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In Praise of the Scarecrows

by Andrew Gordon – 9th June 2020
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Gems of Wit and Invention

Full marks to the organisers of the scarecrow festival for bringing out a brighter side to the Covid lockdown. With their encouragement, creative activity has been bubbling away behind closed doors and more people than ever before have now set out their creations in front of their houses. And the rest of us can walk about our quiet and unpolluted streets and admire the unexpected talents of our friends and neighbours. While most public galleries are closed, we have had the perfect conditions for peaceful, socially distanced appreciation of domestic art.

We are asked for our votes but this must not stand in the way of our appreciation of every single offering. Each expresses a personality or hobby or political comment, always in playful spirit, often with fine wit and sometimes with notable ingenuity.

The unusual conditions of the time are well portrayed. There is plenty of PPE: naturally, given the nominated charity, which supports the training of dogs to detect Covid 19. There is serious home schooling. The green dragon breathes a huge virus instead of fire (or is he consuming it?).

A myopic Cummings confronts signposts to Barnard Castle in ever diminishing letters. A horizontal Rees Mogg rests in a comfortable doze.

Sharper politics is to be found in Flint Street, where domestic life in Downing Street is displayed in a broad Hogarthian tableau, with nursery scenes including a jumbled rhyme in Johnsonian Latin cleverly linking disdainful power and symptoms of plague. A frenetic contrast to the settled and magisterial Karl Marx at the other end of the village.

Haddenham's musicians, so sadly silenced in lockdown, remind us of happier times with a singer from the Wurzel Chorale and even a handkerchief-waving Pavarotti. A mermaid has a scaly tail composed of CDs. Mabel and Gladys gossip from opposite fences, appropriately distanced by the Stockwell passage. A gloomy miscreant languishes in the stocks outside the Museum.

These and many other gems of wit and invention have been plotted on an excellent map, available at various points in the village. The map is interesting in itself, containing as it does the layout of the new estates and the names of streets yet to be built. And it is good to see a few scarecrows appearing in these unfinished areas yet to be discovered by most villagers.

The festival is organized by the Haddenham Association of Scouts and Guides. Congratulations to them for using the conditions of lockdown to allow the villagers to open out to each other in this playful and revealing way.

Andrew Gordon
June 2020

To see all photographs of all the Haddenham Scarecrows, see here

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