The vicar turns up, carrying a large and rugged wooden cross. She puts it into the cupboard, which is already stuffed with coats, bags, a fluorescent jacket and a toddler’s scooter, and makes her entrance into a busy hall.
It’s Good Friday and the sun is shining. It’ll be the best weather of the whole Easter weekend and the villagers are cheery, smiling, and there’s that feeling of happy expectation about the four days ahead.
We’re far from the madding crowd here. The community shop will be busy but not half as unpleasant as the town supermarkets which have become the new religion to so many families, with premises taking on the look of temples. Temples of Mammon.
It’s also Lady Day, a once significant quarter day in the tenant farmer’s calendar, when farms changed hands and annual rent was due.
Here in the hall, they’re serving hot cross buns, an annual event to raise money for the village fete later in the year. This summer, there’ll be big celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday. Part of the street will be closed, there’ll be tables and chairs dotted around, a long table filled with food brought to share and a large lorry in the square, set up for live music.
Back in the here and now, people in their Friday best (one man in a natty striped blazer, women with soft, pastel scarves and painted nails) turn up from the morning service to grab a bun, a tea or coffee and a natter with fellow villagers who have given church a miss. We are all friends here.
Farmers, retired policemen, administrators, retired baker, postman, photographer, journalist, company director, advertising executive, librarian, teaching assistant, teacher, bed and breakfast proprietor, engineer, leisure centre receptionist, bellringers, choir, churchgoers, vicar, estate agent, publican, archaeologist, furniture store owner. The list goes on.
It’s time for the raffle.
The archaeologist wins liquid soap (good for fingernails that delve into soil for a living) and his wife wins a box of chocolates.
“We’ll be having an indulgent evening in now,” the archaeologist says, with a knowing smile. Soap and chocolates. What a winning combination.
Nathalie, the photographer, wins some exotic hand cream and I don’t win anything, despite spending a fiver on tickets.