Imagine the shock and horror I felt when I saw a sign which dashed my hopes of free entry. I was pissed. But then, much to my amazement, the wide field on the left hand side of the long drive normally full of kite flyers and dog walkers was full.of.cars. I couldn't imagine why that many people could have made the same mistake I did about the windmill, so there must have been something else going on.
And indeed there was! It was a village fete, with tents and stalls and masses of people and what looked like pony rides. I couldn't believe I hadn't realised. And then I had a sinking feeling, fetes mean lots of spending small amounts of money at stalls. And I had very little money in my pocket (I thought we were going to have a free look-see at the windmill and leave, remember) - and there were two young soldiers guarding the parking lot and they were holding a bucket. For the wounded. Of Afghanistan. Really, you can't say no to that. And thus went a good proportion of my cash.
The first thing the boy wanted to see was some tractors parked up. A whole gaggle of children were climbing on one of those extendable platform utility vehicles - something I would call a cherry picker. It looked quite unsafe. I even saw a boy about the same size of my three year old climbing on the extendable arm.
Which I think made me allowing him up onto the platform which was at least 6 feet off the ground look quite reasonable by comparison.
We made our way to a recruiting stand for the Household Cavalry. Now, let me tell you something, I am no longer a young lady in the first blush of youth, but I nearly felt a swoon coming in the proximity of these fine young men in their dress uniforms and their high boots with a deep shine. The boy was impressed and told me he wanted to be a soldier, too. I wanted to tell him that those who administrate also serve. But given the chance to try on the regalia, I doubt if it would have carried much weight.
And the sword.
I could not believe it when the man handed my 3 yrd old a sword. Since the boy had the hilt I figured he had more chance of endangering others than himself. I stood well away.
More fun and frolics
The Wimbledon and Putney Common Open Day had loads more to see. Birds of prey. Endless tug of war. An ambulance you could go in and poke around. Intubation and choking dummies. Waggiest tail on a dog competitions. Horse grooming demonstrations. The boy went mad for horse named Chance and demanded riding lessons. I was very pleased to discover that he was still a year too young for that. Among children's hobbies, I'm not sure if you can find one that costs more.
The boy demanded a horseshoe (£1), a piece of ginger cake raising money for wounded soldiers (£1) - which made me think of the old saying:
It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers. ~Author unknown, quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs
But I'm not sure if bake sales in support for returning soldiers quite qualifies.
And then he wanted a donkey ride (£3), which lasted about 45 seconds and made the riding lessons or paid entry to the windmill museum seem a really good deal. And that was the end of my cash.
It really was a fantastic day out and I imagined that it was quite like attending a village fete, but without having to leave the comforting embrace of the M25.
Of all the things we saw though, I think I liked this best: