The “South of England Agricultural Society Autumn Fair and Game Show” at Ardingly (that’s “ardinglie” not “ardinglee”) was our destination on Saturday. Quite the shift from Friday’s emphasis on all things marine, the focus here was sharply on the land and particularly on country pursuits.
Moments after climbing out of the car, our ears were assailed by the sounds of some sort of weaponry that was being used in the clay shooting. Michael didn’t think it sounded like shotguns but none of us were interested enough to make the trek to find out. My attention had already been gripped by the three-pack family unit dressed top to toe in tweed, waxed cloth and “hunter” Wellingtons, the latter marking one as a member of the monied country class . . . although when Heather first said that I thought she said the “muddied” country class. An error in my hearing that became immediately apparent as it was clear that few of these boots had ever seen mud much less been sullied by walking in it.
There was something for everyone at the fair and game show:
Day-long exhibitions of deer butchering . . . although, as we passed that tent, the voice from within was takling about “just finishing up a celeriac puree that will go very nicely with our rabbit.”
Dog agility trials.
Livestock displays, including a beautiful batch of piglets from the Plumpton College Pig Unit. Now that’s a college that needs to be selling t-shirts at a booth! Sign me up for half a dozen in assorted colors but all in XL size.
Birds of prey demonstrations.
Draft horse races involving moving beakers* of water from one end of a field to another, moving flags from one end of a field to another, and racing to one end of a field, dismounting, pulling on some overshirt, remounting (these monumental mounts) and racing back to the start position. It was quite silly and a great deal of cheating was involved but the horses were beautiful.
Giant vegetable competitions, featuring ing leeks bigger than baseball bats.
Stalls selling every sort of stuff from standard fair crapola right up to the aforementioned tweed and waxed attire and Hunters. Countryfolk of the male persuasion can be seen wearing “pink” trousers, which were also on offer. I thought, at first, that “pink” in this context was some coded term similar to calling the jackets fox-hunting men wear “hunting pink” but which are actually red. However, in this context “pink trousers” mean pink trousers. Given the difficulties I had getting Michael to wear the orange trousers I bought many years ago, I took a pass.
BUT, the very best event, which I have, appropriately, saved for last was billed as the “Lamb National.” This is an event in which Herdwick sheep, a breed traditionally from the Lake District, are made to wear colored “silks” and then encouraged to run round an arena. As if that isn’t spectacle enough, the race has something of a steeplechase (or hurdles) element to it; thus demonstrating the breed’s almost goat-like capacity to jump.
There were six runners. Before they were let out of the box, I had resolved to put my money on whichever lamb was wearing purple . . . I knew there had to be one. Sure enough, Wooly Jumper was in purple. Michael pinned his hopes on the lamb in green, Mint Sauce. Other options included: No Ewe Turn; Red Ram;** Aldernitty;** and Sheargar**.
Although Wooly Jumper showed very well during the first two preliminary heats, she faded in the final running. Mint Sauce performed so poorly that her next appearance will be at someone’s Sunday supper.
* See previous post if this term baffles you.
** All references to famous racing horses I think they missed a bet with Aldernitty, though, by not spelling it Alderknitty.