Chapter 2

 

The Carnival

 Still the highlight of Brassford band's year is the village carnival when they lead a parade through the village to the field just on the outskirts in which the main events are held. There is seldom a year goes by without this parade producing some source of amusement to last the participants through the year. The occurrence of a couple of years ago is typical. One of the longer serving members is the local postmistress, Janet Long. She has been playing the tenor horn in the band for as long as anyone can remember and must be well into her seventies, yet she turns up for every event whatever the weather. This particular year was to be her downfall in more ways than one. It was a warm July day, the streets were resplendent with bunting and garlands and the local population had been reinforced by a copious supply of townspeople lining the narrow streets and jostling for the best positions. Local people hung out of every window anxious not to miss a minute of this once-a-year event and straining to see their friends and relatives taking part in the procession. The band, resplendent in their red and black uniforms, led the procession buoyed up by the cheers of the crowd. Immediately behind, the carnival queen looked radiant riding reclined upon the bonnet of her car decorated with hundreds of tissue paper flowers and flanked on each side by her maids-in-waiting. As the parade wound its way up the main street between the crowds of excited children and their parents a wisp of pink fabric began to make an appearance below the hem of Janet's black skirt. This may not have been so noticeable had her legs not also been clad in the black woollen stockings which she habitually wore. The crowd's eyes were instantly drawn to this dramatic pink line which, as the band marched on, slowly grew until it blossomed into a pair of the largest billowing pink bloomers ever seen. These descended gracefully to Janet's ankles where, with hardly a hesitation she stepped out of them and carried on marching. All this time the look on her face had never changed from her deadpan 'concentrating' face and her step had never faltered except to perhaps shorten just a little as the copious lingerie reached her lower leg. Of course, half the band were unaware of what was happening behind them and it wasn't until they broke up in the carnival field that the story could be properly circulated. The hilarity was tremendous but Janet took it all in her stride even adding to some of the anecdotes and suggesting that the organisers of the carnival be prevailed upon to hold it on a less draughty day the next year. The usual band de-briefing after the carnival took on a whole new complexion that year. That wasn't the end of the incident however, for the following day the bloomers were spotted flying gustily from the church weathercock adorned with the words '"Long" drawers' in black letters. Fortunately, the wind rose during the day and they were wrenched from their perch before evening never to be seen again.

 That same year, the band had been asked to play for a while during the carnival and so set up in a corner of the field not too far from the refreshment tent. After playing a fine selection of marches and modern numbers to a largely disinterested crowd it was decided that a break was in order. The largest part of the crowd were at the other end of the field watching the judging of the 'wet T-shirt' competition, so access to refreshments would not be hampered. The instruments were put away in their cases and the music folders closed and the band adjourned to the beer tent to join the inevitable group of older locals. The story of Janet's drawers was being reiterated with 'tasteful' embellishments for the umpteenth time together with comparative analyses of the various beers and crisps when a tremendous hullabaloo erupted outside the tent. Rushing outside, the band were just in time to see their music, stands and chairs being scattered and shredded by a prize heifer on the loose from the show ring. It was being pursued in a half hearted fashion by a couple of young farm hands who seemed at a loss as to how to curtail its exuberant destructiveness so, in the usual spirit of helpfulness, the whole of the band gave chase. Only after a further complete circuit of the field and ploughing through the wet T-shirt crowds, was the terrified animal eventually cornered close to the show ring from which it had escaped. There then followed a period of mayhem as stall holders and exhibitors tried to restore some semblance of order during which the band decided that it had had quite enough excitement for one year and packed up.

The following year, the band were lucky to survive as far as the carnival field. It had been decided by the carnival committee that the parade would, that year, be led by the local fire engine. The theory was that, if a call came through whilst being on display to the public, it could rush off from the parade without disturbing the proceedings and render its public service. The engine, however, was rather aged and it is doubtful if it could really go faster than the parade anyway. It was often jokingly blamed by those at the back of the parade for holding them up and causing bunching. This particular year the engine was worse than usual and was obviously in some mechanical distress. The whole of the band, following directly behind it, were completely enveloped in a grey/blue fog of exhaust fumes which made the eyes water and poisoned the lungs. Most of the route through the village is slightly uphill and playing became more and more impossible. Seeking to ease the situation, instructions were given to fall back and allow the fire engine to go on ahead but our ever vigilant fire crew obviously noticed this and conscientiously reduced their speed to keep the procession together. With great good luck a fire call did come, for the first time within memory, and the engine peeled off half way up the hill, but there was no more playing that day.

 This work is Copyright to Ian W. Wright 1994. You may use it for your own private purposes but reproduction by any means or its use for commercial gain is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the author.

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