My family seems to have this thing about living near to those open spaces in the UK dedicated to what used to be called “Agricultural Shows” when only Farmers used to go to them but which are now called “Country Shows” or similar.
In 1964 we moved across Ipswich to a new estate only a mile or so, as the crow flies, from the Suffolk Showground – the home (believe it or not!) of the Suffolk Show. My mother still lives in that house and I’m writing this in her back bedroom – from which I would be able to hear the sounds from the Showground IF it so happened that an event was being staged – which it wasn’t.
And despite, or possibly BECAUSE of that closeness I have NEVER, in all those years, been to the Suffolk Show!
Actually, now that I think about it, even at the old house we weren’t more than three miles from the Showground – the big difference was that the somewhat large estuary of the River Orwell lay between the two points and the Orwell Bridge hadn’t been built over it then.
When my little family relocated to Peterborough we found ourselves living within a mile, as the crow flies, of the East of England Showground – the home (believe it or not!) of the East of England Show!
And once again, in all the years I have lived that close I haven’t ONCE attended that show!
Mind you, since we moved here nearly seventeen years ago, simple economics have meant that the people who own and run the showground have had to diversify to cover running costs that can no longer be met from a single three day annual event.
Consequently there is now hardly a weekend which doesn’t have SOME sort of club meeting or society gathering taking place there.
We first really noticed these extra events in 1997 when we set out very early one Saturday morning in May for Stansted Airport and our first overseas family holiday in Majorca.
Our departure coincided with the first full day of the British Motorcycle Federation (BMF) gathering at the showground. Many Bikers had already arrived during the Friday afternoon and evening but there were still enough threading their way through the early morning traffic coming towards us up the A1 to cause one of my daughters to remark “Every other car I’ve seen this morning has been a Motorbike!”
Over the years the BMF has given us some free entertainment – the music, be it disco or live band, carries over to us quite well if it is warm and we have the bedroom window open. It is also quite amusing to watch the soggy, mud-coated participants leaving the event in those years when the mid-May weather in the UK isn’t exactly “summery”.
Oh, and their fireworks are pretty good too!
Among the other annual events that we now have to endure are the following:
“The Shire Horse Show” – I might have been attracted to this (after all I come from the home of the Suffolk Punch and, indeed, used to drink in a pub of that name) had not someone defaced the main advertising poster one year. They changed the “R” of “Shire” to a “T” and somehow the whole event suddenly lost its appeal!
“Ponies UK” – presumed to be a scale model of the previous event this holds no appeal whatsoever. Indeed, it is spoken of disparagingly by some in our household as “Ponies? YUK!”
“Truckfest” – for some reason the name sounds like it’s trying to be rude – and failing! This is my least favourite event – thousands of people paying good money to get in over a Bank Holiday weekend to………….look at Lorries!!
Dammit! The showground is about half a mile from the main A1 trunk road; if you want a close look at Heavy Goods Vehicles just drive down THAT for a few miles! You’ll get far too close to far too many of the buggers!
Plus, they will insist, for reasons that elude me, in presenting the local residents with an ear-shattering chorus of air horns at midnight on each night of the event!
“Motorhome UK” – a gathering similar in its daftness to “Truckfest”, in this one people bring their motorised caravans from across the UK and Europe to park up and spend a long weekend ………looking at other peoples’ motorised caravans! Still it DOES keep them off the roads for a few days, I suppose.
“Faith” – The first time we saw the signs directing people to this one July my wife thought they were showing people where to deliver her birthday presents! Not so. It is exactly what it sounds like – a one week tented gathering of “god- botherers”. I don’t know what they do there – actually they are surprisingly quiet for several thousand “happy-clappy” Christians! I imagine there must be an awful lot of “preaching to the converted” because I cannot see the heathen general public of Peterborough queuing up to purchase day tickets!
I find it slightly sad that the prayers of this big a gathering of the devout does not seem to be able to prevent this generally being one of the wettest weeks of the summer!
I imagine it’s like Glastonbury – but without the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
…………….And then there are various seasonal “festivals” and the one that always gets me wondering….. the “Giant Antiques Market”!
I would go to this but I’m a BIT afraid that my illusions might be shattered!
I mean to say, what if they AREN’T selling things like pocket watches 3 feet in diameter, silver apostle spoons so big you can’t lift them or grandfather clocks 40 feet high! The disappointment would be unbearable!
My suspicions of this kind of event description were somewhat confirmed this afternoon when we drove past the Suffolk Showground. They were advertising a “Giant Plant Sale” and I distinctly saw a man leaving the gates bearing a tray on which were a number of ORDINARY SIZED flowerpots! Not a Triffid in sight!
And those of you who think you’ve figured out my thought processes by now will, no doubt, believe that THAT observation must have been my inspiration for this piece.
Back in Peterborough a few days ago the signs were up for this weekend’s spectacular at the East of England.
These proclaimed “UK Coach Rally” and I must admit that my first thoughts were of horse drawn pre-railway transport systems rather than the National Express. Or, for American readers, – Wells Fargo rather than Greyhound.
It turns out, however, that it IS a gathering of buses and, on learning this from our local paper, I shared with Faith the thought that served as the actual inspiration for this article.
“What”, I mused, “if you are interested in this, live quite a distance away and have a group of 30 to 40 like-minded friends who would like to go too? How are you going to be able to get to it if ALL THE COACHES ARE ALREADY THERE?!”
So, you see, driving past the Suffolk Showground today was purely fortuitous!