Wringing Wet Wales

Sep 16, 2008 | Updated May 25, 2011

In contrast to some of the social events I record here, I want to tell you of the joys of the Montgomery Show. 'Like something out of the 1950s,' said my friend's mother. In a bumpy, damp field, tents made of stained cream canvas are arranged about a 'ring' where there was a donkey derby (like a horse race but with donkeys) and a hawking show (eagle owl encouraged to fly across members of the audience lying in a row on their backs on the wet grass).

Frankly I would have been more impressed if they had attempted to fly something less - well - primarily adapted to flying, over the bodies, such as a bus - but there you go. A smaller ring encapsulates the dog show. No Crufts this. Competitions include 'dog and owner lookalike' - won by a pretty blonde in shrinkwrap tight red jeans, with a scruffy brown terrier belonging to someone else entirely.

This is the essence of the Montgomery Show, and many others like it round the country. At the heart lies the show itself. The largest tent is lined with white sheeted tables, and on each there is a competition category. You can show almost any human endeavour here, from flower arranging (themes include Dancing on Ice - flowers arranged on a mirror - to Famous Faces - 'Princess Diana' won, some lilies with a rhinestone tiara casually chucked among them) to cakes, wood carving to largest vegetable. I overheard an old lady, fingering a four-foot-long parsnip, and muttering that size really didn't matter.

As for beetroot, it is the 'grain' that counts apparently. Children's hand writing, tug of war, fancy dress (some children inexplicably painted green but otherwise normally dressed). My seven year old and his friend found deep satisfaction being locked in the back of a police van - in the cage. I passed in ice creams and they sat there smiling secretly, filled with the joy of incarceration.

This gave me the chance to slip off to the book tent, where I purchased a copy of War and Peace (my summer read) and some kitchen utensils for a grand total of £1. This being Wales, the rain started to tip down in ernest and I was soaked. Now we are back at my friend's house, a fire roaring quietly in the wood burning stove, tea and cake and.... a boxing match. All the nine or so children are sparring with each other. They have found a pair of boxing gloves, and wear one each to punch and punch. Happy as clams.

A fashion tip for these kind of British outdoor events - waterproofs top and bottom. The prevailing colour was khaki, with accents of sludge and faded black. Not a scrap of make up on anyone, just beaming happy faces.