Sunday, 16 September 2012

Cheese. Thousands of them.

Autumn is definitely here. The misty, cool mornings.  The evocative smell of woodsmoke on the air.  Birds massing in the sky in a slightly menacing manner.  Hedgehogs and that.

And what happens at the start of Autumn, lovely readers?  Why, the Frome Cheese Show happens.  And I was there.  Well, me and Mr WithaY.  And the dog.  We were all there.

Last time we attempted to go, we left it a little too late in the day - about 11am, as I recall -  and were thwarted by ridiculous traffic tailbacks which went on for miles and miles.  We turned tail and came home, disappointed and annoyed at our lack of forethought.

This year it was different.  I bought the tickets in advance, saving us 6 quid in the process, marvellous, and we were up early, turning our shining morning faces to the sun, dog all fed and brushed and ready to go, cheese money burning holes in our pockets.

We do like a bit of cheese in our house.

The dog was very excited.  Well, we all were really.  We left home at 8am-ish, drove the short distance to the showground - no traffic - and in we went, unimpeded by queues or hassles of any description.  It was quite misty, and the grass was soaking wet, making everyone* pick their way through it, grumbling about wet feet.

The first thing we spotted was this:

I think it's a tribute to Thelwell.  The children were all fiercely determined, grim-faced and focused as their teeny ponies trotted back and forth in an endless competition of some kind, more or less under control.  It was just lovely.

As you can see, the mist is already burning off, and the blue sky behind it can be glimpsed.  We decided to go and look at the cheese tent.  We took it in turns, one of us standing outside with the dog while the other one went in and admired the cheese. And by Swansea it was admirable.

This one looks like the winner of the CSI Somerset Crime Scene Reconstruction section.  I was tempted to draw a chalk outline round the grisly remains, but there were many burly cheese officials wandering the tent, and I lost my nerve.

Some of the cheese categories were baffling.  At least to the uninitiated.

Lemon meringue?  Really?

I did like the shy mozzarella, which is like a badger cub on Springwatch, needing to be coaxed out of its bag.

I expect the judges used high-quality crackers to lure it.

Competition categories were inspired.

I wonder who the cheese-judging celebrity was this year?  And how do they phrase the invitation.

"Hello - Elton?  Are you busy on the first weekend in September?  No?  Would you like to come and judge a huge tent full of cheese in Somerset for a morning?  No?  Really? Are you sure?  Hello...?  Hello...?"

This sign leaves little to be queried:

I assume the competitors have to make up their "cakes" before they arrive, rather than forage around helping themselves to cheeses which look the part.  But I do like the idea that there are people casually pocketing cheeses as they go round, thinking "This one is shaped just like a teeny bridegroom! Perfect!"

This cheese captured my heart, just because it's so completely mad.

It was big, too.  About the size of a watermelon.

This category was nicely specific.  I imagine the judges measuring each entry and flinging those on incorrectly-sized boards out into the pony-competition ring in a fury.

Some cheeses had the look of a cheese which had been made to take part against their will, under protest.

"But Muuuuuuuum!  All the other cheeses are way bigger than me!  I'll be laughed at!"

I bet they were told, "Oh, you'll be fine, stop making a fuss."


Exhausted by so much dairy produce, I went and watched the dog obedience teams while Mr WithaY went and looked at the cheese.  The dog was supposed to watch and learn.

I don't think she was taking it all in, to be honest.  She certainly didn't seem too keen when I suggested she had a go jumping through the hoops of fire.

The day was heating up by now, and we had bought quite a lot of cheese - which gets heavy - so we decided to go and look at the animals for a bit, where it might be shadier.

I love the Tent Of A Thousand Goats.  Sadly, no dogs allowed, so I popped in and admired the poultry tent while Mr WithaY took the dog to see some tractors.

Again, a wide selection of competition categories, some stranger than others:

Gosh, that's a bit, well, harsh.  Surely beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and one man's ideal egg is another man's marginally less ideal egg?  Although that one is a corker, I must say.

It's an EGG.  What do they expect to be inside it?  A previously undiscovered novel by Dickens?  A jewelled clock?   Shergar?


I suspect foul** play here.  Not only has an element of the category title been redacted in a professional, indeed an almost FBI-like, manner, the eggs themselves are missing.  Where are they?  Stolen?  Kidnapped?  Currently making up part of a prizewinning Victoria Sponge?   I demand answers.

How Victorian.  A freak show.  Again, note the sinisterly empty egg plate in the top left corner.  I hope the hens who laid these at least got a cup of tea or something afterwards.

This is just a very pretty little decorated egg which I wanted to photograph. Awwh.

Ah, even here, the cult of shallow shell-deep beauty permeates.

Mind you, if I was brought a boiled egg or two on a tray looking like this, I'd be thrilled.

Fantastic.  I wonder if they all came from the same hen?  And if so, what are they feeding her?

Personally I preferred the one with the blue eggs, but hey, I'm not an egg judge.  Ohhh, I've wasted my life.

By the time I had finished wandering through the poultry tent, making admiring noises and chuckling to myself, it was getting really hot.  I went and found Mr WithaY and the dog, and we all sat in the shade having a drink and a bit of a nice rest.

A little bit more wandering through the show, and it was time to head home.  I was deeply gratified to see the massive queues of traffic, stretching all the way from the showground, far across West Wiltshire, cars full of hot grumpy people who hadn't got up as early as we had.  Bwahahahahahaaaa.

In other news:  The dog has been a bit poorly, so I took her to the vet yesterday.  He diagnosed a bout of colitis, which apparently is really common in young dogs, particularly the ones which hoover up anything and everything in their path when they are out for a walk.  So, she's got some special anti-squit medicine to help sort her stomach out, and some goopy brown stuff I add to her food to restore her internal bacteria balance.

Last night, for the first time in several days, I only had to get up and let her out into the garden once (at 4am) rather than on the hour, every hour, as it had been recently.  A huge relief for both her and I.

Other, other news:  We've had the go-ahead from the environmental health lady and so our catering business is officially up and running.  We have our first job booked for October, but this week we are going to get some business cards sorted out and some adverts in the local press, and hopefully pick up some more bookings.

Also, I have had my hair cut short.  I decided that I was bored with it - I've had long hair for at least 10 years now - so went into Salisbury last week and had about 10 inches cut off it.  It's quite liberating.  I realised that I almost always wore my hair up, and it seemed a bit pointless having long hair if whenever it was down I just got annoyed because it was in the way.

So, a new look, a new business, a new season.  Oh, and I've lost a stone, thanks to walking the dog.  Hurrah.

*Everyone not wearing sensible boots or shoes with gaiters.  I had fabric shoes on, and my feet were SOAKED.