Everyone rallies around, does their bit, buys several too many raffle tickets, happily pays over the odds for some cheapo wine, and lends a hand with stacking chairs, whilst Denise and Jill do the washing-up. Anne chats to everyone and a couple of people say hello to me. This, it seems to me, is the essence of village life. Or, more generally, community life. And yes, I am mocking, that’s my default setting, but I genuinely mean it as a good thing. Proper life-enhancing stuff.
In our time, as documented elsewhere, we have attended many of these events. We have been to several quizzes; an evening of prestidigitation from the Wolverhampton Magic Circle; been entertained by a couple from the Black Country, her doing the songs and he doing the bostin jokes; not forgetting the night with the woman with several ukuleles. No, that I will never forget.
If you happen to be from London and somehow find yourself through the Looking Glass at such an event, it works like this. You buy a ticket, you show up, you eat and drink, as much of the latter as you can. Try not to win the raffle. I can’t help but feel incomers up from that there London winning a box of Celebration chocolates is cause for anything but. Definitely, try to win the quiz. Coz, well, innit, you get me. We have, a couple of times. Or once, even. Maybe. There’s still time…
Anyway, Anne decided this year was our turn. When we throw our hat into the ring. Raise some money. Pay for the roof repairs. What’s required, she suggested, is a pop-up Indian restaurant, and we, who have never once set foot in said sub-continent, are absolutely, definitely, your people, for we used to live in Tooting and even cooked a curry once, and it was quite tasty. Fairly bland, also.
So, that’s what we did last night. For 50 people:
Pea Kachori with pickled red onion and relish.
Chicken Pakora (donated by a Bangladesh Housing Co-operative Anne works with in Birmingham, and easily the best chicken pakoras in the western world, and quite possibly in the eastern world, too.)
Served with Carrot and Sultana Raita, Tomato and Chili Jam and Mint Chutney.
Lamb and Squash Curry
Aubergine and Tomato curry
Mango Fool and Cardamom Shortbread.
Sister-in-law turned the village hall into a tented Indian village, or something, which was both highly improbable and completely spectacular; and people tucked into Aldi prosecco and spiced nuts, whilst Anne turned a load of bland vegetables into something pretty bloody wonderful. I helped. As did Anne's best friend Paula and many others. But enough about them.
Food was eaten. Drink was drunk. Money was made. Kemberton Village Hall, like Mount Etna pacified by sacrifices to the Roman Gods, burped and farted, and settled down like a sleeping dog with a full belly, until the next time.
Greek, Italian, Thai, French – what’s next Anne? - e-mailed a grateful participant.
Nothing. Never. No way. E-mailed back an exhausted Anne. Bless…