Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Foot and mouth

Glendale. Some people wait all year for the right agriculture show to come around. Ok, they may flirt a little with another agriculture show but when you know you have found the agriculture show for you, a strange peace steals over you, that hard coiled part of you relaxes, thinks: "Perhaps this is how life is, should be, will be forever."

Alternatively, we have just lived here too long. We arrived early, as we settled by the main ring to eat bacon sandwiches and watch the horse jumping, I thought: "Oh good, horses to watch". Events here are a little like wallpaper; you glance up and there is a horse. I have never looked that closely, maybe it is wallpaper. But it moves; maybe that is the water though. Anyway, they had the moving wallpaper trick going while we ate the bacon sandwiches and I gasped when a stray hoof knocked off a pole. My husband said: "I think you are going native." I said: "I don't think so. Make sure we are back in time for the hounds. They are on at three." He muttered something. I did not ask him to repeat it.

Courtesy of foot and mouth, there were no cattle, sheep or goats. I missed them. I hope they missed me. Sign of the times there was a "chief livestock and biosecurity steward". Presumably he has links with the United Nations.

Without beasts, I had to find comfort in the horticultural and industrial tent. In the vast marquee were baked products, flowers and the fruit and veg of entrants striving for unnatural glory. Some onions the size of a three-year-old's head; cabbages the size of a 10-year-old's. Some leeks were as long as an arm; some spilled over the table and reached for the floor. When I was a trainee reporter, I covered a leek show. A man who was languishing in a coma won first prize. He was in the local hospital after being knocked down by a car late one night. As he lay ill and all unknowing, never likely to recover, his twin brother carefully tended his leeks, watering them, feeding them, talking to them. The mother was old and frail. She visited her lost son every day, sat by him, held his hand. She was there when they announced he had won first place with his leeks. Tribute to a brother's tender love. I remember she cried.

One of my favorites yesterday were the competitive potatoes. Without wishing to malign the potatoes, I could see very little difference between them. Perhaps the winner had a little more muscle tone. It was also a very slow race, I stood there for some considerable period of time and I could hardly see them moving. It must have been a relay though because they were in teams of four. No team dropped a baton.

The competitive ethic was everywhere. Potatoes, cabbage growers, horses in fancy dress. I was slightly disappointed because there had been talk of me judging the horse fancy dress competition but when I arrived, someone else was down to judge it. I had been practising shaking the children's hands for the past fortnight, looking them straight in the eye and saying: "Well done. Jolly good effort," which was slightly confusing for them at tea time or indeed when they got up on a morning. But in a way, I was relieved because I was not sure which hoof I should shake when it came to the horse. Did you perhaps shake all of them? Or more if it was a male horse?

The fact that I once thought that I might judge the fancy dress meant I sat and watched it with a particular interest. Two horses came as walls. That is to say they were covered in brick painted sheets. On one wall a little humpty dumpty sat with two King's Men in bearskins riding behind him. A woman next to me muttered: "I'm sure Humpty Dumpty comes out every year." I thought that harsh but as I say, they are very competitive up here. Even the potatoes. The other wall came as Hadrian's Wall complete with a Roman soldier in a red tunic and helmet. Other Roman soldiers followed on horseback and two little Romans in togas tried to keep up behind them. Needless to say the Roman "man" had to pull a reluctant Roman woman behind him. She was probably saying: "But Gluteus, I like Londinium." The audience liked the little Romans and their horses. They love Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland. I have found when there is a pause in the conversation, if you say: "So, that's a hell of a wall, you've got up here," it gets you quite a long way. That and: "So, do you ride?" If all else fails: "So, do you farm around here?" Aside from Hadrian's Wall, there was a Teddy Bear's picnic, lots of children dressed as teddy bears, some poor bear girl pushing a bear baby in a buggy round and round the main ring that will probably put her off motherhood for life. The horse was dressed as a picnic blanket.

Hadrian's Wall won which was a safe choice but you had to give full marks to the parents who blacked up their children. Blacked up their children. Just one more time. Blacked up their children. I watched the cavalcade across the field as they walked on. A rider in a black hooded cloak, another with a Arabian scarf wrapped around part of his face. Each rider pulled along a blacked up child; one wearing a large black Afro wig, the other a black Mohican with a ponytail. I said: "Oh my God," as they came by. "Are those children pretending to be black?" At that moment, one of the children raised a placard with the words: "The Abolition of Slavery, 1807." So that was a "Yes" then. Full marks to parents who attempt to be political at an agricultural show. I would have made them my winners for sheer effrontery. On the other hand, cor blimey. Cor blimey. I did see one black person at the show. Black black. I presume. (Unless he was their dad and had blacked himself up for the occasion.) I wondered whether he was watching and how he would feel. If he would think: "Well, it's a good cause. They've got their hearts in the right place." Or: "I think we should go now." I nudged my husband as the slave trade came by. I said: "What you said earlier...I don't think that's true."

22 comments:

Potty Mummy said...

Oh. My. God. (Am still laughing. Need to go now. Literally.)

mutterings and meanderings said...

I saw a number of black and Asian people at the show.

Wifey, for goodness sake, learn to ride. You obviously have a fascination with our equine friends. Most of them don't actually bite.

Oh, and round here, it's likely they would be saying: "I don't like Londinium."

@themill said...

I rather like the fact we are still so politically incorrect up here.
Sorry about the kettle. Settled the argument tho'

mutleythedog said...

I have spent years ate stuff like this - the best thing to do is to head for the beer tent at about 10.00 am. Otherwise its pretty unbearable..

Oh Mutterings poster... some people are born tossers, some people achieve tosserdom and some people have tosserdom thrust upon them... you have managed all three!

How exciting!

mutterings and meanderings said...

Oh Mutley darling, I do believe the phrase is takes one to know one ...

Adopted Northerner said...

Did they have a food tent and was it busy?

Stinking Billy said...

I would go so far as to say "Your best yet". The Londinium crack had me in tears of laughter, too. Would somebody kindly lead Mutterings and Meanderings out to pasture and just leave her there! You make us wait a few days from time to time but you invariably make our wait worth the while.

Supernight said...

Oh My God! That's hilarious!

farming-frenchstyle said...

I understand what you mean - Black black. We have varying degrees of deadness - dead or very dead (of our animals that is).Dead is only just, very dead means it came out in bits or was minging!

Belladonna said...

Oh Wifey. It sounds so, well eighteenth century up there. Are you really sure about the agricultural/hunting/white fraternity? Do you actually want to be part of that gang?

merry weather said...

human vegetables... how exciting, life in Surrey is empty by comparison...

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I nearly went to the show myself but couldn't tear myself away from the sheep.

Crystal xx

Swearing Mother said...

Cor blimey indeed!

Am nearly rendered speechless. That's a first.

Very, very funny.

Eats Wombats said...

Well, if you really want to see something politically incorrect just go to Holland for Sinterklaas and you'll see many Zwarte Piets looking very golly indeed.

photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwarte_Piet

Big fun at school because there's a naughty Piet called Rummel Piet who comes in the night and turns things upside down, which children of a certain age find irresistably entertaining. I gather the Dutch are getting a bit embarrassed about Zwarte Piet but efforts to introduce politically correct replacements have yet to catch on.

Norman said...

When I lived up there in the far north, "political correctness" meant voting for the right guy. Nice to see nowt's changed.

mutleythedog said...

mutterings and meanderings said...

Oh Mutley darling, I do believe the phrase is takes one to know one ...


Mine is Shakespeare and your is a playground taunt... and I don't normally patronise like you do...

Swearing Mother said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mopsa said...

The first time I saw a blacked up Morris Man in the South West I nearly choked on my ice cream. In London this was not something that would have been dared, certainly not in my home borough of Brent. Tradition, they say. Worlds apart certainly.

wife in the north said...

I am taking some time off to recover from the excitement of Glendale. Back in about a week or so.

mutleythedog said...

Have a lovely time free from M & M!!!

Grrrrr ! Bark! Wooof! Can I be angry on your behalf or is that weird?

debio said...

Couldn't read this fast enough it was so funny.

Have a great time away.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Sorry Mut, I'm not afriad of yappy little doggies.

Stick to your pornography, eh?