We took the strangelings, and assorted relations who are staying with us, to the Royal Adelaide Show on Saturday. It was fascinating, and nightmarish, and wonderful.
The fascinating – craft and baking competitions. There were quilts and knitting (hand and machine) and crocheting and painting-on-porcelain and sewing embroidery and cross-stitch and tatting and beading and you-name-it-and-it-was-there. Hours and hours of lovingly-done craft, all on display. The knitting wasn’t as glorious as the wonderful pieces M-H, the Witty Knitter, saw at the Sydney Easter Show (I especially love this garment), but we were delighted to see our neighbour’s quilt there (unplaced this year, but she won a prize for the embroidery on it last year).
The craft work I can understand. The baking – not so much. If it was just a matter of iced cakes, it wouldn’t puzzle me. I can understand the skill that is required, and the fun involved in decorating cakes. But there were stands full of chocolate cakes and sponge cakes and trays of muffins and scones and shortbread and Anzac biscuits, and yes, cup cakes. All baked at home, and all entered in the Show’s baking competitions. It seems that I too, could bake a batch of biccies, and compete to be honoured as the best biscuit maker. In some ways I can’t understand why anyone would want to do it – baking is for family and friends and for eating, but in others, why not honour the skill which people have developed over many years of cooking, at home. Fabulous cooking is not just the preserve of professionals. And yes, speaking of preserves, there were jars of jams and jellies and marmalades and pickles.
As my sister-in-law said, there’s a story to be told there, a documentary to be made about the people who enter the baking and preserving and cake decorating and craft competitions, their plans and their hopes and the pleasure (or not) they get from engaging in their work.
The wonderful – all the farm animals. My city girls were able to pat lambs and hold chickens, and get up close to cows and horses, and peer into a big tub of yabbies. The Farmyard Nursery was best, with ducks and ducklings, calves, baby emus (very cute!), and sheep and lambs. There seemed to be more sheep than lambs in the pen, and some of the sheep were looking very gravid; perhaps the organisers are hoping for some arrivals during the show, to the amazement of children, and consternation of (some) parents.
Then there were all the animals entered in competitions, for the best-bred alpacas and sheep and rams and bulls and dairy cows and so on. The chookies were best, I thought. Some were scrawny…
…some looked as though they were auditioning for a part in Green Eggs and Ham…
… and some were Tribbles.
The nightmarish – the rides and the showbags. The rides were the usual cacophony of jolting and flashing and blaring mayhem, from which the adults emerged with headaches, but we couldn’t be so curmudgeonly as to take our children to the show and not allow them to ride on something. So they got to choose one ride each, and all three of them could go on it, if they wanted. So we spent ridiculous amounts of money buying tickets for the ferris wheel (the younger Miss Eight’s choice) and the roller coaster (Miss Ten’s choice). Enormous fun, ‘though the elder Miss Eight was stunned into (momentary) silence by the roller coaster experience. Her choice was the simplest of all, and I have never seen her look so delighted – a pony ride.
The show bags hall was worst of all. Show bags must have started as a way for businesses to encourage people to try some of their wares – pay a small amount, and get samples of delicious food to eat, or small gadgets, or little toys, or whatever. But they have degenerated into commercial madness; big companies package up cheap products into plastic bags and hawk them at shows. You can buy scads of chocolate, or sweets, or plastic jewellery, or cheap make-up, or out-of-date magazines, all at “discount” prices. The hall is packed with bargain hunters, and yet more flashing lights and glaring colours. But the strangelings coveted various bags (one each!) so in we went.
And emerged half an hour later, shattered. We went home, and had several very large glasses of wine.