The Beale Park Country Fair last weekend was our first show of the new season - and, boy, was this early-March weekend cold.
Being so early in the year - and being a completely new show - I didn't have great expectations of soaring sales (although we did OK, thanks for asking), rather it was an opportunity to discover all the things temporarily borrowed over the winter from the travelling kit and not returned. (Just scissors, tape measure and packing tape, as it turned out; not bad!)
This show opened at 10.00am each day and closed at 6.00pm. The 10am start is sensible enough but 6pm closing is crazily late; most visitors will have arrived back home and had their tea by that time! The trade stand avenues become like ghost towns; I would hate to be an event in the main ring during those last couple of hours. By that time the 'real' audience has dwindled down to two or three people, perhaps augmented by a gaggle of traders (with little else to do) looking on from a distance.
This is my third season of working around these shows; with each event I make a few more friends - usually the adjacent stand holders. And you never know who'll be next door. From this show my new friends are a hatter (is that different from a milliner?) and a man who breeds birds of prey. Who else have I made friends with? Well, there's a chap who sells health-promoting bangles (hmmm), a lady who sells gorgeous ladies' shirts, a man selling his boat (run your hand over the lacquer - like velvet), a couple selling bags and aprons, another couple selling the stuff you put in your tyres to stop them deflating (I bought some; it works!), a lady selling mops, a couple selling garlic crushers (I like garlic as much as the next person but, believe me, eight hours a day breathing in garlic fumes is no fun) an elderly gent selling more varieties of home-made liquorice than I knew existed (neither did I realise that liquorice was still so popular - he was doing an amazing amount of business), a group of enthusiasts who spent all day tying fishing flies... as the 'News of the World' used to say - All Human Life Is Here. Occasionally a name sticks, but usually future greetings are of the "Hi, how are you? Where've you been since...?"
At Beale Park I was opposite a couple (selling rabbiting equipment) who last season had bought a doggie backpack from me for Ajax, their little Border terrier cross. I could see why they'd bought it - Ajax's regular load (see the photo at the head of this blog) was a can of lager in each pannier! The training was clearly benefiting little Ajax - leaping a 30 inch fence from a standing start was no problem at all!
If you haven't been before to a country fair, or county show, or boat show, or garden show, or whatever kind of show advertised pop along; you'll be surprised at what you'll find there.