Rutland’s first frost of the autumn followed by a day of clear blue skies and sunshine. A perfect day. I helped at one of our twice-a-year jumble sales this afternoon, a fund-raising activity that has all but died out, according to the faithful who actually queue up from 1.30 for a 2pm kick-off.
Our customers don’t come from our own village but from larger villages nearby and the towns – even from Corby. It’s a terrifying spectacle for the novice. We form an open square from trestle tables, like pioneers putting their wagons in a defensive circle against a red indian attack. We man the barricades on the inside, and our sharp-elbowed customers descend like vultures on our booty. We may start off with an orderly display, from gents’ trousers on the south side through ladies’ clothing to east and west and children’s wear on the north side – but as the customers turn over the clothes, it’s not long before it descends into chaos.
We charge 30p, 40p or 50p, depending on type and condition – with our Harrods rail to one side holding all the ‘never been worn’ stuff at top whack – £1 or £2. Even at these prices, some people haggle or baulk. And sadly, it’s not unknown for some people to shoplift, even though it’s a church fundraiser.
One of the most frustrating things is when a woman (it’s usually a woman) picks out an armful of things she might buy, just to ensure that no-one else can snatch it from her. She holds on to a highly desirable item for 20 minutes while she rummages through everything, then decides she doesn’t want it and returns it to the chaos, where it sinks to the bottom and is revealed at the end of the jumble – sadly unsold.
Today, we start with far less jumble than usual, due no doubt to the high number of charity collections, when a plastic bag is posted through the village’s letterboxes and the filled bags collected a few days later. The organisation may be something hugely worthwhile like the local Air Ambulance (which I support), or may be something commercial hiding behind pseudo-charity status. Either way, it reduces our haul.
However, what we lack in quantity we make up in quality and this means that we sell almost everything. This is brilliant, because all too often we end up with three car loads of jumble that we have to find a good home for – sometimes simply the recycling centre. But today we get rid of virtually everything and raise well over £300. Not bad – and we’re home early too, which is a bonus. It means I can start my bonfire!
I’ve been waiting for a dry day with little or no wind, and here it is. The two vast piles of ivy removed from the boundary wall have been teetering six foot high in the front garden for a fortnight. Time for it all to go – using pile two (a bit near the cottage) to feed pile one (safely in the middle of the front garden).
I do tuck two tiny bits of firelighter at the bottom to encourage it, but it hardly needs it and goes up in a moment. Within 10 minutes I have a crowd of neighbours come to admire the effect – dragged here by their small boys. One five-year old rushes home to get his Fireman’s outfit, and then comes and sits at a safe distance to keep an eye on it all. As the smoke spirals straight up, and the flames roar, the fathers call out ‘How is it going? Do you need any help?’ They’re not talking to me though, oh no, they’re talking to Fireman Sam!
Two hours later, the impromptu street partydisperses (tea was brewed, but sadly no-one had any sausages or baked potatoes handy), except for Fireman Sam who eventually has to be dragged away, bottom lip trembling, by his mum. We’re all covered in ash and reek of wood-smoke. It’s a lovely autumn smell and it’s wonderful to see the ivy piles disappear. Hugely satisfying.
Next on the list, now my permission has come through from Rutland County Council (I’m in a conservation area), is the felling of my undistinguised cypress tree that is far too close to the cottage and looms darkly over the living room. Then the blank canvas will be fully revealed and the garden re-design can start in earnest!