Hello lovely readers! How are you all?
As some of you will have deduced, (maybe just one of you) I live in a medium sized commuter town in South Wales. I’ve taken you with me on lots of journeys, so you’ve seen the local area a bit. Now it’s time to tell you about how the town explodes every year.
Every end of July the town gets completely taken over by a festival called The Big Cheese. By the name you’d think that it was a food festival. In reality, food is only a small part of it.
Some people love it, some people hate it. It feels like the whole town has been consumed. I’ve always landed on the loving it side. Not right up there with a strong 10, but I definitely make sure I attend, and have done since it started. Strangely, I find that I like it more since I moved closer. You’d think that I’d get frustrated with the noise and the litter and the limited parking. But I like being able to pop down for half an hour or so, then pop back when I need to put some washing on the line. I feel more involved.
One way where I feel even more involved is that Himself has been taking part in the re-enactments for the last 3 years. His group have a huge area where they can do lots of their living history stuff and still have an arena where they can beat themselves to a mock death. It means special privileges. They get a chance to sleep in the castle, have a good weekend doing their stuff, and get the best seat in the house for the fireworks.
God, I’m such a geek for fireworks. The castle is renowned for its firework displays. Being the geek that I am, I certainly never miss them. They have their display at the end of the opening night. Not much happens on the Friday. The huge fun fair opens, they have the charity cheese race (funnier that it sounds, I promise) and the fireworks to close everything down.
Unfortunately we didn’t have the best of weather for the weekend, so turnout for fireworks was poor. I wouldn’t let rain stop me, but I was overjoyed when I scampered down the hill to see them and realised that it had stopped just in time! We met some of the gang, and settled in for 20 minutes of oohs and aahs. This year gets a 7 out of 10. Mostly good, with a huge climax. I took lots of photo bursts, so my phone is full with firework pictures. I’ll apologise now for what feels like sharing most of them with you!
After the event, I was promptly dispatched back home so Himself could do manly Viking drinking or similar. I was knackered, so I was secretly relieved! That day I’d had a long list of errands, and decided to tailor them so I could have a sneaky wander around the show ground.
As you can see, weather was dull and murky. It was strange to see it so quiet, knowing that within hours it would be full of bodies. The calm before the storm. I also had to pass through security checks which was new, but understandably needed.
So aside from the funfair, there are the re-enactments and free entry into the castle. They also have live music, lots of food tents and the red and white Craft Folk craft tents. I always allot time to go around these tents, not because of the products available (a disappointing 4 out of 10 this year), but because I know what its like to be one of them. Eight or so years ago, a friend and I took the plunge, paid a ruinous sum for our tent and set up camp. Sales all depend on weather here. We were lucky to have a dazzling weekend, but others have come back out of pocket in the past. We had two long and busy days, but financially and educationally it was worth it. I often think about doing craft stalls again, but get put off by the high fees involved. I think especially if you’re starting out, it’s really off-putting being faced with high fees, especially when the costs of selling online are so low. It’s a wonder that anyone does it these days.
We had on and off showers Saturday, but luckily, we managed to time things well. The Mother and I were due to have lunch and ended up joining the ATRs. Stuffed to the eyeballs, we slowly made our way down to see Himself and pick him up some lunch. (I’m not usually a slow walker, but you couldn’t avoid those who were! Dawdlers really get on my nerves. Or those who don’t walk in a straight line. Or worse, those people who just stop in the middle of the street. Manners people!) As always, while in costume Himself isn’t really allowed to speak to me for very long, let alone accept his steak bake. It’s not very authentic. I did get ambushed by some of the other Vikings (they’re very friendly sometimes) but they were being tested by the society, so had to be on their best behaviour. No swearing or playful beating each other with sticks. A hard feat for them!
Duties discharged, we headed for the main castle hall. The original plan was to see Grandad In Law sing with his choir. They are very good and have a huge following. This shows as we couldn’t get in to see them! They were queuing at the door to get a view. We gave up and decided to head to see the rest.
We did a once over of the craft stalls but left disappointed. We pushed our way into the food tent, which always feels like a busy pub on a match day. Its amazing the lengths people will go to to get free samples. These things can easily escalate into a very expensive afternoon, so I was trying to be as frugal as possible. The Mother succumbed however and came away laden with bags. Most of the vendors are the same every year, so I sought out my favourites to get the usual. We always try and stock up on Wessex Pies. I got individual chicken and leek and chicken and ham, then a family game pie. I’d highly recommend them. I got a few, but they’ve vanished already, which can only be a sign of tastiness. I also stopped by the Bread of Devon stall to pick up a cheese and chive twisty loaf. The Mother also got us some delicious biscuits from these people. Not a bad food day all in all. Just very glad I didn’t spend the entire contents of my bank account!
Sunday morning rolled around with much brighter but much windier weather. I was up early, mostly to tuck in to my delicious cheese and chive toast, but also because we had a big musical day ahead of us. I managed to get my Sunday chores done early so Mrs ATR and I could head down to the castle to have some early morning brass.
Mrs ATR used to play with these guys so we headed down for 11ish to give our support. I don’t need any excuse to go see a brass band. I’m not sure whether it was the early time slot or not, but it is always a lot quieter than the choirs. More room for us! We also brought a new onlooker this year. Baby ATR slept right through it. They do such interesting pieces. The picture above is when they were playing All That Jazz from Chicago, which I love. It was difficult not to have a boogie. There’s something special watching them in the hall also. This is in the heart of the castle and the roof is unsurprisingly high. This means the sound just bounces around and fills it all. I get goosebumps normally with brass bands, but its even better in the hall.
The next musical segment was at the end of the day, and a very special affair. Favourite Mamma and I took her Little Miss to her first ever ska gig. Very very important. There was no way I was going to miss this. Coincidentally, we went to see one of the people who played FMs my first ska gig. I love a bit of symmetry. There was a bit of an age difference though. We were 14 for ours, but Little Miss is still only 6. It’s important to start a music education young.
I’m not sure LM got as much out of it as we did, but we made sure to have a bit of a dance and get her up which she got excited about. She’d had lots of teeth taken out the day before, so the fact she was there at all was amazing. She was a trooper where I’d have been in bed feeling sorry for myself. Shes on her way to becoming an amazing artist and spent lots of time drawing, so now I have lots of little doodles stuck to my fridge. I always ask her to create some pictures for me, so I have a fridge timeline of her progress, shes really coming along. Much better than I am, even at nearly 7.
After everything was done, I wandered along empty stalls on my way home. Again it felt peculiar and amazing that this area that is usually so quiet, get transformed every year with thousands of people flooding through, only to be left quiet and battered and left to recuperate until next year. I hope all the stall holders had a prosperous weekend, but most of all I hope everyone had a wonderful time. It’s always lovely to have these things on your doorstep, but even better to experience them with your loved ones. See you there next year!
Much love xx