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A late decision to spend some time at the Briantspuddle Christmas Craft & Gift Fair was very well justified.

Although the village is only a couple of miles from Tolpuddle it feels further apart: it is in a different district council for a start (Purbeck as opposed to West Dorset – different school system, different bin men, etc.), and seems to look east rather than west for its centre of gravity. Just an impression, perhaps.

Anyway, in spite of being a latecomer I was found a table by the kitchen with a minimum of fuss and set up a stall, quite rudimentary in comparison to some of the extravagant craft displays in the village hall. There were plenty of volunteers providing a real community event which was well supported. And why not with such a variety of gifts, excellent home-made lunches, a choir, a raffle (obligatory in Dorset) and a visit from Santa? Well done, Bob, by the way. Although there was no sign of snow in the lanes I did wonder if he had arrived by Bob-sleigh.

I had intended to stay for two hours at the most but ended up spending nearer five, largely because the sales of Shillingstone Station were steady and going well. So well, in fact, that I had to leave the venue briefly to go and fetch extra stock. The position of my table helped: queues for refreshments, raffle tickets and Santa’s grotto all filed past me and provided a willing captive market. My total sales had been creeping towards one hundred in recent weeks but today’s twenty-eight sales have smashed past the century mark.

So, thanks to all the buyers I met, and to all those who made me welcome, especially, at the heart of the operation, Maggie and Philip.

  • Writer's pictureBrent

As I am currently in Brittany, I have belatedly discovered that the article and photo promised to be published in the Dorset Echo was printed in Saturday’s edition, 24th October.

Interesting to be called a Dorset man. As opposed to a Dorset woman or a Dorset apple cake. Anyway, this follows an article in the Blackmore Vale Magazine and a longer piece in the View From titles for both Dorchester and Bridport in recent days.

Meanwhile there is more media coverage in the pipeline.

  • Writer's pictureBrent

Being so close to the comings and goings of a big road race, and yet quite clearly at the fringe of things was quite disconcerting. I had vivid memories of taking part in plenty of races like this, taking part rather than racing, it must be said, and the sweaty camaraderie, the sticky handshakes, the congratulations and the hard luck stories, the complaints of tight calves or, even worse, blood from a fall, all of that bubbly post-race banter ran the length of the station platforms at Shillingstone along with the hundreds of runners and their proud families at one remove from me, an unattached spectator sitting at my table watching and waiting, hoping to sell a few books.

This was the twenty-first running of The Stickler, and calling it a road race is to do it a disservice. The Dorset Doddlers running club organise a slickly run ten-mile race over three large hills; they call it without exaggeration a Three Peaks Challenge, and those peaks (Okeford Beacon, Hod Hill and Hambledon Hill) frame this part of the Stour valley at the centre of which sits Shillingstone, its station project hosting the final sprint finish and the attendant celebrations.

On such a bright, sunny Sunday morning I wished my knees were ten years younger and I could have taken part. Instead I sat drinking tea, eating chocolate cake and convinced half a dozen souls to part with £7.99 and buy a signed copy of Shillingstone Station. So, a different kind of challenge.

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