The County Show
This journey has been a trip of many firsts for me and a trip to the New Deer county show was yet another first. But before I talk about what was surprisingly a really enjoyable day out I want to talk first about …
a city boy’s perspective on the countryside.
Many people rave about the countryside and wax lyrical about how it’s so much better than living in a city. Before this trip, I was a firm believer that the countryside was somewhere I could go to “get away from it all”, but only in small doses. Early in our marriage Catherine, being one of those countryside lovers, tried to convince me of the merits of a trip to the country. She soon discovered that I want a fan!
Firstly there are the smells, yuck! The mix of cow dung and that ever-present smell of sour milk is something that turns my stomach. Then there’s the traffic; on the few sunny days in the UK when every bugger wants to go to the country, we are all squeezed into single-lane carriageways and depending on how deep in the countryside you want to go … single track roads! In the days when I used to drive to work (I stopped doing that in 2014), this is the last thing I wanted, long hours on the road stuck behind caravans, camper vans* and wait for it … TRACTORS!
*I know ironic, right? I now find myself looking in the passenger mirror seeing how long the queue is being Catherine; I’m imagining other hard-working city types (like me in the days of yore) with their faces becoming redder and redder waiting for the first opportunity to escape. It’s an ongoing journey for me to care less about what people think, so having Catherine drive is great therapy for me – but maybe only increases the chances of therapy for the people 15 cars behind us on the A981!
Catherine told me a trip to the country would be good for my stress-levels – NOT TRUE! I would perpetually spend the journey with my head cranked to the right looking for overtaking opportunities. It was almost like the tractor would wait for me and would pull out leaving me just enough rubber on the tyres and graphite on the brake pads to legally continue the rest of the journey. Catherine soon learned that driving as a passenger with me driving would require a stiff brandy and a week’s recovery time. Stress-free – yeah – only if we took the train!
And then there are the flies
OMG the flies…the flies (twitch twitch).
Flies are to me, are what bats are to Ace Ventura! In other words, I hate them. Even thinking about them removes me from my place of zen. They are another post in themselves for another day as they involve Tommy and his equal dislike for them, except he is not so Zen – he eats them! Bad dog – no kisses for you tonight – Yuck!
Which would you choose? Torremolinos or Yeovil?
Then there’s the lack of comforts that a country break doesn’t always give you. I love my trips to Spain where we can stay in nice hotels and enjoy nice meals in nice restaurants. Now that’s a holiday! Spending time in a caravan, in the middle of nowhere* where the phone signal is ropey at best, isn’t in my humble opinion a holiday – it’s a penance!
My idea of kicking back when I met Catherine was online gaming or computer games in general. Yeah working a 9 to 5 and constantly looking at a computer screen as an analyst/programmer clearly wasn’t enough for me. I needed to do more of it in my spare time. I suppose this is why I consider Catherine the one who rescued me from being a 21 stone geek and helped me to become almost half the man I was twenty years ago! Anyways I digress …
*OK slight exaggeration there. We never stayed in the “Middle of Nowhere” Catherine likes her comforts too but she was far more willing to let go of some things than I was. And my apologies to anyone who may have now correlated Middle of Nowhere with Yeovil
A day at the county show
So now, fast forward to May 10th of this year when we started this journey. In fact, the journey started much sooner for me when I decided to sell everything* in favour of a simpler life. Now I think the countryside is awesome and I have a deeper respect for it and the importance it has for us as depicted in this photo I took of these fine chaps at the country show.
*Well not everything per se. I have about 6 boxes of books that I have stored with my daughters along with some other keepsakes that I didn’t give away. But that’s a story for another day and one that I will go into in more detail when I get around to writing the book about why we are doing this journey and why now. There is much to tell, but not right now.
So we turned up early to the show as Catherine doesn’t like crowds and we heard that there would be 10,000 people who would visit the show over the course of the weekend. Better get in early!
We love people …
Once we arrived and parked up we found our time there to be totally relaxing. There were lots of people with dogs and a wide selection of “normal” people. Now that might sound a little condescending but Catherine’s observation was spot on. “Normal” is just my shorthand for “there are lots of people who have dressed in normal clothes and don’t seem to be clones of one another. Blonde hair, orange fake-dye skin, Russian lips … you know … clones”.
Also, people are so friendly in this part of the world. We have noticed that people who are so willing to help you out and many times will people will smile and say hello to you in the street. It’s a world of difference to living down south where people tend to look at you suspiciously if you smile at them. We have also noticed that there is even a distinct difference between the west coast and east coast people. It’s not that west-coasters arent friendly they are, but they tend to be friendly in a different way. The best way I can describe it is that east-coasters tend to be a little gentler and easy going. But’s that just my observation backed up by the fact that I have spent a number of years living in Glasgow in the late eighties, early nineties while working in Edinburgh. I wonder what if the different weather has anything to do with it?
… but we love animals more
One of the things that Catherine and I have in common is that we love animals. OK, its maybe not true that we love animals more than people, but I tend to be more forgiving and less judgemental towards animals than I do people. But again it depends on the people. But today at the show was a real treat for animals lovers as we got to stroke goats, Catherine hugged some donkeys and I nearly got electrocuted when I was standing too close to a horse fence trying to cop a feel with one of the show horses.
Talking of horses, we were waiting to see the pipers play in the main ring but were delayed by the judging of “best in show” for the horses. We watched as all the prize winners for each category were walked or trotted around the ring. It was now gone 1 pm and the sun had started to shine so Catherine was starting to bake when something made her forget about the rising temperature. Something else had risen that had received her full attention and many of the other females in the front row.
One of the horses being walked around the ring had what Catherine described as an “eye-watering sight”; yes ladies and gentlemen, this proud stallion was packing a phallus that was the size of my arm and not an inch less! People’s reactions to such a thing were funny. The ladies all laughed and blushed. The men, like me, were prone to make comparisons “That’s embarrassing” I said, “I wouldn’t fold mine in half for anyone!” It made me wonder if horseshoe sizes were also supposedly aligned with schlong sizes. I will ask a vet that one day – if you know a vet or are a vet maybe you can answer it for me. Thanks in advance.
Turns out that my observation of events in the ring beforehand might have been very accurate and I’m not referring to horses appendages now, but the political machinations unfolding as the judges make their decision on who will win the show. I love doing accents and generally taking the piss. To pass the time while events were unfolding in the centre of the ring (none of us could hear what was being said) I decided to “entertain” anyone within earshot with what I was observing going on in the ring* “Now be careful and dinnae give the prize to McTavish – that’ll anely piss off the McDonalds like” “Aye but hers is the better horse” “Tut away with ye! That’s nay the point ya barmpot ye! The rest o the village will have to listen tae her strutting around wearing the blue ribbon fae the rest o the year like” .
*I rate myself as a body language and communication expert; it’s what I’ve done for a living for many years as a consultant helping organisations make change happen. I can spot people’s “tells” and when they are likely to cause “issues” or challenges – usually before they have hit one another over the head with a heavy blunt implement! It’s usually cheaper to hire me before trouble breaks out rather than hiring solicitors after the trouble has resulted in lawsuits or hospitalisation!
As I say turns out there was merit in my observations. Catherine was speaking to a dear friend of hers only the day after the event and was describing the scene.* “Oh yes,” says Shelley “These things are very political. As a judge you have to be so careful in these small communities”. Hahaha … SCORE!
*Shelley is Catherine’s longest friend. I don’t mean she is seven feet tall- I mean they have known each other since kids living in the same street together and going on holidays together.
So finally the pipers came out
… an hour later than billed on the schedule. In the end, they were awesome as they played “Scotland the Brave” as they marched around the ring, something that I have always wanted to hear live, another first for me. It was well worth the wait but Catherine was close to fainting from the heat and the maybe the all too arousing equine spectacle she had just witnessed; Tommy was freaked by the pipers as they passed within a few feet of him so we decided to grab a coffee and call it a day.
And what a day … here are a few more photos of the day which we will remember for a long time to come.