So, the showday is here. I was up before the dawn (ok, about 8.30 but you get the general idea) and carefully pacing the kitchen garden to look for entries. This didn't take long as it is only 3 metres by 1.5 metres, so I did it several times to make it look good. Finally, my choices were made. Having pulled up ALL my carrots, several of which would have underwhelmed a dolls house tea party, I selected the only four that were straight and carrot coloured.
Next came the potatoes. Having stabbed through the best one with the garden fork, and accidentally picked up a giant toad (eeurgh), I found four that looked like they could hold their own.
Next row - beetroot. These were a bit of a joke as none of them look particularly like beetroots. They are more like purplish truffles with an excessive facial hair problem but I was in the spirit of things and lobbed these into the basket.
On my way back to the kitchen, the loyal hound distracted me by trying to dig up a particularly shouty shrew under the rhubarb. Since he was in the process of destroying the entire crop, I rescued four of the least mangled stems and took those in as well.
Back in the kitchen, the vegetable beauty salon began. I scrubbed, I plucked, I polished. By the end of at least four minutes hard labour I had 4 sort of evenly sized potatoes, 4 completely different sized carrots and three very lumpy beetroot. The rhubarb was glossy and pink and I was just going to have to hope that the judges didn't notice the teeth marks on one of them.
In the middle of this, glowing like a nucleur warning, sat the Lemon Curd. Fired with enthusiasm I cut up an old napkin up as a top for it and searched out one of the post rubber bands to seal the deal. I was ready for the go.
When I arrived, the hall was quiet. A few early birds had left their entries but the main bulk was still to arrive. I carefully arranged my entries on the remaining, uncut up napkins and a glow of pride came over me. The Lemon Curd looked like a Best in Show entry, and as none of the other categories had any other entries at that stage I have to admit, I had high hopes. These didn't last long....
Half an hour later I returned to help the aged parent unload her entries. She had gone for the Baghdad blanket bombing technique and had even lugged down the kitchen sink in the hope of entering it. She had also shown strategy and had cunningly entered categories unlikely to be entered by anyone else. (I have to tell you this technique worked - the woman cleaned up and had TEN PRIZES (8 of which were uncontested but still....)
On arriving back at the hall, laden with produce, sinks, flowers and everything else she owns my heart sank. The place was awash with entries. My lemon curd with it's napkin top was being jostled by crowds of shinier jars with prettier tops. My carrots were dwarfed by mutated giant specimens and it took ten minutes to locate my truffle shaped beetroots amongst the threatening shadows cast by the other entrants. What hope was there for me?
Skip to 4.00 o'clock this afternoon. Having given myself a strict talking to about 'taking part being everything, not winning' I wend my way down the side of the mountain to the village hall. First stop - the lemon curd. NOTHING - AGAIN! How could this be? What did I do wrong? It smelt lemony, it tasted lemony, it had a napkin lid. There was nothing else I could do. I suspect bribes, chicanery and backhanders. I pick up the losing pot and hurl it into the basket where it lies at the bottom like the LOSER that it is.
Desolate, I head towards the beetroot. NOTHING. Surely a beetroot with facial hair and no roundness to it all deserves a prize for originality at least? Apparently not. Next, the rhubarb. Apparently the judges did care about the teeth marks in the rhubarb 'cos they didn't give them a second glance. Most unjust.
I have little hope for the potatoes or the carrots - they are hotly contended categories and bitterfly fought over. I turn to look, with my brave face firmly in place. But what is this? A yellow card? by my potato entry?
Third Prize is mine! Oh the glory, the adulation, the overwhelming sense of victory! I will be worshipped wherever I go. People will whisper and point and it won't be because I forgot to brush my hair - again. Then, miracle of miracles, the carrots catch my eye. Glowing orange in the afternoon sunlight they are the proud receivers of ANOTHER PRIZE! Third prize in the carrots. My cup runneth over, my joy knows no bounds. Who cares about the lemon curd (well, I do actually - feel a bit bitter actually). My carrots have come third, and not because there were only three entries - they came third out of a massive six entries. Just call me Alan Titchmarsh - I am invincible.
I take a deep breath and walk outside. I must look cool, calm, collected. As though I expected such a bounty and can take it in my stride. I can't take away my prize winning entries (or the losing ones for that matter) for another half hour so wander down to the sheep dog trials to pass the time. But when I return - DISASTER.
SOMEBODY STOLE MY PRIZE WINNING CARROTS!
Who could do such a thing? I knew that being succesful would cause envy in those around me, but how was I to swallow such a bitter pill? They even stole the prize winning card. Now my beautiful carrots will go into somebody else's stew. The prize winning card will be propped on their mantlepiece and the glory will be theirs. My first real victory and it is taken from me. Who cares about the potatoes now? I have lost all my faith in the rural community - they are all thieves and vagabonds and somebody is gloating over third prize carrots that aren't theirs............
I am composing a letter to the Home Secretary to complain about rural crime. When will it end and why oh why couldn't they have stolen the lemon curd instead??????
The price of health
12 hours ago