More Wallingford salt
The wonderful Wallingford BunkFest 2014 (www.bunkfest.co.uk) is about to launch. What a great privilege to be part of it. Another of the superb British events organised and run entirely by dedicated volunteers who love their community enough to create a superb event which is the highlight of the year for many in the town.
Setting up on the Kinecroft has been a protracted affair with many of the community coming over to welcome me back. I don’t mind this at all. It is a great pleasure to hear the year’s stories and catch up with all the news as people make me feel a valued part of their lives. Sometimes there are sadnesses of course and reflections on the vicissitudes of life. One of the corner stones of the event here has lost his job thanks to the ridiculous changes to the pension arrangements, enforced by our political masters. I feel very much for him and his young family. Of course I didn’t hear it from him. He is far too British and proud (in a good way) to tell me personally, but instead showed all his usual joy and pleasure in seeing me again and in telling me his positive news that he has managed to master a particularly difficult piano piece. He accompanies me at the stage for some of the shows and is an accomplished and talented jazz pianist.
And some of the news is heart-warmingly optimistic. An older member of the community always tells me of the trials and tribulations she has had over the years with her daughter who has had challenges with drugs and mental health issues and who used to be part of the BunkFest organisation. Her eyes lit up when she told me that the other day her daughter had spent half an hour with her, for the first time in months. She also told me how Matt, mentioned in my last blog, (he of the electrical supplies shack and the sign ‘A good man is a gentle man’) had gone out of his way to make sure her boiler was working properly over last winter, had provided her with a free electric fire, had picked up the bill for the boiler repair and had even given her some oil for aching joints and a pot of honey!
And Ralph and Helen as always have been more than generous and kind in their welcome of me back to Wallingford. Ralph arrived on the first day with a delicious present of lunch in plastic containers in a carrier bag – Macaroni cheese followed by a superb and secret recipe apple and blackberry crumble, complete with a carton of custard! And an hour or so later, as I’d mentioned that I had lit a fire in my woodburner the night before, and had been foraging the trees around for dead wood, I came back from walking the dogs to discover two bags of logs and some ‘morning sticks’ (see my previous blog about the A494).
It is such practical kindness that makes my life as a traveller very easy and joyful. I think of all the places I visit though it is most obvious here in Wallingford. It is partly because the event is geographically right in the heart of the community. The Kinecroft, which is basically the village green, is the location for the event and it is and always has been a big part of town life, dating back to medieval times. It is crisscrossed by paths and meeting points at their intersections. A lovely pub (one of many in this famous beer-brewing town) sits at the edge and of course the townfolks’ many dogs are walked and meet each other there. It is a great social asset and the BunkFest is the climax of the Kinecroft calendar.
This year’s event promises to be another classic. The stage is set, anxious weather website watchers bring me hourly updates of the improving forecasts for the weekend and of course the many children, with growing excitement in their eyes, remind me that they will be there for the shows on Friday lunchtime when the event starts.
If you are anywhere near, drop everything and come to Wallingford this weekend. The music, beer and steam promises to be fantastic. There is music and dancing everywhere, on the streets and in many of the pubs and some of the finest food and the best craft and art stalls. Great charity and gift shops, quirky boutiques in hidden havens and a charming Thames side path to walk off lunch in many a hostelry.
But above all you will be warmly welcomed, as I have been, by some of the nicest and kindest people that Britain can produce.
All the best from a road near you,