Cabinet leaks embarrass society


Well they do, don’t they? You think you’ve got a government working together and then one snake leaks information and queers the pitch for the others.

Except I didn’t mean to type leaks. Funny how a misplaced vowel can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

The headline should read ‘Cabinet leeks embarrass society’ which they surely do, for the horticultural society anyway if not for the political variety.

It was our Horticultural Society’s autumn show in the village hall and they ran out of tables on which to display their exhibits. As there were only four entries in the prize leek category, two of which looked as though they were spring onions with an over exaggerated sense of their own importance and didn’t want to share a table with their fellow onions, it seemed sensible to find something else on which to display them. Someone had the bright idea of borrowing a small cabinet from a nearby house and the leeks were positioned in isolated glory upon it.

The exhibitors left the hall when the judges turned up to do their thing and it would be nice to ally myself with various episodes of Midsomer Murders and say that the excitement was palpable as everyone hung around outside in the car park, bitching about their competitors in the different categories but they didn’t, this is real life. They all went home so their houses weren’t looted in their absence. Just kidding about the last bit.

The general public were allowed in at 2.30pm and I wandered around gawping. When I first moved onto the island the Horticultural Society’s Show Guide fairly stunned me with its list of which flowers and vegetables could be shown and how, who could cook what in the domestic section and what was expected for the flower arranging, art, photography and handicraft exhibits. I fell off my perch when I reached the page that itemised the prize money: first place 30p; second 25p; third 20p. That’s all you get? Do me a favour, my London brain thought, you’ll be lucky if anyone enters.

I then went to my first show and realised that’s not what it’s all about. I’ve been going ever since because it’s such a connection to growing, cooking and creating, especially in a small village where you know most of the exhibitors and had no idea about their particular talents. Choice fruits and perfect vegetables are interspersed with stunning floral arrangements, impressive watercolours, intricate embroidery and cakes baked and decorated to such a high standard they could knock any Great British Bake Off winner off their fine china display stand.

It was the men’s cookery section that used up all the tables for the autumn show because so many of them had thrown themselves enthusiastically at the task of baking a custard tart. Perhaps it was the word tart that got them so fired up, who knows. The Brownies also took up more room than they should have done because their mission, which they chose to accept, was to bake chocolate brownies. Yes, you’ve guessed it, they all made chocolate effigies of themselves. Highly inventive but not what was expected.

So the leeks got demoted to the cabinet (the opposite of life at Number 10) but it was only when the exhibitors arrived to see who had won the top prize that the fight could have started. The name cards had been accidentally switched during transportation and the judges awarded first and second prize to the right leeks but the wrong owners.

The tension in the room could have been cut with a pair of secateurs.

I’m lying, the two of them shrugged, shook hands and went off together to get a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

A horticultural show where nobody gets killed? Life on Oxney isn’t like Midsomer Murders at all.