I went along to a fete in a local park yesterday. It rained, which was a shame. In fact to say that it rained would be an understatement because the organisers had clearly deliberately scheduled their event for the wettest Saturday afternoon of the entire summer. It started raining quite early in the proceedings, continued to chuck it down at various intensities as the afternoon wore on, and ended up with the sort of downpour that Noah must have faced on ark-launching night. The assembled public made the best of a bad lot, struggling to enjoy the festivities as if it were one of those fantastically sunny weekends that we enjoyed earlier in the year, but somehow the event wasn't quite the same standing under a tree in a plastic raincoat.
The fete had started off promisingly. A large crowd turned out, despite worries that nobody would come this year after they made a real mess of organising last year's event. A lot of people had turned up in fancy dress and there was also the chance to bump into a number of people from the local community that you hadn't met for ages. The police seemed to be in attendance not so much for reasons of crowd control but to hand out balloons and to encourage people to sign up to join the force. There was beer, there was music and there was undercooked greasy food at extortionate prices. The queues to buy beer were almost as long as the queues to get rid of it again (you know what I mean). When not drinking, people seemed to be spending most of their time taking photos of each other. Mobile phone companies need not worry that their investment in 3G networks has been in vain - it appeared yesterday that the British public are preparing to embrace picture messaging with a vengeance.
And then it rained. Just one droplet to start with, but the sky was leaden grey and there was much more fallout in store. At the first sight of rain out came the umbrellas that the more pessimistic amongst the crowd had brought with them. And, alas, up went those umbrellas amongst the crowd watching the musical entertainment, completely obliterating any view of the stage for those of us standing behind. The appearance of heavy drizzle also encouraged many in the park to sport that fashion disaster, the rain poncho. It may be lightweight and foldaway but covering yourself in a sheet of plastic is not the way to sartorial elegance, especially for those wearing fancy dress. A large proportion of the crowd took shelter in the few tents provided on site, which then became impossible to use for their intended purpose due to the huge numbers packed inside. The small stalls run by community organisations suddenly became unexpectedly popular, even if it was now all too clear which of them had forgotten to print their information boards using water-resistant ink. A number of people made a beeline for the shelter of one of the few trees on site, hoping that the rain would go away. It didn't, and as the leaves dripped it soon became just as wet under the trees as around them. And the rest of us, brolly-less, poncho-less, tent-less and tree-less, we just carried on wandering around the park in the rain, because it's only water isn't it?
And so the afternoon carried on into the evening, and so did the rain. It was wet, we were wet, but we remained of good cheer right up to the close of proceedings. A local dignitary ushered off the last musical act and wished us a safe journey home. Then, as we turned to make our way to the exits, the heavens suddenly opened. It was as if Niagara Falls had relocated immediately above us. There was no escape, no shelter, and we were all drowned within a minute. The nearest tube station now seemed a very long way away, and so it proved. There were streams of rainwater flowing out of the park gates by the time we got there, and it looked at one point as if my waterlogged mobile phone would never work again. I headed home sitting on the underground train like a drowned rat. The rain had cleared by the time I got there, of course, but any thoughts of heading on elsewhere to continue the night out had evaporated. Don't you just love the British summer?