Hamilton School Fete 2012

It is easy being in Transition but not when your gazebo wants to be a kite. The day was Saturday 16th June and the event was our stall at the Hamilton School Fete. We erected the stall little realising that it would turn into quite an adventurous day. Or maybe that should read “torturous”. It is testimony to the fortitude of our local team that any of us survived the day. Why do we do it? We must be nuts.

At 10.30am we were met by one of the organisers, one of whom kindly helped us erect the gazebo. We were next to the nice ladies with their teaching maths stall (and its mysterious Twister game) and had been promised two pitches for the day. The wind was up so we bolted everything down and decided the display boards could not be erected. Leaflets were out of the question (lest they fly away) so we put out some heavy books and a few posters weighed down with paper-weights. Today’s themes (for the Energy Group) would be FREE home insulation, solar power, energy-saving kits and Superhome open days. By 11am the rest of the team arrives: Ivan in his “predator”-Prius from which he pulled an enormous fold-up table and a couple of garden chairs. (Amazing what you can get in a Prius.) Then we had SolaSave-James who arrived with a solar-panel and assorted electrical gubbins.

Ivan hasn’t got the second gazebo for the second pitch so we hope (rather optimistically) that the weather will be nice. All the same, we shoe-horn in the Wycombe Friends of the Earth Eco-stall round the side of the gazebo. Just in case. Not ideal positioning but – what the heck. Then James puts up the solar-panel and soon has his scrolling LED display powered up – all powered by the sun, no batteries required. Unfortunately it was somewhat smaller than I had imagined and didn’t prove to be quite the draw the solar-powered train-set was. Up goes the Superhomes banner and we are ready to go.

It’s 12midday and the gates open to the public. But trouble is brewing. The early morning showers may have abated but the wind has picked up. An un-occupied gazebo three doors down collapses. We laugh. Ha ha. And carry on regardless. Crazy. Being in Transition must be some kind of mental condition. Like King Canute we can defy the elements! But we were not alone. The maths-teaching girls gamely hung onto their gazebo whilst all around us the folk of the Clairabella Craft Market peddled their wares as if nothing was wrong. A wonderful sight.

Soon the crowds turned up and Wycombe FOE entertained the kids with their Bee-Breakfast quiz. (Do YOU know how may breakfast products require Bees to pollinate them? Well do you?) Round the corner the TTHW Energy Group hung on to the gazebo and spoke to various visitors about solar power and energy saving kits. We had a couple of enquiries about solid wall insulation but we were not as relaxed as usual. Clinging onto your gazebo didn’t quite allow for the flexibility we normally enjoy. Now the Transition gazebo is a hardy beast and weighted down. It will not blow away. But it could break and collapse. Neither option we entertained. So it was not a day for sitting. It was a day for standing & holding on to your gazebo.

Wooosh. Suddenly the blue gazebo next door is off! It blows right over AND breaks. I hold onto the TTHW gazebo whilst two of our team help the math-teaching girls to disassemble their gazebo – now lying on its back behind their stall. Within the hour another one is down as the wind starts to gust in all directions. I look at James. James looks at me. We agreed that we hoped the Flackwell Heath Cherry Fayre would be better than this. We also agreed that we should have been promoting windpower that day, not solar power… All around us the other stall holders gave-up the battle and dismantle their gazebos before they blow away. Who can blame them? By early afternoon the sun was out and we needed our sun glasses.

Then it was our turn. Snap! A sudden and unexpected gust from the south breaks a bracket on that side of the gazebo. We conclude that we cannot hold all the sides at once and quickly I am on my hands and knees removing the leg weights. The gazebo is quickly moved away and folded up. Luckily no further damage was done and it will live to fight another day. Fight, not float. So there we all are, most of the craft stallholders and us, sans-rain-cover and in the sun.

Of course you can write the rest of the script yourself. Within the hour it had started to rain and by home time (4pm) it just bucketed. All we had was one parasol between us. Everything got soaked although, luckily, we had plastic boxes for everything so no damage done. Transitioners think ahead, naturally. Without any prompting we ran off for our cars. Thankfully packing away didn’t take long as mostly everything had been folded up to beat the wind. It was just a bit soggy. Thank heaven for people who invented the laminator and velcro! Poor Ivan got left behind as he had his car blocked into the rear car park. James and I made our escape. It was home to dry out and fill up on comfort food. In my case, something smothered in tomato ketchup. Yum

So, is this nonsense all worth it? Events like this are a game of russian roulette. We always gamble on the weather. In the four years of doing this outreach program, this was our worst experience to-date. It was a struggle and we really didn’t get a chance to talk to many people. Talking to people, engaging them & answering questions, about energy and the environment, is what we are here for. It is a free service. Volunteers give up their weekends to make this happen. It is because they care. None more so that the folk at Hamilton School to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for hosting our stall. Thanks to them. Thanks too to Jean, Alison, Ivan and James for supplying help, free cakes and a healthy sense-of-humour to our day.

Of course the Sunday-after was a glorious sunny day and all our soggy equipment got dried out. Even the Transition gazebo got unfolded and repaired. That Fathers Day made up for windy Saturday – but that is another story for another day.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.

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