Scotland’s Premier Two-Day Agricultural Event

The Turra Show, what else? Most of the North-East seemed to be there; but alas, not Winston the Horse. Everyone having been up since five doing the hair-weaves, dreadlocks, manicure, etc., it was discovered at the last minute that he was too big to fit in the borrowed horse-box. There was a great deal of effing and blinding up at Geordie Towers, but nothing to be done, so regretfully, we went along to the show without them. The Turra Show happens on a piece of flat ground down by the river, and is rather charmingly approached down a long, winding wooded path scented with wild garlic. It is only at the last minute that the vista opens out, and the wailing of children, bagpipes and Tannoys suddenly rolls over you.
There was, as the Press & Journal had been telling everyone for days, something for everyone. It was clearly the rich farmers’ grand day out, there were hospitality tents everywhere, and chaps in tweed getting well oiled at the expense of John Deere and the Clydesdale Bank. We checked out the food tent (prime fish, meat, Macbeth Biscuits, Rizza’s ice-cream, strawberries, the Scottish Chili Co., see you later), and then headed off to admire the animals. Clydesdales, pah. NOT A PATCH ON WINSTON, I ASSURE YOU. But there were lovely cattle, as clean as something out of Disney World, blinking unhappily in the sun, angular, huge-uddered Friesians, hugely muscled blond d’Aquitaines, like Pictish carvings, and black Aberdeen Angus. We made a beeline for the Highlands, who are dear to the heart of the Northern Professor. They were looking amazingly groomed, given that they have hair like ginger Brillo pads, and it had not improved their tempers, I suspect, they all seemed to be tied down with chains you could use to moor the QEII, and were swinging their long, heavy, sharp horns restively. But we all fell for a Wee Highland Coo with very long eyelashes which, though generally rufous, had a fetching blonde fringe down the whole length of its little spine. The N.P. was forcibly prevented from entering into negotiations and dragged away, protesting. Ganimedino, the Master Builder and I quite liked the llamas as well, but the N.P., who was still pining for a Highland Coo, opined that they had insufficiently nice little faces. However, he was cheered up by a stall where they knew all about rare breeds, and told us about a possible source of Old Scots Dumpy chickens and Soay sheep.
Then it was the competition tent, which seemed to be entered, like the Tardis, through some species of time-lock: one emerged into the Modern (or as people say round here, Modron) World of 1971. Gosh, where does one start. Things made by children: liquorice allsorts trains and tractors, Pasta pictures, knitted coathangers, ‘My Hoose’ pictures. Floral art, coo-er. For example, a tasteful arrangement of driftwood, some of it curly, with five fluorescent orange gerberas; a dollies’ fourposter counterpaned with heather and green chrysanthemums; and the Best of Show, an arrangement called ‘Flower of Scotland’ which consisted of driftwood and local weeds (which are not in short supply): rosebay, bracken, foxgloves, and thistles. A very Modron ‘Large Standing Arrangement’ of green gladioli, green satin, and white roses. There were scones and sugarcraft, there was mood music (a flute with electronic backing: ‘Knights in White Satin’, ‘Annie’s Song’). And on the other side of a partition, just past the embroidered pictures, there were the competition flowers and vegetables. Well, the phrase ‘riot of colour’ does not begin to describe it. Pulsating dahlias six inches across, fans of perfect sweet-peas, giant begonias, cascading fuschias, and a risk of actual retinal damage if you moved your head too quickly. Giant Leeks: the winners, three leeks mounted together, had their plumes tied up in a single rococo fountain like Elsa Lanchester’s hairdo in ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’, tout ensemble nearly five feet from root to shoot.
At this point, the Master Builder and Dr Biswell felt the need of BEER and sloped off in search of refreshments, leaving the three of us to plunge in to the seething maelstrom of commerce, with its mingled odours of cowshit, synthetic vanilla, chip-fat and sweat. We had, by this point, an agenda, which was identifying the Queerest Object in Show; contenders thus far were a leaflet on how to cause more queens (from the Beekeepers’ Association), a very weird fishnet-effect cake with small pink fabric bows, a special knitted coathanger (blue and pink with lacy bits and sequins), and the Large Standing Arrangement. We thought poorly of the Aberdeen Angus Steak Bar, given the number of actual Aberdeen Angus on the premises; moved rapidly past the tacky clothing, downmarket toys, and the Aberdeen Fudge Co., and refrained from joining a Highland Regiment. We were beginning to wonder if it had much to say to us, in fact: there was a lot of cutting-edge fashion about, the place seemed to be pullulating with girlies in string vests and weeny, skin-tight hipster trousers with tattoos at, so to say, Tropic of Capricorn level on tum or hip. That sort of thing may answer for stick-insect-like fashionistas, but this is Scottish rural life we’re talking about, i.e. hefty local lassies with enough puppy fat for a litter of rottweilers: the effect may stop the local yoof in their tracks, but it was questionably aphrodisiac to anyone older. However, just when we were beginning to give up hope, we were seduced by the tools tent, and emerged with two different sorts of pliers and a pair of wire-cutters. Later on, we bought some wildflower seeds, and admired the art of a madman who makes wooden sculptures with a chainsaw, and made our way back to the beer tent, hoping to rendezvous with Dr B and the MB. They turned up eventually, clutching free cups of tea from the Clydesdale Bank, and we began to plan a retreat in good order. The Northern Professor beetled off to buy Rare Breeds postcards, while I went back to the Food Tent for major investments – lobster, boiled this morning, half a chicken halibut, proper sausages, and some bargain silverside. Then Ho for Home, where we found, as we had expected, a labrador in a state of terminal sulks, and, mirabile dictu, THE SCAFFOLDERS! A good day, and moreover, one which will end with lobster salad.
Oh, yes. The Queerest Object In Show. Unhesitatingly awarded to a seven-foot-high fibreglass model of an ovine Liver Fluke, quite disturbingly detailed and lifelike. Except that it was wearing Eddie Murphy-ish sunglasses. Not even the Large Standing Arrangement came anywhere near.

One Response to “Scotland’s Premier Two-Day Agricultural Event”

  1. bruckmann Says:

    The Deep North is, as it were, marginalized on at least two Canadian computers. Three or four, possibly more, characters on the right side rudely chopped off, with some loss to meaning, sense.

    I had hoped to find that, all previous views brushed aside, there would now be two Highland cows grazing down the field, looking picturesquely across the wall.

    Rare Breeds postcards……love, pat

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