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England

Boylestone Show is almost here!

Dear J, I will be sending you the latest glossy brochure of the Boylestone Show which this year promises to be even bigger than the Olympics. Your accom has been arranged here and we suggest you come Friday 22nd and leave when you feel up to it. Cheers. B&R

Said glossy brochure arrived today. Would think I’ve been invited for a weekend at Highgrove. Am over the moon just reading the Rules and Conditions of Entry, which are very serious indeed:
1. All entries to be submitted between 10am and 12noon and to remain on show until 4:30pm
2. No competitor may win more than ONE PRIZE in any class.
3. The Judge’s decision is FINAL
4. Horticulture and Cookery entries not claimed by 4:45pm deemed to have been given to the Village Hall and will be auctioned at 5:15pm.
5. Any protest must be made in writing, and the Committee will re-allocate prizes accordingly if the protest is upheld.
6. The Committee, while taking ordinary care, will not be responsible for any loss or damage to exhibits.
7. All exhibits shall have been made or grown by the exhibitor.
8. The winners of the Challeng Cups MUST undertake to return them to the Chairman at least two weeks before the Annual Show.

Boylestone isn’t in the Cotswolds, but now well into my second summer season in the Cotswolds it still sets the standard for me when it comes to the English tradition of village fetes/shows. This is what I wrote about it after my first visit in 2005. Sadly, Barbara the landlady has since passed away.:

Our afternoon started in the lovely, head ducking, timber-beamed pub, The Rose and Crown. The landlady, Barbara, looks alarmingly like Barbara Bush and greeted husband and me like regulars, including calling us “duck.” We ordered half-pints of Pedigree bitter (“Pedi”) and white rolls filled with roast beef and cheese. Someone had brought a pork pie and put it on the bar to share with a little dish of English mustard. While we ate, I admired the framed picture on the wall of Barbara and other villagers at the recent wedding of Charles and Camilla. For such a small place, there sure were a lot of them at the big event (apparently the village was a favourite of Charles’ from the days of the hunt). Next to the picture was a framed thank you note from the royal couple, graciously acknowledging the gift of a walking stick. Watered and fed, we walked to the Village Hall and Parish Church.

The Village Hall hosted the horticultural section of the show and S., a local doctor and home gardener, gave me a guided tour. For each plate of “six perfect shallots,” S. provided careful details of village provenance. There were speckled eggs, apples, pears, plums, runner beans, cauliflower and cabbage. Glossy red onions wore decorative green ties around their tops. Enormous marrows and elaborate vegetable boxes (category: “Collection of six kinds of home-grown vegetables in a box not larger than 2 foot square”) dominated the far wall. Rows of brilliant dahlias (large, medium, pom-pom, cactus), asters and gladioli ran the length of the hall.

Inside the church were the cookery, craft, flower arrangement, junior, teenage and photographic section entries. I took mental note of the items I wanted to bid on in the upcoming auction, including a child’s cap knitted to resemble a Christmas pudding, homemade wines, lemon curd, pickled onions, and Bakewell tarts (my favorite dessert).

At 5:15PM, the auction began. In no time, I worked myself into a frenzy worthy of a Damien Hirst on the block at Sotheby’s. A successful bid on the second place winner in the “Home-made Wine – Dry” category yielded me a bottle labelled “Parsip and Ginge.” Presumably this meant parsnip and ginger, an understandable mistake if the winemaker penned the label after consuming some of his or her own wares.

Six shortbread biscuits and a box of tomatoes later, I engaged in a fierce battle for a Bakewell tart. The bidding and my desperation escalated in step until husband gallantly interceded with a decisive bid of ₤5. Never have I felt so in love. When it was all over we also owned a trio of leeks, a baffling quantity of red onions, and a box of fancy Thornton’s mints that my husband won in the raffle — easily the best ₤10 we spent all summer.

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