Named after one village, but taking place in the field of another, our local show got under way yesterday. Ringed by ash and oak, the only buildings in view are an ironstone manor house and our church spire, everything else is a green quilt of Leicestershire pastureland under scudding clouds in a summer sky. For the last couple of weeks there's been sporadic activity in the field- a big marquee in pole position, sheep pens huddled in one corner, a show ring marked out in blue rope. And so now the scent of crushed grass, the heady smell of tractor oil and burger, the crackling of triple-horned loudspeakers. Smart gigs and dog carts swish round the ring as the battleship grey Fergusons, dark green Field Marshalls and startlingly blue Fordsons are revved up. Pocket money is distributed to the boys, the youngest immediately taking it upon himself to post his into the utterly inaccessible recesses of a brass tube on a fire tender.
Here is Unmitigated Local England, local people enjoying local pleasures- sheep tweeked and preened for the sheepwalk (one judging category reads: Three Threaves Mule or Masham), foxhounds snuffling for the biscuits in a huntsman's coat. A dachshund dressed-up as a bee looks nervously up at a policeman Alsatian, a polished Bentley convertible displays rosettes on the wing mirror and gingham-topped homemade jams jostle for sale next door to boxes of unmade jigsaws. And of course there's the refreshment tent, the beer not quite as local as we'd like, but it's here that we nod to neighbours in the beer queue, everyone bathed in that wonderfully diffused light that only white canvas under sunshine gives. Dogs are patted, gossip exchanged, gobstoppers and candy floss facepaint the boys. And on top of it all I manage to buy a first edition of Richard Mabey's Food for Free. So I'm very pleased with myself, but it does mean that it's dandelion leaves on toast for tea.