It’s a well-known fact amongst friends and family that Gordon hates the Bath and West Show. One reason is that it used to be an agricultural show and still advertises itself as such, with farm animals of all kinds, including some of the more exotic ones like these alpacas, but it is now open to the ‘general public’, many of whom just go for the shopping experience. A lot go with young children who are bored within an hour, tired and whiny within an hour and five minutes. It presents an idyllic picture of our ‘rural heritage’ and suggests that all is peachy in the farming world by pointing to how well farmers have diversified into things like rare-breed chickens/pigs/sheep, etc. A small minority of the owners of such animals are farmers in the traditional sense; that’s not saying that some of them aren’t, or that they’ve done a bad thing by giving the public what they want – top-end cheeses, sausages, apple-juices, etc, but just as many are smallholders or hobby-farmers. I’m not putting them down and good for them; at least they’re in a position to keep these rare breeds alive, but there isn’t a lot of profit involved when done on a large-scale.
This morning he asked whether I fancied going. Apart from the surprise I have to admit I was a bit suspicious, but it turns out that he’d been thinking about it and as the weather was so unreliable there wasn’t much else he could do. We can’t start silage-making until the ground is drier and he cleared up other chores in preparation for that. I jumped at the chance of course and he suggested asking Terri and Steve if they’d like to come along too.
We didn’t have a clue what the weather would be like, so layered our clothes accordingly with sensible shoes and waterproof coats for good measure. When we got there the ground was already muddy as a result of the rain yesterday, but apart from being hot in a humid way, the day was clear.
At about four o’clock there were a few spots of rain. Before we’d had a chance to put our coats on we were starting to get wet. Within minutes the rain was constant. We were up around the far end of the showground and found a cider-bar that also served apple juice so ducked in there out of the rain, which got heavier, and heavier, and just when we thought it was at its worst, heavier still until it was impossible to see through. There were a lot of people worse off than us who’d turned up in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops in preparation for a warm and sunny day. We stayed in the bar and watched as the trickle of rain running along the road outside the door turned into a torrent. After a while we realised that it wasn’t going to stop, or even ease, so donned our wet (and by now cold) coats, zipped everything up and went out into it once again. The roadways resembled rivers, and rapidly-flowing rivers at that, full of mud that was being washed off the hillside. We soon discovered that our boots, although sensible, weren’t actually waterproof, but we were wading through several inches of water in places. We made it back to the car over totally waterlogged fields and leapt in. Once the heating was on we all sat there and steamed, fogging up the windows in the process. Luckily we took the Discovery so were able to negotiate through the mud but we did see some wheel-spinning going on.
We stopped at the Pipers Inn en route home for tea as we realised we hadn’t really had a proper meal all day, just snacks and free samples (mostly cheese, it has to be said). After a hearty and very delicious steak and kidney pie with potatoes and vegetables, we ran back through the rain to the car.
It rained heavily until we were almost home then eased up a fraction. When I asked Steph what the weather had been like here she said “we had a little bit of rain at about six o’clock”. “Wasn’t it heavy?” I asked.
“No”, she said. “Just a little bit”!
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