It has been a busy week, but there is no rest for this man. I am rather over-tired and I have some opinions to vent. Which I do very irregularly. But I will unpack a few right here and now.
This past Friday and Saturday the SHOW has come to town. Well, when a very tired forty something, self-confessed-vegie-growing-tree-hugger gets roped into going to the show – this is how I perceive things . . .
For regular folk, it was still early in the morning. In the dark of the Shed we entered into the showgrounds to assist the Little Fellas and the local Girl Guides with their flower arranging for the annual Albany Agricultural Society Show. As we walked past the previous days displays which lay a little mute in the dimmed light, Mrs PP said excitedly “Look, you got a First Prize!”
An unease moved over me. I was tired. Real tired. Not up for the party that was to be a few hours at the show in the morning and a few at the tail end of the day – with two very excited Little Fellas. Mrs PP had insisted I enter some produce into the shows home-grown produce section and in my delirious state I had not exactly declined. But the unease was because, if last years show was anything to go by, just entering something meant I was up for a good chance of winning something. I did not think there would be much competition.
I walked back past the bountiful displays of entries for cuttings of blooms, fragrant roses, succulents and neat bonsai. I had to go out again to move the car and as I passed one of the stall helpers overlooking the very, very humble table of locally grown backyard produce I heard, “What a pile of sh*t.” as he muttered to himself. I was kind of taken back by what I guessed to be his somewhat verbalised inner commentary, but I felt his awkward challenge. The entries, were not all that terrible, as such, but lacking in numbers. For a Regional Agricultural Show it was a pitiful, dismal effort. He certainly had a challenge to make them look appealing.
The home-grown produce was a sad looking display compared to all the other plant and flower entries that the show had attracted. But even then, on close inspection and later at the handing out of the awards, the same names kept appearing to collect prizes.
I had indeed received a First Prize for my silverbeet. It wasn’t a patch on some of the more stunning harvests I’ve collected from the garden over the past few weeks. But still, out of the whole two entries, I collected a first. And the other entrant got, well, . . . second.
In comparison, the Broad Beans was fierce competition. There were three entries of reasonable admission, but Mrs PP had carefully selected the required 6 pods under my guidance and ‘we’ took the First Prize. They looked full and unblemished and reasonably uniform. Trimmed neatly at the tips and presented rather plainly on a white, paper plate. It was a winning combination.
Now I know that there are local folks that grow their own produce that could really create some appeal and stir the inspiration of want-to-be gardeners in a show arena such as this. So where are they? Why are they not coming out of their compost-crumbed wellies and giving it a go?
I realise that November offers up some challenges to the vegetable and fruit grower given that we’ve come out of winter but were not reaping the bounties of late summer. This knocks out a whole heap of fruits and the more interesting vegetables such as tomatoes, corn, squash and pumpkins. But there is still a wide variety that can be harvested around this month.
But there are gardeners that can do this. There are school gardens now that could put entries in on behalf of the school. There are Community Gardens that could do the same and encourage their plot holders to enter some produce. Some real, home-grown produce.
This was what the Show used to be all about . . . wasn’t it?
Now we’re stuck with a few blocks worth of noisy, over-priced show rides with vendors that approach you like they’ve stepped out of the House of Horrors. Haggling, pleading, whispering in half-comprehensible sentences to try to entice you to ‘be in it to win it’ and ‘come ‘av a go’. To me, they look like the kind of people that would blow half a pay packet on cigarettes and booze. And they don’t try to fool you by dressing themselves up any other way. They tell it like it is. Side-show Pimp is written all over them.
Then there are the other stalls. The more business-oriented end of town. They filled two large sheds that would span an average street. There were small businesses, community groups, schools and colleges, food vendors, politicians and political groups, real estate agents, craft groups, beauticians, wood turners, cosmetic sellers, banks, nature groups and cooking demonstrations. Wherever I seemed to turn they were thrusting STUFF at the Little Fellas. They were thrusting STUFF at me! FREE STUFF. Mobs of it. Bags, balloons, drink bottles, stickers, lollies, pamphlets, brochures.
Decline. Decline. Decline!
I’d turn my back and the Little Fellas would have been handed something else. Bags. They had bags of balloons, drink bottles, stickers, lollies, pamphlets, brochures. STUFF. STUFF. STUFF! Copious amounts of THINGS that we really did not need and that the planet could really do without thanks very much. What happens to all this STUFF once it leaves the show ground? What resources are used just to get it there in the first place? I shuddered as I walked rather numbly around the show grounds.
I was actually quite incensed. A low, brooding rage stirring in my belly.
Yes. Even in my tired stupor I was becoming appalled and enraged at the circus that has become the Agricultural Show. A turbulent parade of vendors, sales people, businesses, and ventures.
I have to say this though.
When we first got to the Show the Little Fellas were the first ones to grab me by the hand to do 3 things.
First – we had to go and check out the Poultry Tent. They were raffling off a couple of Silky Hens and a Rooster. And they had a display of day old chicks under a heat lamp. I still remember the coloured chicks running around under lights at the Perth Royal Show when I was the same age as my sons now. Roosters were belting it out like there was no tomorrow and the ducks and turkeys were providing background conversation.
A tug on the hand . . .
Second – we went to the next tent that was housing the Alpacas and Llamas. Again, they had a couple of young ones to check out and a token alpaca for patting and touching. Hands on. Textural. Real.
Where are they now?
“Come on Daddy, to the West Pavilion!”
Ok, Ok. Thirdly – they wanted me to meet the really, really nice gentleman that had foot long pieces of pinewood with assorted pictures and designs artistically burnt into the wood. For a whole $2 he would put his pyrography skill to good use and burn your name into the other half of the length of wood. The Little Fellas had already got each of their names on wood the day before and wanted to show me ‘what the man does and get me one’. We did this. The eldest Little Fella wrote out the words on the paper for the man and then watched as he carefully burnt each letter into the wood. It was entertaining. Unique. Personal.
And I can say with confidence that they will have those pieces of wood for years to come either tucked away in their Treasure Boxes or positioned quite strategically on a shelf or bedhead, whereas the bags and the bottles and the stickers will have a short death. In fact, the stickers already have. And the bottles are destined for handing on. I was actually surprised when the nice gentleman told me he had 128 pieces of wood made up for the show and he only have about a dozen left. In retrospect, after thinking it through, it doesn’t surprise me, for all the reasons that my own Little Fellas loved their piece of wood.
So, I found the soul in the show.
But how hard – how hard it was to find. And at the tail end of the day it was pushed and shoved deep down by the rest of the stuff going on around me. But there was some soul. And you know what? We may just begin to lose it. There has been a noticeable decline in home-grown produce over the last few years of the Show and I sense that if the interest is not there, it will eventually fade out. It will be too hard to facilitate due to lack of interest, and old mate will have a bugger of a time trying to make it look half interesting then!
To be continued . . .