Tuesday 30 August 2022

Flying Welshmen

 Having gone full circle we find ourselves back in Wales this morning, setting up camp at the Royal Welsh Show. It had been a number of years since I was last here but this place holds a lot of fond memories from past victories with livestock, for both myself and my father. I particularly remember 1992 when we won the interbreed competition in the sheep section and still have the rosettes to prove it. I can happily announce that our first venture into the Ryeland sheep breed, and my first time showing sheep for 18 years, has been highly successful thus far. We started out at the Royal Highland show in Edinburgh, picking off the female champion, reserve male champion and then overall breed champion with Beatrice, our gimmer, and a nice chunk of silverware for Mrs F to clean for a year. I am not sure the locals took it too well, but we eventually made our peace by proffering free alcohol to them all.

Unfortunately, from that event we both contracted Covid and were quarantined in isolation in the camper for a week. Our chosen destination a beach front in Arisaig on Scotland’s beautiful west coast, although sadly the weather was as miserable as we both felt. Eventually we rallied and even caught a view of the Flying Scotsman delivering hundreds of daily tourists into Malaig, who proceeded to empty the shelves in the local Co-op like a swarm of locusts. Shortbread, porridge oats, haggis and Jimmy-hats, in fact anything with a resemblance of tartan on the label all got piled into bulging carrier bags and got whisked off on the steamer at over-inflated prices to wherever all these badly dressed people shuffled home to. We also encountered hundreds of campervans driven by people who had about as much driving skills as my granny without her glasses. Bear in mind that the roads are rarely much wider than a garden path, swathes of the west coast became instant gridlock as numpies in their McMotorhome rentals had no idea where reverse gear was, let alone their mirrors. One does wonder whether the hire companies might at least instruct the drivers to do some basic manoeuvres before letting them lose on public roads.

Anyway, we made it back to the central belt in time to take a couple of sheep to Dunblane show, where we managed a reserve champion with Basinger (I didn’t name her) in the ‘any other breed’ class. This saw us pitched against a number of other types of sheep including Shetlands and Cheviots, along with Spotted Dutch Texels, so we were reasonably pleased that our Ryelands can at least hold their own in stranger company.

From there we headed to the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate, and what a Great event it was, brilliantly organised with everything from the toilets to the weather. Once again Beatrice came up trumps, picking up more silverware and, along with our ram, Big Wee Eck, seven more rosettes to decorate the camper with. The week was quite arduous and the nigh-time shenanigans intense before we were released from the county to make the trip to our current spot. An overnight drive now finds us at the Welsh with the dream of the Triple Crown still intact. However, on unloading the sheep this morning, my heart sank when I saw the strength of the competition as we take on the big guns on their home turf. It is highly doubtful we will pull this one off but, as my old man used to say, ‘win or lose, we’ll have some booze.’

So here I sit, in the blazing sunshine, marginally concerned that the poor animals will fry in the heat-wave forecast over the next few days, before it’s their turn to perform in the ring one last time and possibly get their comeuppance. At least we have the shorts back on again and wheelbarrow load of beer on ice, as the whole of Wales arrives, one caravan at a time, speaking in tongues.

A couple more weeks are still to pass before we arrive back in France, via Scotland again, complete with wee Haggis, our new Border Terrier puppy whom we have yet to meet. I believe it has been quite hot there, although the French don’t make quite such a drama out of constant 40 degree heat as the British press do about an afternoon’s hazy sunshine. Factor 50, anyone?

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