on my head!” she retorted, shying away from us and disappearing quickly into the May Day throng.

roses copy
This year we had the added delight of watching Lottie take part in the Maypole dancing. I had received a letter from school informing me of this and a suggestion that she wore a dress of some sort with fairy wings and real or plastic flowers in her hair.
“Muummmmmyyyyyy. You do know that I’ve been picked to play a recorder solo in the school concert! And Elli, Lily and Rosie are going to Monsoon to get Maypole dresses with their Mummies and I got gold in my spelling today.” Lottie informed me wrapping her very thinly veiled guilt trip in a flurry of good news.

So anyway, the day dawned sunny and warm and grew steadily hotter. The bunting was hung, the tea tent was erected, the Monsoon dress had been acquired – luckily in the mid season sales and the Welly Wanging Arena was marked out with straw bales. Onlookers were given strict instructions to remain in the ‘safe’ zone to watch wanging proceedings by the rather officious and ruddy cheeked Bob Dibden (head judge,) who had a loud speaker and a knack for shouting into it just so the good people of Exeter and Edinburgh could hear as well. Now for any of you unfamiliar with Welly Wanging, allow me to enlighten you with the rules!

                                     Vertonbridge May Day Welly Wanging Rules.
1.The Wellies used must all be the same type. The head judge may choose the brand but the size has to be UK9 for adults to wang and UK1 for children. The judges choice of welly boot brand is final and absolute.

2.New welly boots must be opened in front of the head judge and the deputy judge by an official ‘Opener’. This is to eliminate any pre-games welly boot tampering.

3.The ‘wanger’ may choose whether they wang the left or right boot.

4.The welly may be wanged by either arm and the use of a tail wind is permitted and may in some circumstances be used to advance the throw of the wanger!

5.The wanger is permitted to have two practise goes before completing their official wang, which is recorded in the Welly Wanging Ledger immediately.

6.A run up of 10m is permitted for adults wangers and 5m for children.

7.The distant covered by the welly wang will be covered in metres, centimetres and millimetres, and thus will be measured by the assistant judge. This is then checked and authenticated by the head judge whose call is final and absolute.

8. In the unlikely but not impossible event of a Welly Wang Tie, a ‘Wang off’ tie breaker will be actioned by the head judge. The wangers must then wang again (up to three times each) to establish a clear wanging winner.

9.The male and female adult wanger with the longest welly wang and therefore the wanger winner (the judges judgemental judgement is final) will receive the Vertonbridge May Day Welly Wanging trophy each – and a pair of Welly Boots up to the value of £50 from Farm and Field Store and Supplies of Stockton Abbott. The child (boy and girl) with the best welly wang will also be awarded the Child’s Trophy each and welly boots in their size, also kindly donated by Farm and Field Store and Supplies (for all your farm and field needs) of Stockton Abbott – you know, next to Greggs and opposite Matalans at the out of town shopping centre.

Wang trphy

Ted, the children and I turned up on the Village Green and were just paying the Welly Wanging entry fee when Clare (asistant judge and vice chair of the School PFA) came striding over, “Hillie, I’ve got you down for a stint in the tea tent 1- 2:30pm, and then later we’d love it if you could judge the Women’s Institute May Day limerick competition,”  she enthused,  “what with you being a famous author and all……kind of…..er…anything new likely to be published soon?” she added, trailing off nervously.

I arrived in the tea tent to find Anna, sweating and exhausted but luckily for her, coming to the end of her tea serving shift.

“We’ve run out of clean cups, the urn needs refilling and the milks going funny,”she threw over her shoulder before making a bolt for it.

I’d only been serving teas for five minutes when Elsie, one of the older tea ladies, passed out from heat exhaustion. She actually nose dived into a large tray of Rodda’s clotted cream which of course had to be thrown away resulting in a lack of clotted cream for the cream teas, resulting in dissapointed cream tea lovers, thus resulting in a surplus of unwanted plain scones and a rush on victorian sponge – cor the knock on affect of one woman’s heat exhaustion! So anyway the other knock on affect was that I was I found myself incarcerated in the tea tent (the whole bloody afternoon,) I was only allowed to take a short break when Lottie was Maypole dancing – I was a involuntary volunteer FFS!

At some point later in the day, Lorelle (newbie American Mom in the village) came staggering into the tea tent looking for sustanance.“I don’t know what the bloody hell is going on? Give me one of your strongest cups of English tea and ‘go large’ slices of cake,” she said theatrically slumping down on an uncomfortable garden chair, “and I was really not good at that rubber boot tossing thing.” She added seemingly bewildered and somewhat disappointed in herself.

“That’s because you don’t toss it, you must wang it!” I suggested unhelpfully, and then I did an overly theatrical wanging action (by way of an explanation) before passing her a large slice of victoria sponge and a stewed cup of tea. “Help yourself to the sweaty milk,” I added.

Cup of tea

So it was that I spent the whole afternoon working my butt off in the tea tent while Ted my husband was left running after the kids who had gone slightly feral in the heat. Of course they ate too many hotdogs and candy floss, concussed themselves on the bouncy castle, and got upset when they didn’t wang very far in the children’s Welly Wanging contest. I didn’t even get a go at welly wanging but Ted managed a very respectable 4th in the Men’s Games. And arse and double arse – I had to miss the two, yes two Morris Dancing acts because of my enforced labour in the tea tent. Then the headlining group – all the way from Germany – Die Grune Morris-Tanzer! appeared in the arena to a rapturous applause (so I’m told).
“Come on Hillie, you have to come and watch! The headliners are on now,” Anna exclaimed as she burst into the tea tent nearly sending a large black forest gateau flying. She liked Morris Dancers even more than me. Poor cow.
Oh no! No such headlining traditional folk dancing joy for me! I was suddenly inundated with a load of sweaty and jangling Morris Men who had done the previous set and were gasping for sugary tea and currant buns. I even had to put down my own cake to serve them! We few stalwarts in the tea and cakes tent ‘made do’ with listening to the faint whoops, stick thwacking and the jolly Accordion accompaniment of the infamous Die Grunes. When I was finally released of my duties and left the tea tent, blinking at the harsh rays of natural daylight, Clare collared me and I was whisked off to the W I tent to judge the limerick competition…….

Our village has fun on May Day,

We’ve had a fete on The Green since it’s heyday.

But I didn’t get even a boot wanging chance,

or a moment to watch the Morris Men dance,

cos I was stuck in the tea tent all bloody mayday mayday!!

Motivational/inspirational words of the day: don’t live in a small village.

More next week!
As you were.

PS. Just because I mention Welly Wanging, Monsoon dresses and being winched off by a handsome helicoptor rescuer does not mean I endorse them.

PPS. My spell checker wasn’t having a bar of ‘wang’ or ‘wanger’.

PPPS. Similarities to any other May Day Celebrations are entirely coincidental and therefore not my fault.

Note to myself: The one about May Day (mayday mayday).

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18 thoughts on “12.Village Survival: May Day mayday!

  1. This is a hilarious recount of village life. I know what you mean about loving it, whilst finding it claustrophobic at the same time. Isn’t it funny that village pubs always have a strange dog? Anyway, sounds like you had a hoot! and I love the welly wanging rules. Glad you spelt ‘wanger’ right though.


  2. That’s the mind of write up we need in the local paper! You’ve also brought back happy memories of accidentally winning a welly wanging competition, and of drunkenly snogging a morris man in black face. Not my best plan 😙


  3. I often wistfully dream of village life, my small exposure in my life has not yet rendered me immune. Sounds like lots of fun. And how can Morris dancing be anything other than entertaining, even if it’s slightly weird😉. Very funny observations. Xx


  4. I am now quite keen to try Welly Wanging. They just don’t have it in Kent! We do however have Morris dancers. One of my finest moments was procuring a whole lovely pint of cider (I totally need to live in Devon) and sitting down in a delightful beer garden only to spot a sign saying there were Morris dancers arriving in 10 minutes. Quite the conundrum.
    Thanks for joining #chucklemums!


  5. Is now the time to admit that I’m one of my villages Maypole Ladies?! I’m not a fuddy duddy though (got roped to due to dance teacher credentials!)

    Haven’t had a good Welly Wang in ages-must do better!


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