(Village) show and tell

When I was growing up, we had a village show. It was great; everyone went, everyone entered things – I entered my cacti – and everyone participated in the stupid games (duck the headmaster). I, however, soon went off it. This might have been the result of simply hitting adolescence – hanging around the churchyard dressed in droopy black and reading Bram Stoker being more interesting, duuur – or it might have been the result of disillusionment. One year I guessed the weight of the piglet and my father wouldn’t let me bring it home.

Our village summer show – organised by the garden club – isn’t quite like that. No headmasters to duck, no piglets to leave behind, and I’ve grown out of the Goth thing (a bit). So I thought I’d give it a go; after all, I’ve been prevailed upon to join the club and, despite my doubts, am really enjoying it. So I assembled my flowers, tarted up my houseplants, polished my potatoes and set out.


In some respects this show is very familiar. There are the beautiful and utterly perfect giant onions; there are the huge but perfectly straight runner beans; there are victoria sponges and knitted toys and children’s paintings and enormous begonias.

And I entered a cactus.


I wasn’t expecting anything – the baby in the middle is mine – but it did come in third place, which amazed me. And I had another shock, my sloe gin. I’d decided that it would be a bit radical as I’m not a fan of the sweet, syrupy, traditional sloe gins: mine fits more into the ‘astoundingly alcoholic’ category and should probably be banned in France (if they banned absinthe, which can make your ears melt, they should definitely ban this). It came second, and there was a lot of competition. But then the judge for the preserves and drinks is new, a chef, and has a different attitude to tradition. He also gives really helpful and perceptive comments for each entry, successful or not, which must make the judging take ages – much appreciated.

preserves and booze

I drew a blank with my veg which I was expecting – I grow for flavour, and I also grow varieties I can’t buy easily. So my potatoes are Ratte, my shallots are Pesandor, etc., etc. None are going to win prizes for weight, size or flawless symmetry – but I’d rather eat a slim french bean any day than try and make a gigantic one acceptable. However I did have a few more successes – very pleasing for someone entering her first summer show (next time I’ll know how to display my shallots much better, even if they are strange Breton ones, and have wised up to the tricks for making bread show-worthy).

The hall looked lovely, especially the end with the main part of the flowering plant classes – these are some of the ‘fifteen different flowers in a 2lb jam jar’ entries:


(and there were also some beautiful flower arrangements, but flower arranging isn’t my thing). It was here that I had two more successes – a third for my geranium, which I consider lucky in the extreme; it was sulking due to the change in the weather and was flatly refusing to open any more flower spikes than the one which opened before the summer vanished, and – hooray hooray – a second for my flowering houseplant.

A spectacular orchid. perhaps? Some rare and exotic tropical glory? Nah. An African Violet.

my baby

Saintpaulia ‘bright eyes purple’, to be specific. It beat the orchid. It was beaten in its turn by the traditional enormous begonia with the blooms held up by metal posts, but there you go; it wouldn’t be a summer flower show without that happening.

'discussions'So will I do it again? Most emphatically yes. I loved it. Would I like to see a few new classes introduced? Oh yes – tasty French vegetable varieties, perhaps (I could fill that one) or one for garlic. Seriously – there’s one for ‘any other vegetable’ and that’s where the garlic entries went, competing against squash and sweetcorn and an amazingly long and perfect parsnip. And I think there should be one for a miniature moss garden. I cleaned up with mine when I was ten.

PS: I just found this photo on my camera – must have missed downloading it. Accident, or incisive and witty comment on the marrows?

show hee hee


17 Comments Add yours

  1. Christina says:

    Well done, such an ‘English thing’ I’m pleased you won some prizes and agree that most shows should probably have some different categories to include ‘new’ veg growers that want to grow what they can’t buy!

    1. kate says:

      I think – well, inevitably – it will change at some point simply as the membership of the club changes with time. I do take my hat off to the people with the perfect onions, etc, though… I couldn’t do that if I tried!

  2. Dobby says:

    Well done. Looks like it was well attended. Sitting here looking out of the window at the atrocious weather today, it’s just as well the show was last week!

    1. kate says:

      It was lovely, and it’s such a shame that it can’t be at the weekend when people who are unable to because of their work could come – and enter….!

      1. Dobby says:

        You are right. I certainly would enter a couple of classes. Not the veg though. My local Spar doesn’t sell anything good enough!

        1. kate says:

          Ho ho ho – shades of Helen Mirren in Calendar Girls (… ‘and if it’s really important, buy it in Marks and Spencers.’)

  3. Helen Johnstone says:

    Well done you – I am a show convert, having entered 3 this year and done well. It is such fun. I do like the jam jar class you have, we could have done with that as it would have solved my problem of how to arrange my annuals, I really dont do flower arraning either

    1. kate says:

      Ah ha – I have a horrible feeling that it might be addictive. The jam jar thing is a great idea but I did have to consult on how big a 2lb jar was – metric me! It also has the advantage of putting everyone in the same position…

  4. That does sound like fun, albeit of a slightly stomach-clenching of-course-I-don’t-care-about-the-results lying-in-my-teeth sort of way. OK, perhaps a little projection going on there… Congratulations, though I am still stuck on what happened to the piglet you weren’t allowed to take home with you?

    1. kate says:

      Hee hee…

      I’m sure the piglet went back to the farmer and is now a very elderly paterfamilias pig, sitting by the fire, regaling his great, great, great, great, etc etc grandpiglets with tales of the narrow escape he had. I suspect he turned into bacon sandwiches…

  5. Cathy says:

    I am getting itchy fingers after reading about Helen’s and now your foray into entering shows… Well done you – you really went to town with all your entries. No cakes?

    1. kate says:

      Can’t bake cakes. Food writer but can’t do cakes. Shameful… and there are tricks to these things – I can bake bread, but not for show conditions (third place). I need to work on that now!

  6. kate says:

    I’ve just found a stray photo and added it – how did I miss including it first time round? Anonymous accident or anonymous wit? You decide…

  7. hillwards says:

    Brilliant. Our village show was unusually early this year, so for once we didn’t enter any veg as everything was so late, but we did get prizes for cut flowers – the plonk in a vase variety, not the lovely arranged creations – bread and cakes. It must have been the hottest weekend of the year though, I was trying to apply ganache and fondant to cupcakes the night before and it was melting as I worked.
    Village shows are hilarious. I particularly love all the unexpected snatches of whispered vitriol from sweet-looking old ladies as they examine the exhibits after the prizes have been awarded.

    1. kate says:

      I wouldn’t dare enter the cakes, that would be truly brave.

      With you 100% on the nature of shows. In the penultimate photo there are about 50 arguments going on, and that’s just over the veg. I didn’t go too close to the crafts…

      I think we need cupcakes. Our show is very, very traditional….

  8. So glad you enjoyed the show Kate, and yes, it can become addictive! 🙂
    Yes, the judging for the preserves and drinks does take ages …. 3 hours, I know as I was the steward and I had to write all the comments as he dictated them! and me a dyslexic!!!

    1. kate says:

      The comments made it for me – you are left wondering in the other classes, or at least I am. For instance, the heaviest potato didn’t actually come first, and I was left wondering why… (Not much chance of my entering that one, mind, as long as I continue to grow my Rattes and Belles de Fontenay etc etc, but I was intrigued.)

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