The final item on the agenda at the annual Breaksditch Village parish meeting, after apologies (none), minutes of the last meeting (taken as read) and matters arising from it (none), was the diamond jubilee street party.
Chairman Sir David Cutter, whose family had lived in Breaksditch Manor House for four generations, proposed that the village should have the beano on the green. The secretary, Marjorie Sinclair, seconded the idea, and a show of hands passed it. This was not surprising, as the Breaksditch AGM made The Vicar of Dibley’s council meeting look like prime minister’s questions. It was attended by a handful of well-bred souls who always agreed on the only matters ever raised – the mowing rota, the slowing of speeding cars and the preventing of dogs fouling the churchyard. The subject of the jubilee party, which the meeting suggested would cheer up the less well-off subjects in the village, was no different.
Breaksditch nestled in a fold of the North Wessex Downs. It boasted a tiny Norman church and fewer than a hundred citizens, divided equally between incomers (mostly weekending City boys, retired professionals and a couple of bohemian types) and local artisans. These disparate neighbours lived separate lives, and it was only the occasional public knees-up that sparked any sort of interaction between the class factions. The bunting had come out, for example, for the Queen’s 1977 silver jubilee; the millennium; the Queen’s 2002 golden jubilee, and Sir David Cutter’s 60th birthday.
For the upcoming party, Marjorie Sinclair had agreed to produce a flyer featuring the diamond jubilee painted logo, advertising the date and requesting each household bring comestibles, suggesting optimistically that they liaise with her so that nobody doubled up on food and drink.
At 11am on the great day, Dave Riley, the local woodsman, strung bunting from the flagpole fluttering the Union Jack to a nearby telephone pole. Two hours later, Sir David Cutter, dressed in an ill-fitting Union Jack waistcoat and bright red canvas trousers, rolled out his grand Weber barbecue from his gatehouse to the edge of the green and lit it. Thirty yards away, handyman Kevin Wood, his face painted with the flag of St George, was in the process of lighting the coals in his home-made oil-drum barbecue.
Not long afterwards, Marjorie, with a plastic tiara balanced precariously on her head, arrived to set up the trestle tables, covering them in red paper tablecloths and neatly laying out red, white and blue paper plates and cups.
Sharon, a single mum who lived in one of the village’s three council houses, arrived clad in a strategically slashed Sex Pistols God Save the Queen T-shirt, bearing a packet of Tesco Value sausage rolls and a bottle of cider. She stood by Kevin Wood’s oil drum, which was now sizzling with burgers, and poured a drink. Her friends, whose tattoos complemented their Union Jack afro wigs and cardboard-cutout Duke of Edinburgh party masks, soon joined her. At the other side of the green, Sir David was fussing over his marinated butterfly of lamb and his grilled kebabs of scallops. At his side, with a jubilee tea-towel wrapped around his head, was Guy Beckford, the City banker who owned the Old Rectory – and who had generously added a case of good burgundy from his cellar. Guy’s friends, who were staying for the weekend and were all sporting matching plastic Union Jack bowler hats, had chucked in a whole brie and enough sauvignon to fill a horse trough.
As the street party livened up, with the help of Sir David Cutter’s son’s iPod blasting out lounge remixes of Who Do You Think You’re Kidding, Mr Hitler? and the like, the groups edged towards each other, the burger and cider contingent gradually mingling with the burgundy and lamb set. And as the merriment progressed, Breaksditch witnessed the very English scene of the well-heeled chatting among themselves while playing at noblesse oblige by tucking into burgers and plastic pints of cider, while their less prosperous neighbours were in a gaggle hoovering up the scallops and sloshing down some excellent 2009 Côtes de Nuits.