diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 28, 2011

At the village hall, the Flower, Vegetable and Handicraft Show is in full effect. The car park isn't terribly full, but I guess most of the residents of Obscure Norfolk Village are elsewhere doing less practical things. Quick, dash inside before the next torrential downpour hits. Raffle ticket, anyone?

In the main hall, a variety of produce and handicrafts have been laid out across a series of trestle tables. There are more than 80 classes altogether, ranging from the best Victoria Sponge to the longest runner bean. Anyone from the local area could have entered - the schedules have been available in the Post Office for several weeks. Jams, floral arrangements, handicrafts; each now arranged in an appropriate cluster and grouped in their proper place.

The cookery classes have attracted the greatest number of competitors. Especially popular is the class for cakes baked using the special recipe in the programme, although I suspect the judge was tiring a little by the time she'd sampled the last one. A scribbled post-it note from her accompanies every entry - "well baked", "lacks mixed spice flavour", "looks lovely but taste is rather bland". You don't get this level of feedback in the vegetable classes.

Pride of place, in the centre of the hall, has been given to the horticultural entries. One of the tomatoes is truly enormous. Somebody's red onions have scrubbed up beautifully. Not all of the sets of carrots have that cohesive perfection that competitive vegetable display requires. It's clear that some in the village have taken the growing challenge very seriously, whereas others have merely dug up a few specimens from the garden this morning and hoped for the best.

A small coloured sticker on each entry card denotes first, second or third place. In some classes there's only been one entrant so they've walked off with top prize by default. In others nobody bothered to apply at all, and the table lies bare through collective indifference. Common agreement is that judging in the art classes has been somewhat subjective, but that's art classes for you. In the Under 7s category, the winner of the "teddy bear with a parachute" category has been decided more objectively, by dropping each unfortunate beast from the top of a ladder.

The nice ladies in the kitchen serve up tea, coffee and "sqaush" for 50p a cup, along with chunks of non-prize-winning sponge cake. Everybody's waiting patiently for the end of the afternoon, when the overall prizes are announced by totting up the points in each category. No silverware awaits, only a certificate and a £5 voucher from the local garden centre - the contest here is more for fun than for pride.

And finally the raffle is drawn. This being Norfolk it takes nearly half an hour, with a tableful of not quite special prizes waiting to be claimed. "Who's got white 476? Anybody? Well done Irene." Irene passes over the bottle of wine and the set of drinks coasters in favour of a nice pot plant. Several lesser prizes look set to be donated back to future raffles elsewhere in the village, indeed I suspect that the half-opened box of cosmetics has already been recycled several times.

After the MC wraps up the days proceedings, competitors rush off to the tables to collect their wares. Scones are returned to tupperware boxes, blackberries are scooped back into carrier bags and vases of flowers are carried carefully to the door. Within minutes it's as if a plague of locusts has descended, and soon there'll be little indication that the show ever took place. Nothing, that is, apart from the smiles on the faces of the competitors and their families. Same time next Saturday in the village down the road?

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