Every year when I was a child the second weekend of September would be set aside for visiting the Newbury Agricultural Show.
I have so many memories, the crushed grass and mud scents of the food tents, the morass of people crammed into the craft areas, fast talking salesmen selling kitchen gadgets, tractors and cars, the country sports area with the horse shoeing competition, the twin huge poles for the pole climbing contest.
Tanks to climb on, helterskelters and fairground rides, show jumping in the main arena, the parade of the horse drawn carriages, their polished brass glinting in the early autumn sun, the prize winning livestock being led around the arena by a legion of white coated farmers, their proud smiles flitting from their animals to the crowd and back again while cameras clicked away.
There was always fudge, in the early days it would be a little white bag of vanilla fudge, then later it became a pink and white striped bag of mixed flavours. I remember polystyrene containers of chips, salty sweet ketchup smeared over the top, halved avocados filled with prawn cocktail. Bacon rolls and hog roasts. Hiding under passing tents from the inevitable squalls of rain. Picking up bags of freebees, insurance company stickers, charity flags and once incongruously kiwi fruits that were being given out as a promotion.
Then I stopped going, university got in the way, then jobs, such is life.
So I was quite excited when the opportunity to go again arose. But the intervening years have been kind to me. I last went in 2002 and since then tumbled further and further into the world of food, the meat wagon has spoilt white van burgers, my friends pigs have ruined your average hog roast, and the prawn cocktail sellers have plain upped and left.
It was odd how similar the show felt, the layout has remained the same and the distribution of the stands hasn’t changed. There is still the slight sleaziness to the lower avenues, the large bar stands near to the fun fair and the guys hawking aloe vera creams and gels are where they always used to be. For the record the challenge is to find something they don’t think Aloe Vera can help you with, an amusing 15 minutes or so of chatter.
However it was quieter this year, as my Dad pointed out, times have been hard of late and £17 to go the the show, plus extras as the day goes on might start to look a bit surplus to needs at the moment. But it wasn’t the faint pall of calm that unsettled me, it was the quality of food available that was heart breaking. To be so close to such an array of wonderful looking livestock and only to be able to find the worst sort of mass produced burgers almost made me cry (thankfully there was lots of scrumpy for me to drown my sorrows in).
So after my eulogy to shows gone by I’m going to leave you with some nice pictures of animals, because, well I think they’re beautiful and looking at them all nearly made me consider rethinking my stance on turkeys, yep it was that moving.