On the recommendation of Nigel Hughes of Ear I Am, we went to the Cheshire Game and Country Fair at Tabley today. Luckily it didn't rain, and luckily I ran out of cash by the time we reached the food tent. And lucky too that they don't have a cash machine on site.
I think these events are brilliant. It gives you a glimpse of English life you wouldn't normally see where we live and work. The demonstrations of hunting, shooting, falconry and horse riding are displays of dedication from often very young people who take part in their chosen activities.
Then there's the clobber. My favourite sturdy belt was bought at Lowther 8 years ago, and if I ever get my timings right a country fair would be the perfect place to buy my Dad new stuff to top off his peerless agricultural look (he is a farmer). Today we shopped for new green wellies for Rachel (romance isn't dead, eh?).
The Lowther event in summer 2001 was something else. The hunting ban was just about to come in and the Countryside Alliance had their blood up. A full pack of horses and hounds rode into the parade ground to the tune of Do Ye Ken John Peel. Everyone sang along, it was spellbinding. The posh lady on the Tannoy then railed at the "urban socialist government which has declared war on British country way of life". A (urban socialist) politician I was with whispered in my ear; "welcome to Nuremberg, Cumbria style." I think that rather reinforced the view that the hunt ban was totally class motivated.
Then there's the food. Perversely, given the rise of the gritty organic food movement, the tucker on offer today was almost universally and marvellously unhealthy. Today I salivated over ice cream, pork roast, pork scratchings, venison, sausages, ostrich meat, cheese, salami, curry, pate, pies, donuts, more cheese, cakes, nuts and olives, baklava and these monster chicken kebab wraps being eaten by the lads selling wellies and snide Barbours.
And the kids? Yes, they have a moan that they're not doing exactly what they want, like, right now ("I hate owls, they're boring," was the best comment of the day as we stopped for a minute to look at, well, an owl). But as long as they have some food and a fair chance to play on stuff it holds their attention even if they don't share my sense of sociological and gastronomic fascination with the whole thing.