Every once in a while Spouse gets called upon to help out with a local cause. So one Saturday morning Frances, Chloe and I got to go with him to help out at a Christmas Fayre being run by the students at a secondary special needs school in Wandsworth.

There is a very curious dynamic to a Christmas Fayre like this.  For a lot of buyers, the objective is to help raise funds for a local charity, whilst picking up an unexpected bargain. Sellers also want to generate funds, but crucially they also want to get rid of all the stock by the end of the Fayre too, and by and large they do not want price to be a barrier to that.  Now it just so happens that as part of Christmas blogging month, Spouse and I are taking part in a Nativity themed 5K run for CAFOD, and I am taking part in a Strictly Come Dancing themed fund-raiser as a member of a belly dancing troupe.  Both of these occasions require middle eastern themed fancy dress, and a Christmas Fayre seemed the ideal place to shop.  My eye fell swiftly on a pile of bangles.  “20p,” cried the woman manning the till.  “A pound it is,” said I, handing over the cash swiftly and refusing to take the change.  This little pantomime was reenacted time and again – most notably with the books (advertised at 10 for £1, £5 paid), but also with the executive teasmade (£5 tentatively requested, £10 paid).  I’m not sure how much Spouse paid for the ‘gold, frankincense and myrrh’ or the gloriously retro Super Mastermind game I made him get for me, but honestly I cared not a jot – I was having a simply marvellous time.

We were not there to shop, mind you. We were supposed to be acting as some kind of helpers to the students running stalls and such. As it turned out, there had been some kind of road accident that day – no one was harmed but the congestion prevented a lot of the students from attending, so there wasn’t as much to do as we’d hoped.  Chris, Frances and Chloe responded by drinking tea and eating cake, and spouse was asked to take photos of the day, which he promptly did – look:

I insisted on being yet more useful, and found myself supporting one of the other volunteers in the slightly anarchic collection of toys, videos, Christmas decorations, lettuces and clothing (much of which was stored outside and kept blowing over in the wintry wind, even after spouse put bricks on the clothing rails).  The children were drawn to the toys like moths to a flame, and we did a fairly healthy trade in beanie babies (although nobody bought my favourite, the baboon baby).  One gentleman picked up three football shirts for £1.50, and honestly if you’d seen the look of sheer joy on one girls face as she bought a red skirt for 50p which actually fit her and genuinely suited her, honestly you’d have given a round of applause – I only wish I’d had my camera with me.  With the enthusiasm of a true bargain hunter she refused to take it off.

Eventually my beloved came to rescue me, and sat me down for a cup of tea and a mince pie served with deliberate care by the students.  They had a simply brilliant ordering system which I wish more restaurants would use: the table was clearly marked with a number, the menu had clear pictures of all the items for sale, and you simply put down the number of each that you wanted.  This system was well able to deal with Frances’s request for three scones (he hadn’t had lunch, you know).

Frances and Chloe are two of Chris’s work colleagues, and we sat down to discuss weighty matters of the day, such as which science fiction box sets are best value, and where we stood on the Vampire Diaries vs Twilight.  Frances is one of the world’s loveliest people (whenever people describe him they tend to say: “Oh yes, Frances, what a lovely man… he looks a bit like Richard Gere.” It comes over more in the flesh than in the picture below, mind you.  He has a motorbike, and he has been known to let me ride pillion.  He favours the Vampire Diaries (which I’ll make do with at a pinch to tide me over, but don’t really understand why people get so soppy about Stefan, who seems terribly wet to me).  Chloe is also jolly fabulous, and has an unusual kinship with cats, and a truly extraordinary knowledge of all sorts of sci-fi and such (we debated whether the Battlestar Galactica box set should be enjoyed on Blu-Ray or DVD).

I nearly wept when she noticed a Count Duckula DVD next to the till though. As the day ground to a halt, Spouse gave Frances and Chloe particularly classy items that we had noticed during the day, as follows:

We know not whether the naked lady mug made it back intact on its long journey back home on the motorbike.  We do know that we got an astonishing amount of stuff for a tiny amount of money, and we got the cosy warm feeling of having done something good for someone else.  To be honest, I only wish I could have done more for the school: we’ll be back to do more, if they’ll have us.

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