It is a beautiful late summer afternoon and after a hard week of graft I am enjoying a quiet beer at the Old Fisherman in Shabbington.
Always popular on a sunny day, the pub seems especially busy this afternoon and as I hunt down a table and look across the river I realise that something is afoot. It is my foot. My flip flop has fallen in the river. But beyond that foot something else is afoot too.
The massed population of Shabbington have come along today to join in ‘The Village Painting’. This is a community-based project and just across the river stands a giant plywood wall with a big question mark painted in the middle. To the left are some trestle tables where people are intently paining canvases, priced £10 per canvas.
Each canvas has a drawing on it and instructions on what colour to paint each section. Like a giant ‘colour by numbers’ but not quite so fiddly.
Once canvas number one is painted it is rushed over to the plywood wall and stuck to the bottom left corner. From the other side of the river I begin to take interest. So I have another beer while I wait to see what’s happening.
By the time I get back from the (very busy) bar, another four squares are on the wall. This is exciting. It’s like Art Attack but without Neil Buchanan’s cardigans.
LOOK. It’s a Roman soldier. And a steam traction engine. Go on, stick another square on. A cavalier (soldier, not the car), and now a roundhead (soldier not Harry Hill). And a sheep. Someone has painted the face a bit grey but you can hardly take it back I guess. I’ll have another beer while they finish it off.
I watch a coconut shy turn into a church door, I see the church roof appear in psychedelic oranges, then the pub. there is a freaky man with a scythe and a big nose.
Oh, sorry, I’m back outside in this paragraph, not at the bar. That would just be wrong.
It’s the history of Shabbington, unveiled before my eyes, and Mr Freaky is representing the Black Death, which so affected the village that local myth has it you can’t build on the field next to the pub for fear of unleashing the plague again.
Personally I wouldn’t be putting that on a giant picture for children I think, as I have another beer and watch the villagers climb ladders to put in the finishing touches. The final picture is brilliant. It must have taken hours of planning and mapping and the organisers have done this superbly – 62 squares make a giant patchwork mural full of laughs and history. A job superbly done and another example of one of our local villages coming up with something unique and inclusive.
None too Shabby.