Obviously, when it comes to growing fruit and vegetables, taste and then maybe yield are the most important things – they’re there to be eaten after all – and such superficial criteria as size and looks and consistency come far, far behind. The sorts of vegetables that win village shows are likely to be tasteless monsters, grown by joyless obessessives who spray everything to within an inch of its life and the real qualities of them will obviously be far inferior to the knobbly, unsprayed, irregular, non-prize-winning veg that real gardeners are going to grow …
But never mind all that.
I think we should observe a moment of silence while I recover from the excitement.*
I wasn’t expecting anything. By the time I got to the hall yesterday morning the competition tables were already groaning with fabulous-looking immaculate vegetables – as well as flowers, jams, home baking, crafts and anything else you care to mention. I filled in my competition cards and stapled them shut – all judging is done anonymously and it’s considered extremely bad form to open the non-winning cards afterwards to see who didn’t place – thinking that, after all, it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts. I cycled down again at three to have a look at the results, thinking that at least I’d get a laugh out of my puny efforts, and then have a look at the winners to try and pick up some tips for next time. I’d be chalking this one up to experience, I knew. I would like to apologise now for any passing bats who might have been blasted out of the air by my squeals of excitement when I saw the blue card against my entry.
And the secret of my success? Probably entering the one class that the little old lady who wins everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – hadn’t entered. I stayed on after the tea to watch her pick up her overall winner’s cup and prizes for the outstanding items in the craft, bakery and vegetable categories although she did at least fail to dominate the ‘children under 11′ class. As she was handed her cup and went out to get her picture taken for the paper someone commented that this year was the 25th anniversary of her getting her name on the cup for the first time. We all clapped politely through gritted teeth, if you can imagine such a thing. ‘She’s 91,’ someone muttered behind me. ‘She can’t go on for ever, can she?’
As to that, only time will tell. Meanwhile, I’m going to have to adjust my spreadsheet to include my winnings, to the tune of 30p…
* I don’t think there’s anyone at the village hall tea yesterday who didn’t hear that I’d got second prize for my beans. Including all the people who sat around me and very kindly congratulated me while modestly failing to point out that they had also won prizes, and rather more than I had. Oh well, what can I say? It was my first time.