We go to the Bath & West show most years. Each year, I test the waters to see if the children want to go. Should we go? Each year, there is a resounding “Yes”, with no groans in the midst. That is 100% agreement then. A golden moment in parenting terms.
My favourites are the livestock and the rural crafts. Fortunately, the rest of the family are the same. So long as I don’t drag it out too far. The children will often stop to talk to a friendly beast, if it sticks its head out of the pen, giving me that little bit longer.
This year, I was struck by how many fleeting moments made me smile. As we left the sheep area, a group of visitors entered. I couldn’t help giggling as one of them exclaimed in a broad Somerset accent, as he caught a glimpse of the Scottish Blackface in the first pen, that “that’s a cloud not a sheep”. I see his point. The fleece is rather splendid and plentiful.
We all love watching the pig showing. It is so funny. Watching the exhibitors guide the willful pigs around the ring with only a wish and a prayer, and a pig board. Oh and a stick. There is always one that makes a bolt for it, or disappears behind the judges’ table, in an attempt to escape the ring and run havoc around the outside (I’m yet to see them make it).
As we watched, the nearest pigs were misbehaving in their temporary pen in the corner of the show ring. My children were waiting with great anticipation for these particular pigs to have their moment in the main part of the ring. Surely they were going to cause mayhem.
As it happens they didn’t. They were the best of the lot. Walking perfectly around the ring. This was their moment and no-one was going to take it from them.
Can’t help thinking pigs might be a tad unpredictable.
(photo from 2017, not 1946)
I was telling my mother about seeing the pigs. Her parents used to show pigs back in the 40s/50s. At the Bath and West, among others. They converted an old Red Cross ambulance into an animal transporter and would take their pigs to the shows in it. My mother remembers sleeping on the straw next to the pig pens or in the cleaned out vehicle. I can’t imagine my grandparents doing that!
So pig showing is in the blood. Maybe that’s why we all like watching it.
The cider tent is always on our list to visit. Husband has been weighing up buying an apple press for a few years, so we always check them out. It would make sense, as we do have a lot of apples each year. Youngest would love the ball cage on a stick for picking up apples. I can see him keeping our little orchard’s floor clear of windfalls.
At the other end of the tent, is the cider competition. I love seeing the demijohns of cider lined up on the shelves, with bunting. Something quintessential country show about the sight. We noticed this time, that some had less cider in them. A noticeable amount less. Speculations about how the judges finished the judging if they put away so much cider on each tasting. Turns out these ciders were decided by the people’s choice. Phew. Many people. Now that is neat. I wonder how I sign up for that.
Last stop of the day. Watching the sheep shearing. I find it mesmerizing. I’m sure in the time they did 20, I may have managed one half. Probably badly. I’m sure the sheep would be relieved that I’ve never taken it up. The shearers seem to glide through the fleece, handling the sheep with expertise. The wool handlers looked exhausted by the end, packing the fleeces away. This was the national final. As the last sheep were pulled forward, the crowd started to urge on their man. I heard a couple of little voices cheering their father on. gulp.
This year we loved the beagles and the fox hounds. Up to then, I assumed that they were used in the same way. One beagle spent most of its time meeting and greeting the crowd outside the arena, which was amusing.
There was also the bee tent, with its bee hive decorating competition. The winner is pictured at the top of this post. I am rather partial to a pun. It made us all giggle.
There seemed to be more alpacas than I remember in the past. We actually saw the judging this time. Away from the ring, among the pens, there were bags of alpaca fleece for sale. I held back. I do love spinning with alpaca but I have enough at home. I need to work my way through that first.
It is so lovely to spin.
The show is still fun. Year after year. I love talking (or eavesdropping!) on the old timers, and the characters that make the countryside such a wonderful and rich place to live. They are always ready to talk. The show is the sort of place that if you’ve ever wondered about something to do with the countryside, you’ll likely find the answer there.
Looking at my photos, I concentrated on the livestock areas. There are also old country vehicles, a steam powered fairground, farming interactive exhibits, show jumping and much, much more. Stalls of all shapes and sizes.
I wonder if the children will want to go again, next year.