And so, while the rest of the world watched Live 8, to Monxton for the Village Hoe-Down, to help raise funds for Monxton Village Hall and Amport School. A splendid event with a capacity crowd of 200, superbly organised by Mike Clough, George Bacon and team.
The Bronco in action
The star attraction was a Bucking Bronco, a mechanical replica of the screen version we have all seen at the rodeos of America. This simulated the movements of a progressively enraged bull, while the rider saw how long he (or she – well done, Rhonda) could remain mounted. An electronic stopwatch at the ringside measured the tenacity of the rider, with the winner securing a percentage of the combined entry fees of 50p each.
Early on in the evening, a number of constituents politely inquired about my availability for this competition. I had devised the perfect alibi. I would mount the taurine tosser if the Vicar, who was also present, would do the same. I had established from the Vicar’s wife that they were going on a walking holiday in the Lake District on the Monday, and her consent for this high-risk adventure would be withheld.
So, imagine my alarm when, an hour later, I saw the Vicar remove his spectacles, stride into the ring and leap into the saddle, to a chorus of cheers from his parishioners. Once in place, the popular priest mouthed a silent prayer, crossed himself and the operator flicked the switch. With an irreverent shrug of its shoulders, the bull sent the gentleman of the cloth flying through the air to rejoin his congregation. The clock barely moved.
The local MP, inconveniently reminded of his pledge, was then summoned. A number of those present were hoping that the bull might do what his electorate had failed to do a few weeks earlier, and rid them of the local Member.
Alas, I fared no better. I was in the saddle for as long as it takes the Speaker to shout “Order, order”
I tried a few excuses; the short tenure of the vicar in the saddle had further polished it, making a grip more difficult. My centre of gravity is considerably higher than his, increasing instability. The less time I spent in the saddle, the more opportunities to collect 50p from other contestants. No, the truth is that our respective qualities lie elsewhere, as our wives reminded us as they escorted us away from any further temptations.