Whoosh! The past few weeks have flown by, with August already nearly over, and my great intentions to blog about my visit to Perth Show earlier this month have so far shared the fate of myriad other items on my 'to do' list, i.e. they are not yet done! However, Perth Show is such a fun family day out that it would be remiss ... or indeed jolly poor show (pun intended!)... if I couldn't find half an hour amidst the frenzy of everyday life to encapsulate the essence of this fabulous 'town-meets-country' event, which takes place each year on the first Saturday of August on Perth's gloriously green South Inch.
In our haste to get there in sufficient time to wander round the showground for a few hours before picking up SuperGran's secret 80th birthday cake (of which more anon), we cleverly forgot to visit the cash machine in Kinross to source some legal tender for the man on the entry gate, who – it transpired – wasn't armed for credit card transactions. Fortunately, the said kind gentleman advised me that I could buy a ticket online, so I hovered by the entrance on my iPhone and did the necessary. [Note to self for next year: buy online tickets the night before!]
In a previous life, I used to be a regular exhibitor at Perth Show, accompanied by my posse of pedigree Shetland ponies, so the Shetland ring was naturally one of the first places on my itinerary. Another priority, unsurprisingly, was the sheep lines, where a futile search for Shetland sheep revealed that they don't figure on the otherwise prolific list of sheep breeds at the show.
Next stop was the craft tent, where DD1 spent a happy five minutes perusing Tarrag Naegel's gorgeous equine-themed jewellery. Her eye was caught by a new line that features the characteristic farrier's nail pendant plus an additional silver nail shaped into a circle. [That's one Christmas present sorted...]
The final pit stop on our speedy show circuit was the Food and Drink tent, where I could have happily spent the rest of the day browsing the fabulous fare on offer. From gloriously decadent pink raspberry meringues from Mhor to healthy fruit protein snacks from a fabulous health food shop whose name I can't remember (please do let me know if it's you and I'll happily mention your name!), the array of stalls catered for every taste. Better still, we found HunterGatherer in a new role, assisting at the stall of an exciting local start-up, Strathearn Cider Company. DD1 tried out their medium sweet and medium dry amber apple nectar, promptly pronouncing herself to be a fan of both varieties (and she wasn't just saying that because her godmother is a co-owner of the company!!). Our attention was also taken by the Madderty Micro Flavoured Gins stand on the other side of the tent. So much choice - and all local Perthshire companies :-)
All too soon, our flying visit to the Perth Show had to come to an end, as our next destination, the Celebration Cake Station, was due to close at 3pm. A quick trip up Tay Street, along the banks of the eponymous River Tay, and we were there, eager to see how the cake I'd ordered a couple of weeks before had turned out.
As ever, we were NOT disappointed: it was a perfect, personalised cake creation to mark the occasion of SuperGran's 80th birthday! All six grandchildren, her two bridesmaids (from a few years ago...), FarmerBruv and I had each nominated an item that made us think of granny.
The items atop the resultant confection ranged from pink high heels to her old school crest, and from a sheaf of wheat (symbolising her hard-working childhood on her parents' farm) to a four-leafed clover (she had FarmerBruv and Yours Truly searching for those in hayfields for most of our childhood - excellent way to keep children occupied!). The superb birthday lunch the following day at Huntingtower Hotel was a joyous occasion, with the lovely Caroline Trotter on hand to take some stunning shots for posterity.
All in all, despite the odd (metaphorical) hiccup, August has been a pretty good month here at The Sparrowholding :-)
On Saturday morning, I was on a midge-killing mission, having witnessed the distress of FatHorse and the chocolate sheep the previous evening at the hands (or mouths) of the massed midge swarms that were filling every last cm of the night-time air here at the Sparrowholding.
Judging by the number of the wee blighters that were flying around, there must have been heaps of hatchings – possibly due to the one uncharacteristically hot day (also known as ‘summer’ in these parts) earlier in the week. Whatever the reason, the biting beasties were making life extremely uncomfortable for our girls, and I was determined to find something to thwart them.
The slight problem, in the pony’s case, is that she has a huge aversion to the smell of one of the ingredients that seems to be used in almost every insect repellent known to man: the unmistakably lemon scent of citronella. At some point in her past, she’s obviously been sprayed with citronella and it’s given her a fright, because if I even venture to the side of the fence bearing a rag that has the faintest whiff of the substance, our normally placid Highland gentlewoman is transformed into a rearing, runaway wreck.
This being the case, I was desperately seeking a substance that smelt different and worked my way painstakingly along the shelf, sniffing surreptitiously at the nozzle or lid of each bottle or jar – indeed, if I’ve been caught on CCTV, I’ll probably be on my way to an institution for deranged stockwomen as you are reading this.
Eventually, I found a couple of flying-insect repellents that didn’t seem to exude too much lemoniness, and marched purposefully towards the till. However, as I was stomping in my wellies (the one-day summer having giving way to relentless rain) past the sheep and cattle aisle, my eye was caught by an array of showing-related lotions and potions of all colours and persuasions.
I stopped and stared in awe. Lined up for what seemed to be miles along each shelf were a panoply of pampering products with names that promised tantalising transformation.
If I were a Cheviot sheep, I could make my fleece radiant with powders of virtually any shade under the (now non-existent) sun.
Or if my hair was “unmanageable” – which it often is, according to Farmpa – there was a spray that could fix that, too.
The cornucopia of sheep spa and bovine beauty products was simply breath-taking. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the Scottish agricultural show season is currently in full swing, and indeed it’s only a couple of weeks until the wonderful Kinross Show takes place just along the road at the RSPB’s Vane Farm nature reserve. If you live in or around Kinross-shire, hope to see you there. And you can bet my hair is going to be looking gooooood…
PS: Just to whet your appetite for show day, read this blog post about my visit to Kinross Show last year – complete with photographs of ferrets!
Suddenly our summer (such as it was in Scotland!) is virtually over and on the arable farms here in Kinross-shire the combines have been revving up as farmers hasten to snatch their harvest in between the showers. And as another summer comes to an end, so does another showing season for all the livestock farmers for whom summer weekends mean trekking round Scotland on the showing circuit.
In the 1980s, when Yours Truly used to show Shetland ponies all summer long, the fun and friendly finale of the showing season was always Kinross Agricultural Show, which traditionally takes place on the second Saturday of August. In those halcyon days, the show used to be held in the walled garden of Kinross House – an idyllic setting, with the eponymous Neoclassical country mansion providing an almost surreal backdrop.
However, in life all good things generally come to an end, and several years ago the sale of Kinross House necessitated a move for the local agricultural show. But where on earth (or at least within the bounds of Kinross-shire!) could they hold the show that would ever compete with the previous unique location? The answer lay in an unassuming grass field, right next door to the RSPB’s Vane Farm on the shores of Loch Leven – with the Sleeping Giant (a local hill, so christened because its profile resembles a sleeping giant) as a backdrop and a breathtaking overview of the loch. It was an inspired choice.
When the sun shines, as it did this year, there are few places in Scotland that could rival this stunning rural show setting. For any of you who haven’t been to an agricultural show before, know this: the showing of sheep, cattle, ponies, goats and dogs is taken extremely seriously by those who participate. The exhibitors will have been up since the crack of dawn to make their final preparations before loading their budding animal beauty queens into lorries and horseboxes and making their way from far and near to the showground.
Having had experience of judging classes at local shows in a previous life, I know how precisely how nerve-wracking that particular task is. One thing is a given: there’s usually only going to be one happy person after each class, and that’s the owner of the animal who received the coveted first prize rosette. Everyone else will be muttering under their breaths what a fool the judge was for failing to appreciate the finer merits of their fabulous sheep, cow, goat or horse!
Unsurprisingly, now that I attend shows purely as a spectator rather than as an exhibitor or a judge, the whole occasion is vastly more relaxing. Instead of feverishly polishing ponies or weighing up the respective merits of entrants, I can take time to enjoy these couthy* rural gatherings which are as eclectic as they are entertaining. Here’s a quick photomontage compiled at this year’s show to give you a flavour… Hope to see you there next year!
* For any readers not familiar with this Scottish term, couthy (or couthie) means "warm and friendly".