Marion and Rodan were both dressed according to the local tradition on Elbrach Prime for their Sommerfest, a holiday something like an old fashioned May Day on Earth crossed with the solstice celebrations of many worlds.

Elbrach was a former Earth colony that had broken from the Federation and become an independent planet. The government had asked for diplomatic ties with Gallifrey. Kristoph wanted to find out a little more about them before making a decision.

His way of doing that was to arrive the day before they were officially due to pay a State visit and mingle with the ordinary people. Hence the women of his family were wearing loose white blouses with lace flowers around the neckline and skirts that were tight at the waist but flared out to their ankles. The skirts, too, had flowers sewn on all over and to complete the spring theme they were wearing hats with flowers all around the brims.

“You both look beautiful,” Kristoph told them.

“You look very handsome,” Marion replied. He was wearing the traditional costume for a man – breeches that ended just below the knee where they met long leather boots, a loose fitting white shirt and a felt hat with gaily coloured feathers in it.

“I forget what it’s like wearing trousers if I spend too long on Gallifrey,” he answered. “It’s a whole new experience each time I adopt the local fashion. But we are ready to mingle with the ordinary people of Elbrach as they celebrate their Sommerfest.”

They stepped out of the TARDIS and noted its disguise as a tree festooned with white and yellow ribbons. All the trees along the wide boulevard were similarly decorated. Rodan asked how they would know the TARDIS when it was time to go home.

“I will know,” Kristoph assured her. He looked around and smiled. The air was warm and scented by summer flowers growing in beds between the real trees that lined the wide street. There was a sense of calm expectation among the people who were gathering for the festivities.

Rodan was pleased by the presence of plenty of children of her own age, all dressed in similar clothing and happy to accept a stranger amongst their group. Marion was pleased by the azure sky and the yellow sun that made this look like Earth on a perfect spring day.

Kristoph was pleased that the ordinary people all looked healthy and happy, and that as far as he could tell they were gathering voluntarily for this festival, ready to enjoy themselves. He knew of many places where attending festivals was mandatory and the appearance of happiness simply put on to avoid fines.

There was to be a parade very soon. Rodan left the group of children and came to report to her foster parents what they might expect.

“The Burgher-Meister comes first,” she said. “With his wife. They ride in a carriage pulled by FOUR horses.”

Her foster-parents understood very well why that interested her. The horses would doubtless be more impressive than the highest official in this region of Elbrach.

And so it proved. Even though the carriage was beautifully polished and decorated with flowers, even though the Burgher-Meister looked splendid in the golden chains of office and his wife was wearing a fine hat covered in flowers, it was the horses with their harnesses jingling with small brass bells that she loved the most.

The next carriage, though, divided her loyalties between horses and people. The two fine white horses enthralled her, but the carriage was literally covered in flowers and so was the lady who sat within it. She was the Sommerquein, chosen to represent the ordinary people as their queen for the day. She even had a small golden tiara to denote her status.

“She is beautiful,” Rodan sighed. “I would like to be a Sommerquein when I’m old enough.”

“We shall have to invent a tradition on Gallifrey,” Kristoph suggested. “Otherwise it will be difficult to get you chosen.”

Behind the Sommerquein a whole array of girls from just a little younger than the queen herself down to six or seven walked in white flower-covered dresses and hats, carrying baskets of flowers that they gave out to the ladies in the crowd. Marion accepted one, and immediately gave it to Rodan who seemed envious of those around her who qualified as ‘ladies’.

“Don’t be so anxious to grow up, child,” Kristoph told her. “There are plenty of joys for one your own age.”

The parade demonstrated some of those joys. In between marching bands and troops of dancers, flower-covered floats came by bearing people dressed in colourful costumes, some with themes like the circus, farmyard animals, toyland and other charming ideas. They were accompanied by walkers in matching costumes who gave out sweets and little toys to the children. Rodan soon had her hands full and didn’t know what to do with her haul until Kristoph produced a bag from his pocket that expanded to take all of her prizes at once. That left her hands free to collect more.

“I’ll share them with my friends,” she promised as the bag began to bulge. She was not the only child who had collected a large bounty by the time the parade was coming to a close, but she was the only one whose foster parents were wealthy and had taught her not to be greedy with gifts that came easily to her.

“We will buy more sweets later for your friends,” Marion assured her. “You may keep what you were given.”

“It’s time to join the parade ourselves,” Kristoph told them. Behind the last marching band came a series of open topped omnibuses, all decorated with flowers, of course. They were free for the use of anyone who wished to follow the parade to the festival park. The only problem was that they didn’t stop. Kristoph lifted both Marion and Rodan aboard and jumped on behind them as the omnibus followed the parade. Once aboard they went up to the top deck where they could wave to the crowds and feel fully a part of it all.

“It is nice to do the same things everyone else does,” Marion said. “And not as VIP guests sitting in the first carriage with the mayor.”

“We would have missed the rest of the parade if we’d done that,” Rodan pointed out, clutching her bag of sweets and toys that were available to the ordinary children, not to special guests.

“Exactly,” Marion agreed. “Tomorrow we can visit the Elbrachtian parliament and ride in a limousine. Today an omnibus does just as nicely.”

It was a crowded omnibus by the time the tail end of the parade had reached the festival fields. They were among the last to alight and make their way through the stalls selling toys and trinkets, sweets and chocolates of all kinds and roast meats in various forms to the main arena.

By the time they found a place to watch, the Burgher-Meister was already standing on a dais making a speech welcoming everyone to the Sommerfest. When he was done the Sommerquein then made much shorter speech and declared the festival open.

Then the most vital part of the day’s events took place – the raising of the Sommerbaum. It was not a real tree, of course, but a long, stout pole onto which thinner ‘branches’ had been fixed. Tokens representing the hopes and wishes of the people were hung onto the branches. There was a single baby’s shoe, a school tie, horseshoes, scarves, lots of coloured ribbons representing couples getting married, patchwork pieces and many other tokens.

“The patchwork pieces are for a happy home,” Rodan said, being the expert on all things to do with the Sommerbaum by now. “The horseshoes are for prosperity and the coloured stars for health.”

“Yes, I get the idea,” Marion replied as the tree was hauled into place by a dozen strong men and safely fixed with taut ropes to stop it being blown down. Rodan went on to explain that it remained there throughout the coming month and people could add their wishes to it.

“I don’t think there is much we need to wish for,” Kristoph said. “We are healthy and prosperous and our home is as happy as it could be.”

There was one thing Marion would have wished for, but she didn’t let that spoil this beautiful day. The tokens on the Sommerbaum fluttered in the slight breeze and the people all sang in its praise. There was no need for any regrets or wishful thinking just now.

After the Sommerbaum was raised the arena was filled with various fascinating spectacles from the marching bands playing to groups of girls in pretty coloured dresses and carrying pom-poms dancing, to men in lederhosen doing a more grown up version of the same kind of dancing. There was dancing for couples, with prizes for the best costumes and the best dancers, and a mini-parade around the arena for horse drawn carts with prizes for the best groomed horse, the best cart and the best costumed passengers. Rodan nodded in agreement when a very fine grey horse was nominated for the top prize, but she had no preference amongst the carts or their drivers.

“Let’s eat,” Kristoph decided when the second round of the band competition began. They could hear the music well enough as they explored the food stalls and eventually bought plate sized flat breads loaded with meat cut from the side of a spit-roasted boar and delicately spiced vegetable stew.

They sat to eat under an awning at trestle tables where dozens of other people were already sitting with napkins as large as small tablecloths tucked around them to keep food from dripping on their festive clothes. Rodan was a little puzzled by that. She had been taught as soon as she was old enough to sit at a table to put a small napkin on her lap and use it to wipe her mouth delicately after each course. This looked like uncouth manners.

“For the formal dinner tomorrow night ordinary napkin etiquette will be in order,” Kristoph assured her. “But with meat juices likely to make embarrassing stains on white blouses, the tucked in style is appropriate.” He, himself copied the technique before beginning to eat. Rodan followed suit and enjoyed her lunch without fear of spoiling her clothes.

After lunch, they explored the section of the festival ground given over to a brightly lit fun fair. The Ferris Wheel and the Carousel were two remnants of old Earth that had been kept by the people of Elbrach Prime. Kristoph insisted that three goes on each of those rides was enough for any little girl. Rodan accepted the restriction willingly since he brought her to a sideshow where he won a large stuffed bear by skilfully throwing a small rubber ball at a series of targets.

“Now that is unfair,” Marion told him. “You are a skilled marksman with any projectile in your hands.”

“And there was some sort of glue holding down the targets,” Kristoph replied. “So the honours are even.”

“This bear is too big for me,” Rodan said. “I shall give it to the hospital when we next visit Ventura.”

“You have the makings of a philanthropist, my dear,” Kristoph told her. “I see a coconut shy over there. Let me win a smaller token for you to keep.”

Marion wondered if the coconuts were glued down, too. If they were, they succumbed easily to Kristoph’s powerful and accurate throw and he won a lovely doll dressed in the traditional Sommerfest costume. Rodan accepted that as her own gift to treasure.

“Now I must win something for Marion,” Kristoph said as they left the coconut shy. He cast around and saw a stall where the prizes were won by throwing darts into playing cards. All four aces from the suits won the top prizes. There was no way for the stall holder to affect the way the darts travelled. The difficulty was in getting the dart to stick in the centre of each ace. Only a very practiced eye and a steady hand would do it.

But Kristoph had both of those. He easily won the set of golden bears – mother, father and baby – on a polished wooden plinth. Marion was delighted with the gift.

“It’s just gold paint on tin, of course,” Kristoph noted. “I can get them plated with real gold very easily. They will last much longer, then.”

Marion didn’t mind. She loved the fact that Kristoph had won the ornament for her and knew exactly where it could go in her white drawing room.

“No more,” she told him. “I think word is getting around about you. The stalls are hiding all their best prizes.”

He laughed and steered his little family back to the main arena where the girls dance troops had been whittled down to two teams in the final dance off. Rodan decided that the group in mauve dresses with white pompoms were the best and watched anxiously to be sure that the judges agreed with her. They did, and the girls received their trophy and medals from the Sommerquein before more dancing and music.

Kristoph smiled in satisfaction. Later as the sun went down there was a bonfire and more roasted meats, fireworks and dancing around the Sommerbaum. They would enjoy all of that before returning to the TARDIS and heading back to the Presidential shuttle that was currently orbiting just beyond the outer planet of the Ebrach system. Tomorrow they would arrive again in their official capacity, along with the Presidential guard and the Presidential Aides and all the pomp and ceremony that came with a State visit.

But it was good to see a world through ordinary eyes now and again.