The country show! A fine institution. All the little idiosyncrasies of country life all laid bare and on display.
Having recently returned from the Real Deep Countryside of Farthest Wales, I realise that The Village is a pretty watered down version of the rural experience. Farthest Wales – now that really IS the country. A tractor shop in every other village. NO MOBILE SIGNAL AT ALL as I may have mentioned.
I became very fond of the local radio station, Radio Very Welsh Indeed. The poor presenter of Radio Very Welsh Indeed – and yes, there is only one – has to keep up his perkiness from dawn to dusk and quite possibly all night too, despite a play list that alternates Bruno Mars with Rod Stewart. At one point I swear I heard him say, with just a touch of weariness, ‘Here with you for the next SIX HOURS…’
Radio Very Welsh Indeed also took weather very seriously indeed, as befits those making their living mainly from the land and the sea and the tourists. Weather reports – which seemed to come from a toilet cubicle – were hourly and very very specific. So specific in fact that they were almost incomprehensible to a townie like me. ‘The winds will range from 4.5 to 6.8, with general smuffliness emerging later. Seas will be mainly bobbly, but perhaps bibbliness arising to the South.’
The broadcasting of Radio Very Welsh Indeed drifted erratically from Welsh to English and back again without warning, in a way I found quite soothing. Apart from the traffic report, that is, which was always in Welsh. A nice touch that, I thought – ‘We can let the English know the weather, but as for the traffic, well, let them get stuck in the horrific Welsh rural gridlock! That will make them learn Welsh! Haha!’ Obviously the flaw there being that Welsh gridlock consists of a tractor coming face to face with some disaffected sheep for about 30 seconds, before the sheep forget what they were supposed to be doing and wander off to eat grass.
The adverts, though, I found truly terrifying. A glimpse of what REAL country life is like. ‘Would you like your own sewage drainage system?’ CHRIST yes, I would. ‘Would you like your own running water supply instead of that manky old well?’ STOP asking me these questions, you’re scaring me!
So yes it’s something of a relief to be smothered in the bosom of the Tweed, Aga and Barbour Country Show, a delightful affair with many fine things on display. For this one day a year, I can feel almost part of things out here. I browse the array of outdoor clothing and contemplate buying a waxed hat, before remembering that if it rains, I tend to stay indoors. I also look with genuine interest at the livestock, trying to ignore the pleas from the daughters for the purchase of chickens. Livestock in a cage at a fair is one thing, livestock in my own garden quite another.
You can learn a great deal about the country folk by watching them at these fairs, about their priorities for example. Dogs, mainly. Dogs are their number one priority. Also, number two three and all the other numbers. By far the most popular stall at the fair today was one for what is effectively a Dog Spa, with a pool and a treadmill and a cappuccino bar. It wasn’t entirely clear whether the latter was for the dogs or the owners. I imagine that most of the owners will be leaping in the spa pool with their dogs given half a chance. Boy, do the country folk love their dogs. On every corner one was treated to the sight of owners leaning down to let their dogs slobber all over them and – true story – have a lick of their ice-cream.
I was on the receiving end of a bit of canine slobber myself as I attempted to eat some doughnuts at the side of the field. This was, it turns out, an open invitation to be broadsided by a large muscular hound. One of the hunt hounds*, as it happens, with ‘a very good sense of smell’ as the trainer laughingly informed me as I tried to remove its muzzle from various parts of me. I tried to laugh along, because if it’s one thing I learned pretty quickly since moving out here it’s this: don’t get on the wrong side of a man on a big horse.
And when we got home we spent ten minutes trying to work out where that terrible smell was coming from before we remember – oh yeah. Manure.
It must be nearly the end of the summer.
Oh what the heck, I think I’ll go to Bruges.
*Oh that’s something I learned pretty soon after moving to the country, too. You know how hunting got banned? Yeah, well, it turns out they never quite got that memo out here.