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Wales, United Kingdom
Documenting one couple's attempts to live a more self-sufficient life.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Capel Bangor Show

I wrote half a post about this a couple of years ago and never posted it. The show is now an important fixture in our calendar and we went to this year's show last Saturday. This post covers a mixture of two years ago and last Saturday.

Agricultural and horticultural shows are a major feature of life here. It's possible to spend every weekend of the summer relaxing in a different field, watching horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, and other animals paraded around a ring for your entertainment. Any idiot who organises an event in the same week as the Royal Welsh has only themselves to blame when no-one turns up (yes, we've done that). Our local show is in Capel Bangor, a village about ten miles away, and we've attended for the last three years.

Whilst there are sheep...

... and the shearing competition is well worth watching...

... the show mainly features horses.

Unfortunately, I'm not terribly interested in horses.

Not horses, 2014

The lady to the left of the caravan talked to me at great length about peanut butter cookies (her recipe is very rich), ballet (her teacher cried when she gave it up to do A levels), drinking champagne at the Playboy club, and flummery, amongst other things.

I arranged for our friend Keith to drive a tractor for the first time. It went like this: We were chatting to Brython when his son Sion, who's in charge of the vintage and classic vehicles section, came over and spoke to him in Welsh. After Sean had gone Brython said, a little grumpily, I suppose I'm going to have to drive a tractor, then. Last time I did, I got covered in oil. (He was quite smartly dressed at the time.) Then, to me, Would you like to drive a tractor? Me: No, but Keith would. (He'd told me so earlier in the day.) I went off to find Keith, and told him there was an opportunity to drive a tractor if he wanted it, and he did.

Keith driving Brython's tractor in the parade.
Ian is driving the 2CV in the background.

Sadly, the 2CV is off the road at the moment. Well, it's not really sad because she'll be in much better shape when she comes home, but we had hoped she might be back by now. Ian still takes part in the old vehicle display, in whatever vehicle he has at the time.

Ian's Mitsubishi Colt, bought just a few days before the show. I blame Tim Minchin.

Did I mention tractors?

There was a competition to guess the weight of this one...

... and there was even a little one for children to sit on:

There were other stalls as well. Our friend Mavis had a cake stall.

Most excellent cakes at Make or Bake

While Ian gets involved with the old cars, I'm more interested in the produce tent.

In here may be found competitions for all kinds of garden produce, baking, crafts, photography (Most of which had separate classes for children) and - my favourite section - home brew (no children's class).

Garden produce

At the far end is a class for Vase of herbs, which I entered, but I think I misjudged the criteria. I went for aesthetic appeal, but the others seemed to be more about usefulness of herbs. I suppose I should have worked that out from the fact that it was in the produce section. Also, I may have been marked down for including weeds in my vase. How can you say rosebay willowherb isn't a herb? It's in the name!

I had a suspicion that the pickles and preserves were judged more on appearance than flavour, and filled a narrow jar of pickled samphire very carefully (it's the one with the luggage label, which rather hides how nicely all the samphire is lined up), but to no avail. My friend Jane explained to me that jars should show no signs of having been used before, should have white lids, and white labels should be on the lower half of the jar, but this isn't written down. My samphire came nowhere.

My two entries in the wine classes (rhubarb in the dry white; sloe in the sweet red) both won, in spite of poor presentation (I didn't even clean the old labels off the bottles). This led to me being awarded the cup for wines, which was nice. Honesty forces me to confess that the reason was that the entries for wine looked like this:

Two years ago, the first time I nervously entered a single bottle of wine (nicely presented in a clean bottle), I arrived to find an older couple unloading a crateful of homebrew: Three entries in each category. I felt a bit intimidated by this, and was over the moon when my oak leaf wine came first in its class. I haven't seen them since.

I was more pleased that my bog myrtle ale came second, as there was more competition in the beer classes:

I also entered an interesting fir cone ale, which came nowhere, but the judges drank an awful lot of it in coming to that decision.

It's a lovely day, and very relaxing because there's almost nothing to do apart from mooch around and chat to people. Relaxing, that is, apart from the excitement of the produce competitions!


  1. OK... this is very interesting! We have state and county fairs here, which sound very similar to this sort of agricultural event - with one major exception. NEVER would there be categories for things like beer and wine... it's just inconceivable!

    The temperance movement here was pretty much a rural phenomenon, and the association is still very strong. Rural farming and ranching communities here tend to be very conservative (think right wing) and VERY Christian, and there are still "dry counties" in many rural areas - where alcohol is illegal.

    Anyhow, the gears in my head are grinding a bit, and I'm trying to imagine a world where rural agricultural life and right wing evangelical Christianity are not so closely linked. Very, very interesting and eye opening!

    1. I love how these cultural differences come up unexpectedly like this.

      It's kind of similar here, but obviously - from your comment - different in some ways. Rural communities here also tend to be conservative and more strongly Christian than towns and cities. Thinking about what kind of Christian, and how that relates to temperance, it's all getting a bit complicated.

      First, the temperance movement was not so strongly related to evangelical Christianity here, which is think is a relative newcomer to these shores, but to the Methodist movement. Rural Christianity in England tends to be the establishment church, i.e. the Church of England.

      In Wales it's a bit different, with 'Church' and 'Chapel', and people belonging firmly to one or the other. As I understand it, 'Church' is Church of Wales, and is similar to Church of England, whereas Chapel is nonconformist, and could be Methodist or Baptist or something else. Note that none of these are Catholic, which is a much(!) bigger factor in Ireland, and I think Scotland too, though I know almost nothing about religion in Scotland.

      Anyway, the temperance movement in the UK was, I think, largely focused in cities, and based on concern for factory workers. A cynic might say that concern was over whether they were sober enough to operate machinery without killing themselves and stopping the factory while bits of them were cleaned out of the machines. However, I'm sure there were many good people in the temperance movement who were genuinely concerned for the welfare of the poor workers.

      In any case, I don't think the temperance movement had a very big impact in rural areas, in spite of their strong Christianity. I'm very hazy on this, though, and if someone who knows more would like to educate us, I'd love to hear it.

    2. Fascinating. I asked CatMan if he saw it the same way I did - just to be sure it was a real phenomenon and not just my own skewed perception, and he thinks I'm pretty accurate.

      We did go look at the web page for the Colorado State Fair (which happens to be going on right now) and both of us were shocked to see that there now is a "home brew" competition! We're betting that's a fairly new addition though, and something that came from Colorado's new identity as the "kraft brewing hub" of the country (whatever that means.)

      Of course, we tend to have this idea that Europeans in general are much less religiously fanatical than Americans. As CatMan always says "They kicked out all of the crazies, so they came here instead."

      Don't know if that's really true or not, but certainly when I lived in Norway, people had a very different approach to religion than they do here. Norwegians are all Lutherans (it's a state religion) but as they are fond of saying, most enter a church only 3 times in their lives - once to be baptized, once to be married, and once for their funeral!

      Anyhow, it's very interesting that the temperance movement, and religion, and urban vs. rural don't all exactly line up there the same way they do here.

      BTW - this is totally off topic, but I just finished the last episode of Hinterland on Netflix - end of season 2. Please tell me there's gonna be more episodes eventually, because the suspense is killing me!


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