What makes the kermesse in St Quentin worthy of your attention is that it is held in conjunction with a lunch for the over-60s of the village. We qualify by virtue of both age and residence.
The kermesse and the dejeuner are held on the boulodrome. (Boules is taken seriously in the village and a substantial portion of real estate is devoted to it.) A guinguette sells pre-lunch pastis and the three long lines of tables are laid out under parasols. The etiquette is similar to that the big Bastille Day dinner: one arrives and takes the next available seat. But of course, it doesn't work like this. In the manner of German sunbathers laying towels on sunbeds next to a Spanish pool before dawn, groups of friends have covered chairs with scarves, cardigans, handbags in order to reserve their places.
We are no exception, and by 12.30, the gang's all here. We are seated in our chosen position; wine, water and pastis in hand. Madeleine, the wonderfully vivacious member of the council who has assumed responsibility for elder citizens, welcomes us and Monsieur le Maire tours the tables, shaking hands with each potential voter as well as those who have no vote. He can't stay, of course; he's far too young to qualify for this event.
The meal is remarkable. Four courses, plus coffee, plus unlimited pichets of red or rose wine. A friend, Rick Gekoski, once quoted Dr Johnson on women preachers, in a discussion about the catering at Coventry City Football Club: "The wonder is not that it is done well, but that it is done at all". Here in France, the traiteurs are not allowed to get away with any failure of quality or quantity, especially by this highly discerning audience of 60-plus diners.
The food and wine, however, are not the highlight of the day. What will stay in my memory longest is the cabaret.
They were a couple. She blonde, with rather too much make-up even by show business standards; he a 40 something gigolo, hair carefully coiffured, a single ear-ring, a shirt open just enough to reveal the appropriately hairy chest. She schmoozed the elderly gentlemen and worked the backing tracks; he sang.
With one or two exceptions, popular music in France has not achieved great distinction: their failure to win the The Eurovision Song Contest is inexplicable, given that almost every song is banal, repetitive, and - I'm sorry - dreadful.
But our French friends and neighbours don't care. They can sing-along and dance to almost anything. And they did. It being an over-60s do, some of the dancing was a little slower than the rhythm would dictate and some of the singing was a little frail and more than a little flat. But the unlimited wine helped to overcome inhibitions and vocal infelicities. Everyone had a great time.
Including us - especially when the opening riff of a new song bore a slight resemblance to something we thought we knew.
More than four hours passed before we looked at our watches and realised we should go. Compared with the ageing groovers of St Quentin, we just can't hack it any more.
Today's listening: Grateful Dead, Fillmore West, June 1969. Pigpen and Janis, sharing a bed at the time, share the vocals on a fantastic 20 minute Turn On Your Lovelight.