The local Agricultural Fair rolls round every summer, usually to torrential downpours but is always well attended by the village community despite the temperamental British summer weather. The livestock, gymkhana, dog agility demonstrations,sheepdog trials are the usual highlights and most important of all, the flower & produce show. Additionally, there is also a tug of war and tractor racing; although to be fair in recent years those tractors have done a sterling job of towing cars out of the waterlogged field that serves as an overflow car park.
My Dad spends all year lovingly tending his prize blooms ahead of this show. An unexpected sharp frost or torrential rain can cause him sleepless nights and crippling indigestion. The competition in recent years has become more fierce and what was once good-natured village contest has now become a little more intense amongst the gardeners in the community. The reason for upping the ante last year was the new usurper to the crown, in the form of a new neighbour, aka Billy Big Potatoes, who had thrown his hat into the ring in the produce class. Whilst this didn’t actually affect my Dad directly, in an attempt to provide a united front with the allotment association, he was duty-bound to support his comrades in arms in their proposed covert operation, much to the family’s amusement.
His allotment buddies, Ernie & Sid were also entered in the produce categories and could frequently be found in urgent hushed conversation in my Dad’s shed over a shared cuppa. I had to admit to a renewed respect for both Ernie & Sid who seemed to readily enjoy my Dad’s homebrew; clearly, years of abuse has caused permanent damage to their taste buds and they had subsequently become accustomed to drinking what can only be described as shower gel. Fortunately, licensing laws prevented the submission of alcoholic beverages in the show and as such we were saved from the humiliation of having the entire village realise that we had a family member who brewed moonshine. Although, I have to admit that even now the local vicar is a tad partial to my Dad’s Dandelion Wine in addition to my Mum’s Maids of Honour, however, if I’m honest, the Dandelion Wine is his preferred vice.
Last year tragedy struck one morning when Sid discovered that somebody had been tampering with his prize marrows and a joint decision was made in an attempt to safeguard their prized crops that they would take it in turns to sleep over in the shed each night. My mum was secretly delighted and admitted to me that she was looking forward to a respite from my Dad’s snoring. My Dad’s shed has long been a haven for like-minded gardeners for some time and in addition to the discarded lounge armchairs also houses, a wind up gramophone, radio and camping stove in addition to the aforementioned homebrew. In fact, one could say that for some, it was the perfect bachelor pad but without the wild parties and strippers, in fact, the only wildlife were the hedgehogs who used it for their annual hibernation.
Torrential rain and gales were forecast for the night that my Dad was on sentry duty at the allotment and he was readily despatched with the dog for company, a flask of tea and enough sandwiches & cakes to feed 42 Commando. Mum waved off her own little soldier with promises of a cooked breakfast upon his return the next morning; unlike the usual muesli that resembled bird seed, which he was regularly served. Absence clearly did make the heart grow fonder or was it the prospect of having an undisturbed night’s sleep that had made my mother so charitable.
He confided in me that I needed to be on standby that night in the event that he might call me but as he always struggled to find the “on” button on his mobile phone, I thought it unlikely that I would need to spring into action anytime soon. And frankly, if there were intruders at the allotment, would the police really be interested in someone whose only crime was assault and battery of a vegetable.
All of us slept soundly that night and apparently so had my father who was discovered in one of the bedrooms the next morning, snoring soundly alongside the dog, having abandoned guard duty sometime during the night when the weather had taken a turn for the worse; as gale force winds had nearly transported the shed in true Wizard of Oz style back to Kansas. Dad realising that there really was No Place Like Home had resigned his post with immediate effect and hightailed it back to the comfort of blanket land.