Saturday, 15 September 2007

Smalltown event

It's the Annual Scarecrow Festival in Smalltown. This is bizarre, even for the Grit household. Smalltown doesn't have an agricultural history, unless you count the fact that farmer Lewis had his land bought up by a Victorian railway company. Because Smalltown's houses were built for railway workers. Anyhow, this small procedural item hasn't thwarted the Events Committee at Smalltown Parish Community Centre. And so we have the Annual Scarecrow Festival.

We've gone along with this gamely enough for the past few years. We made a very fine scarecrow out of newspaper and plastic bags and propped her outside the front door. We called her Doreen. We left her in Dig's toilet for an entire year, propped with her face against the wall to spare her blushes. Doreen came out again a year later and got married to Stan, who wore an old suit of Dig's. He had to be propped up against a step ladder because he kept falling over. Then last year Doreen met with an unfortunate accident when her torso came apart in my hands. Sadly, I had to crack her spine in two and shove her in a bin bag to get rid of her before the children found out. Naturally, I said a few words.

So this year we are Doreenless. And mummy Grit is grumping around the house complaining about the ruddy Scarecrow Festival. So the junior grits decide they will be in charge of the scarecrow making and the adults are not to join in. I tell them that will be the best thing ever. I don't tell them that Doreen was a professional bit of artistry before her lungs fell out, so live up to that standard otherwise we will be the laughing stock in the Scarecrow Festival.

Shark makes a firebird from newspaper and masking tape. She paints it red and sticks it in the hedge. I say how lovely it is. I don't say that it doesn't look like a bird at all, and that it looks like the letter T. But Shark's happy enough, as is Tiger, who makes a flying horse. The horse is so tiny that when Dig puts it in the hedge it's almost completely covered by overgrown privet. Perhaps it's just as well. Tiger didn't want to paint it, and the masking tape's coming off the toilet roll. I say how lovely it is too. Then Squirrel makes a fairy. What a complete mess. Basically it's a lot of newspaper twisted round a bean pole and painted white. There's no head, arms, legs or anything, just a lump of newspaper, onto which is strapped a couple of wings. So I say how brilliant it is, and add, if I didn't know better, I'd say I'd just seen a fairy.

Well I needn't have worried. The standard wasn't that high this year. The local library made some scarecrows to do with childrens rhymes. By the time we got there, the storyteller's head had blown off. The very hungry caterpillar, composed of green plastic bags, had half his segments missing, so Shark spent some time wondering why there was a line of peas hanging from the library tree.

Down the street there was a Mary Poppins. She started off well, hanging out someone's bedroom window. But by the end of the day she'd twisted a funny angle on her wire and her head had come off. With both arms flapping lifelessly in the breeze, it looked a bit like somone had slung a headless corpse out the window as a warning to others.

Then there was the gardener scarecrow who was sat on top of his shed. He disappeared by midday. As did the ballerina up the lamp-post outside the dance studio where Squirrel has her ballet lessons, and grandma in the bed outside the bed shop.

At the school it looked like the setting for some surreal play. They had a male scarecrow in a tie and striped shirt with his head impaled on a spiky railing. Perhaps he was the Ofsted inspector. Further down there's a boy scarecrow in a scout uniform lying nearly flat with just his scarf tied onto the railings. He looks like he's hanged himself. And goodness knows what they were thinking of when we get to the female in this collection. She doesn't look like she ever had a head. Her bra is on the outside of her shirt. And there appears to be a long cardboard tube coming out from under her skirt.

Then the others are fairly predictable. Elvis always makes an appearance. As does granny asleep with a pigeon on her shoulder. There's a collection of cats, a gardener in his wheelbarrow, and a pirate. A soldier scarecrow stretched flat on the roof of a car is clever, as is the mountaineering couple going up the wall of number 16, and the giant sheep in a deck chair reading a comic.

The best is a couple, which we all say Ahh to, and mean it. Aged in their 70s, they've made scarecrow replicas of themselves. Stan's worked at the railway all his life, and Doreen at the printer's. They're sitting outside their house, with a scarecrow Stan and Doreen, looking like doubles, all wearing the same clothes and the same wizened features. Doreen looks like her cardigan's keeping her neck and head in place, and Stan looks like he's made of crumpled newspaper under the stiff fabric of his railway jacket.

Well it inspires me again for next year. I just have to get past firebird, flying horse and fairy, now carefully stowed in a corner of the schoolroom, probably hoping to come out again next year.

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