This month Andrew Livingston is taking a nostalgic stroll through the Dorset County Showground
As a young child, the news that ‘Dorset County Show is this weekend!’ was always met with sadness. Never a reflection on the show, I hasten to add – it simply signalled the final weekend of the school summer holidays.
Every year, in the days leading up to the show, I would be dragged by my mother to Dorchester or Yeovil to buy new school uniform. “I don’t need to go back to school!” I would protest (thankfully my mother knew better than me).
Some of my earliest memories are of exploring the county showground, walking around in the shadow of my Dad – he was a feed rep for Mole Valley Farmers, and would alwaysbe working on the day.
Well – he would refer to it as work, but what he called ‘networking’ just looked like listening to farmers moan to me. Why were they so miserable? They worked outdoors and they didn’t have the threat of going to school next week!
How naïve I was. If I’d known then what I know now about the struggles of modern farming I would have suggested they start writing a column in The BV magazine to air their grievances. I certainly find it therapeutic these days!
For so many at the show, this is their one big day out of the year. Some are up every day at the crack of dawn milking, while others have been contracting evry hour they can through the summer in a mad rush to earn every penny possible. And for hours on end, my Dad would be at the Mole Valley stand, handing out cups of tea and chatting with these farmers.
(I’ll be honest, standing next to him – and eating all the biscuits, obviously – the conversations went straight over my head. Not because of the content – I simply couldn’t understand a word they said in their deep Dorset dialect.)
Eventually, I got older and was finally trusted to roam the site on my own. I would meet with friends and only return to my dad to reach into his pockets and steal another handful of change to spend on sweets or carnival games.
When my dad’s pockets eventually emptied, the game became who could collect the most and best freebies from the stands. Simply listen to a vendor’s spiel for two minutes and scamper off with your thousandth pen of the day.
What was my greatest freebie of all time you ask? I’m too polite to say. But I will say that I got it from the NHS stand and, since about the age of 13, it’s had pride of place in every wallet I’ve ever owned, but has never been touched.
It’s all changed now. My days of going to the show and picking my Dad’s pocket are long gone – instead my own pockets get swiftly empties by my two small children. Thinking about it … maybe I should have used my favourite Dorset County Show freebie at some point. It would have saved me a fortune on school uniforms in the future!