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12 June 2015


Bake-off tips

FINAL preparations for our annual church/school/village-institute summer fair are in full swing. Having a joint fair means that all three organisations benefit from the fund-raising, and a broader spectrum of the community gets involved in the event.

In previous years, before my body became fussy about what it would tolerate, I was one of the judges of the "Great Summer Fair Baking Competition"; not a position to be taken lightly, as I found out in my first year as a judge. That year, the judging panel comprised the then head teacher of the school, a member of the institute, and, representing the church, the woman whose take on "rock cakes" could be said to be a little too literal - me.

I had assumed that we would be tucked away in a quiet corner as we sampled the offerings, but, no, as we approached the tables on which the entrants' hopes lay displayed, I realised that we had an audience of anxious bakers.

Suffice to say, I am now in a position to pass on three hard-learned tips for baking competition judges: (1) Always have a large drink of water to hand - the entrants do not like it if you strain to swallow their offering; (2) never attempt light-hearted quips to amuse the audience: humour is not necessarily appreciated when the honour of one's baking expertise is at stake; and (3) laughter and dry baking do not mix.

Sadly, this year I will be missing the fair altogether as it clashes with moving-out day at Number 1 Son's university halls of residence.


Sunday shout-out

MOVING offspring in and out of student accommodation has become rather a speciality of mine over the past few years, including retrieving Number 1 Son from his year abroad in Germany.

That might sound like extreme parenting, but it was a special treat, as I was able to visit some old stamping grounds from when I was stationed there during my time in the army. This year, the furthest I have had to go was Cornwall, to bring Number 2 Son and all of his belongings home, a couple of weeks ago.

It is quite a long drive to his university, and, when I go down, I tend to set off in the middle of the night so that I miss most of the traffic. This time, I was travelling early on a Sunday morning. Having listened to the World Service for most of the journey, I switched to Radio 2 for some music, and found Hardeep Singh Kohli standing in for Clare Balding. I had stopped for a break when I heard him asking listeners to text in and say what they were up to.

I never do such things, but, whether it was the early hour, the loneliness of the long-distance drive, or just sheer boredom, I texted in to the programme and promptly forgot about it. Somewhere south of Bodmin, and just before the end of the show, Hardeep said: "Hello to Elizabeth, who is travelling down to pick up her son from university. Elizabeth - are we nearly there yet?"

I know it's daft, but I was ridiculously delighted to have been mentioned. I can only apologise to the Cornish driver who overtook me as I was laughing at the radio; the look on his face, and the speed with which he accelerated away suggested that he was not entirely comfortable sharing a deserted Bodmin moor with me.


A-mazing ducks

AS I write, we are having our annual influx of avian visitors: ducks. Or, to be more precise, ducks and drakes. Being nestled between the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the River Aire, we are in something of a hotspot for water-loving wildlife, and the ducks use the village as a dating site. For several weeks at this time of year, ducks will process around, followed by up to three drakes, waddling their way through gardens, across fields, and over any spare grass.

This year, I came across a little group who seemed to be walking what was left of our spring floral labyrinth on the church green - or, then again, perhaps they were eating it.


Art in the net

THE good folk of St Andrew's can once again sing at the tops of their voices, and even get a good deep rumble out of the organ without fear of falling plasterwork. The long-awaited netting is now in place, stretching the entire length of the church.

We documented the process on our church Facebook page, but the pictures do not do justice to the hard work put in by our professional conservation team, Joe, Lee, and Sion, or to the surprising beauty of the material.

One picture shows the netting draped across a beam, falling in two streams to the pews beneath and rippling towards the camera; it reminded me of a cross draped in cloth. In another, the netting is hanging across the chancel, with one gap visible from ceiling to floor - echoes of the torn temple curtain.

Now that it is fully in place, it softens the lighting in the church, and I am living in hope that it might, when we have lowered the ceiling, make the building a little warmer this winter. It is a temporary measure, until we can raise the funds to repair the roof and re-plaster the ceiling.

The summer fair will help; so if you're around Kildwick on 27 June, do drop in between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. - and be kind to the baking judges.


Elizabeth Figg is a former contributor to The Sign. She is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, near Keighley, in North Yorkshire.

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