The last couple of weeks in the life of us Country folk have revolved around 'village show time'. It's that time of year when the vege growers amongst us harvest our lovingly nurtured veges and put them on show for all to see.
Tim and I started living in the country some twelve or so years ago. Back then we managed to some how blag a little thatched cottage in one of the prettiest villages in Oxfordshire for a measly rent of £100 per month. The cottage was derelict! Yes I know madness I hear you all say, as did our friends back then. It wasn't exactly the Ritz, neither was it the type of pad that most of our friends dreamt of, but to us it was wonderful! In the early days we didn't have a bathroom as such, (well there was a room containing a disconnected shower), but no loo and no hand basin. The kitchen was more of a narrow corridor with only cold running water, no built in modern kitchen, just the sink. But we loved it! We spent about £1000 renovating the place so that we cold live in it (that included buying a wood burning stove), we stripped the wall of old plaster and pulled in a few ceilings (there were only a few). We made a huge mess really!
It remained primitive to today's standard but the love of the peace and tranquillity were the driving force behind all of this and it was really fine. After all, people many years ago lived perfectly well with very little in the way of 'stuff' and they were perfectly happy.
Anyway, I have digressed.....upon moving to the village we naturally decided to take part in all the events that occurred locally, as most of the villagers also did. One of those events happened to be the village show. Well of course we went along (not really knowing what we were letting ourselves in for), people had actually grown vegetables and taken the time to clean them and display them beautifully for all to see in huge marquees. They also showed their beautiful crafts and home made produce. We took it all in with very open minds until it came to the presentations of the awards. AWARDS??? Yes, they even got awarded money, certificates and cups for their efforts....well you can imagine....two city folk watching people win sums of money for carrots!!!! And how serious these folks were about their efforts too. 'Well' we both said 'If they can do it, so can we....' Oh dear....what were we thinking?
Neither of us had the first idea about anything to do with growing vegetables. Both of our parents had dabbled a little when we were young but nothing to really be proud of. So that next year we set to work and we did grow things. We admired the vege patches of others whenever we were out walking. I do remember being slightly unimpressed by all the straight lines and thought that we would grow ours in zigzags! (Umm silly idea! Hoeing is so much easier when your rows are straight....). No wonder the neighbour kept telling us 'You're learning....'.
We did enter that next year and for many years to follow, in fact this year is the first year that we didn't enter a thing. It's terribly competitive you know. People keep serious watch over their prize crops for weeks before, selecting their pumpkins, ear marking beans, ripening tomatoes ooooh tomatoes!!!!
On the morning of the show you have to arrive early with your produce all carefully tucked in a safe receptacle (for the women that's a basket with a handle, the men tend to take their wheelbarrows), you pick up your class cards and take your entry over to the appropriate place in the marquee. Then with great care you carefully position your item or items on the tables with a sneaky look either side at the work of your fellow competitors. Yes, I am sure some swapping or nudging of others items does go on. Then it's off to display the next item. A couple of years ago I was laying out my treasured items, which incidentally one prepares in the days (night in my case) before the show, when a neighbour asked Tim if he could help him bring in his prize pumpkin. The chaps wife offered to mind our children whilst he did so. I continued what I was doing with great care and attention then happened to look across the marquee to see small boy feasting on a tomato that someone had just laid out.....! Arrrrrr agast!!!!! Pants!!!!! I swiftly flew over (quite literally) and looked mortified at the five remaining beauties (the only exhibits on the table). Wondering what on earth to do I noted the entrants number and proceeded to tell the organisers of the terrible thing that had happened (sniggering as I retell this story). They obviously shared my concern and through professional eyes (lips bitten), they told me who had exhibited the precious pearls. It was only the head gardeners wife from the neighbouring village! I took the bull by the horns and walked up to her to explain the situation. 'I am so sorry but my son has just taken one of your tomatoes' Pause......'Well, I want it back'......'Ummm, you can't, he's eaten it'. Huff, puff, uurrrrr. Well let's just say she won first prize that year for her five lovely tomatoes, the judge commented that 'they were obviously extremely tasty!' Small boy became quite a star that year.
Then there was the year that we displayed four courgettes with flowers on (as it indicated in the brochure), I felt sure that I would win as mine were jolly good examples, but no, someone else won, someone whose courgettes didn't have flowers on at all!
That same year one of our friends entered his longest runner bean (two beans cut in half and joined with tin foil)....oh it all happens!
The seriousness of that particular show was there in her glory but there was some light hearted fun as well. In later years when we moved to another village and took up the same challenge, I entered the 'Flowerless beauty' class. Previously I had entered all manner of displays of lovely green foliage from the hedgerows in the village and our garden. I did the same this particular year only to discover that the new village had specially allotted booths for each exhibit in the class for each individual. Well I was mortified to discover that everyone else had purchased beautiful exotic foliage from florists whilst I (as usual) had opted for hedge pickings....the embarrassment of it all. I checked that no one was looking, dumped my entry and made a swift exit. No prizes there!
This year we decided not to display anything at all, not to help, in fact not to go to the show at all...this year we stepped up a notch and checked out the show in Moreton in the Marsh. This particular show is similar but on a much grander scale. Oh me, oh my, they had the usual veges etc but they also had cows and sheep, chickens and ducks and dancing diggers!!!! Small boy was in his element! The little lady and Miss P watched the whole show too. Dads and boys alike stood in awe of these giant machines as they drove around the arena to music. I just stood back with Jenny dog and let the show go on, she was more interested in the ice creams from the distracted children!
Jenny dog had her moment of fun too. She rather likes Terrier racing, quite a whizz she is. The little yappy terriers are put in crates six at a time and then the front of the cages/traps are lifted and the eager hounds race across the field in pursuit of (in this case) a mop tied to a loop of cord. Jenny dog got into the final and came third, a yellow rossett!