I wondered recently, if our beloved nonagenarian Queen Elizabeth was aware of the 100 or so almost frozen souls who were ensconced under the leaky tents or the sagging canvas sheets which had been painstakingly erected on the empty spaces of the little track which services the rear of our gardens, here in our little part of Melton Mowbray? The memorable occasion was the 60th anniversary of our Majesty’s accession to the throne following the untimely death in 1952 of her beloved father, King George VI. Dutiful and Royalist citizens that we were that day – and remain so of course – ensured that close to a 100% uptake of those invited to the bash from the houses linked to the track by the residents of Ankle Hill and Burton Road, arrived in good time and with gritted teeth humour to assist in setting up the plastic barricades against the relentless and unforgiving heavy rain which showed great promise of remaining for the rest of the day.
In a hastily thrown together area nearby which comprised of rapidly emptied garages and temporarily abandoned parking spaces, barbecues hi-jacked from patios and gardens nearby were being hopefully fired up, only to resonate to a constant mixture of hot fire and the hissing clouds of steam from the persistent rain, altogether blending the sausages of all nations, chicken parts and whatever meats had been brought. Refreshing drinks – mostly alcholic – were organised, supplied and readily consumed by a merry and increasingly merrier band of volunteer hands who were mainly in that section were of the male variety. Of course the quality of the merchandise needed to be tested before the general distribution!
All of this patriotic fervour had been the brain-child of a small group of people resident to ‘the lane’, who some months ago canvassed us for an indication of general interest and most importantly, uptake for such an event bearing in mind several other distractions then occurring in the area. I am told that agreement and the eventual acceptance was high and the very tiny sum of £2 pp was accepted and duly gathered in with no defaulters. Those people who were available, assisted with the preparations during the morning and by midday people began to arrive with the majority complying with the basic requirement to wear something red white and blue. But this display of Royal obeisance wasn’t always clearly apparent as many of us were more persuaded to wear our oilskins, sou’westers and even some parkas were spotted throughout the remainder of that summer’s afternoon.
Security was necessarily tight at the event as the country was still in a security state of ‘Orange’ preparedness and the youngsters – girls and boys – took it in turns to patrol the rain-spattered area, but as events turned out Mother Nature was to overrule and the weather was to put an end to any hope of the three-legged and egg and spoon competitions which were officially cancelled. The very young attendees seemed quite satisfied with the alternative game of jumping up and down in the muddy puddles and attempting to dam the increasingly growing streams of rainwater which was by mid afternoon, threatening to wash us all away and to remain trendy to the fashion of the day, there were those who opted for a bit of ankle-tapping with their state-of-the art scooters for which the slimy conditions proved ideal.
All in all, notwithstanding the cruel efforts of the weather, a great time was had by all those who attended and there were no fights (as far as I am aware). In the evening, as the younger children slowly disappeared from the scene and the older ones moved on to more teenage pursuits, the late afternoon sun (which did eventually arrive) slipped way to create a mature event for the older generation, which included a lot of drink, chatter and even argument around a large log fire. I left about 1am, but I am informed that the hardier residents of Burton Road and Ankle Hill remained until a very early hour in the Sunday morning.