County agricultural shows: Never mind the bullocks – feel the rhythm.
You know you’re the wrong side of 50 when you start asking existential questions. Not about life, the universe and everything – leave that to the teenagers. No, about what you were just about to do. That moment when you stand in front of the fridge and wonder why you opened it. Or when your purposeful stride into a room stalls to a bewildered halt. Eventually, you remember that you were getting milk for your coffee and glasses to read the paper. But now something far more pressing is on your mind. Why are you holding a telephone and what is the name of that flower with the blue and yellow bits?
Like many of us I worry that this is the first step towards dementia. Although it’s not an unfounded fear, most of us probably worry a bit too soon – the Alzheimer’s Society estimates that one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80 will develop dementia. The fact is, dementia or not, these blank-mind scenarios will repeat themselves in myriad different ways from here on, and I need to find a way to accept and assimilate them into the rhythm of life.
Recently I had a senior moment that was more about finding a thought than losing one. Stood by a row of toilet cubicles at the Glendale Show I thought ‘Why am I here?’ (not by the loos; at the show). What, I asked myself, is the point of the Glendale Show? I know this is tantamount to sacrilege. I spent most of my childhood May Bank Holidays being blown across the Suffolk Showground past sheep, goats, Victoria sponges, flower islands, and motorbikes sailing through blazing hoops.
But what actually is the point of the county or agricultural show? At Glendale I bumped into a wide range of people and discreetly expressed my panic about why these things exist and why we go to them. One friend asserted that it was ‘all about networking’ and ‘glad-handing the right people’. A couple I know from Berwick decided ‘it’s just what you do’ and then asked if I knew what time the falconry display was on. Another friend said her family had had a ringside car slot since time began, but she was beginning to wonder whether it was time for a change. Although her teenage daughter would kill her for even having such a thought. The lass still enters every competition category – it’s tradition.
I stocked up with fruit and veg at Julian’s Veg stall, and paused for a chat with Willy Robson from the Chain Bridge Honey Farm. Business was buzzing. The Aussie sheep shearer had the crowd chortling and local county councillor Jim Smith played the harmonica with his band. Ringside, some picnicking friends offered me a glass of something chilled. I had a brief encounter with sporty types off to do the Fell Race; got up close and personal with Barnacre Alpacas; and considered buying some new wellies. And then it struck me. The actual reason I was there.
The 13-year-old! I rushed to our appointed meeting place and couldn’t find it. Round and round I went. I remembered how years ago at the Suffolk Show a Tannoy announcement described a blond boy aged about six who had lost his family. We all looked round and realised it was my brother. Not wishing to humiliate the 13-year-old by taking myself to the PA announcer, I asked someone to point me in the right direction. ‘I knew you were lost,’ said my daughter. ‘Can we go home now? I’ve been on so many rides I feel sick.’
And, as we wended our way through the grass tussocks to the car, I glanced back wistfully at the rhythm of country life and really hoped I could remember where I’d parked.
Published in the Berwick Advertiser 1st October 2015