Suffolk Show: Best of Suffolk in bonnets and boots
- Credit: Gregg Brown
A bit of mud, a few puddles and a forecast of rain isn’t enough to deter Suffolk because show goers are made of sterner stuff as Lynne Mortimer, in wellies, discovers on day one
Before 8am, the show stewards are eating full English breakfasts.
The women are, of course, beautifully turned out in lace and silk, fascinators and hats... with their ensembles invariably finished off with a smart pair of waterproof boots; Dubarrys are the popular choice.
In the flower tent, judging is underway and I tiptoe round admiring the fabulous displays that have been created over the last 24 hours. Last year I entered the novice flower arrangement class which was themed: “All that glitters is not gold”. This year it involves greengrocery... and I’m pretty sure a few carrots would have been less expensive than my delphiniums... though maybe not as elegant.
The paths and walkways begin to fill with showgoers from all over the region, Jai Coleman and her brother Kai, from Bury St Edmunds are having a wonderful time jumping in puddles. Although, by lunchtime, there is some imminent promise they might dry up as the leaden cloud cover begins to lighten up and you can tell where the sun, if it were to break through, would be.
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Where the ground has been churned, a copious scattering of woodchips keeps the pathways negotiable; not that anyone’s bothered by a bit of mud. This is Suffolk.
The designer fashion aisles of Fifth Avenue have pink carpets; still pink at midday despite squelchy transfer possibilities. This is Suffolk handbag designer Jane Goodchild’s first show. Based at Tuddenham, near Ipswich, she is one of the fashion industry’s top designers and she is has examples of her fabulous Spring/Summer 2014 collection. All the styles have silver screen film star names. There’s the studded Garbo and a picture of Laura Mvula shows the award-winning soul singer/songer with the gold Harlow clutch.
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She introduces me to her “glamorous assistant” Matty, her fiancé, who is busy unpacking bags.
In the East Anglian Daily Times tea and newspaper tent, Anne Boreham, of Braintree and brother-in-law Brian Steel, from Marks Tey are making their annual trip to the show. Brian has been coming here for about 30 years and used to take part in the parade of vintage tractors. Though he no longer brings them to the show he still uses his tractors to cut the grass on Colchester Athletic’s football field and St Mary’s School playing fields.
In the WI tent, I am allowed “backstage” for the first time. This is where the teapots are filled, the coffee is brewed and the reserves of sausage rolls, cheese scones, fruit scone, cakes and tray bakes are held. Gill Denny has made 400 sausage rolls for the show... oops, make that 399, I couldn’t resist it.
Do they ever run out, I ask the WI’s show day regimental sergeant major Jane Sago, whose daughter Julie and husband Richard have also been conscripted for the show..
“We have never run out,” says Jane, adding: “We have been known to be baking again at midnight on Wednesday, though.”
Suffolk Coastal councillor Andrew Nunn is helping out with the teas. He is wearing a label that says “little squirt”. This, I am told, describes his role here today, squirting hot water into teapots.
It’s hard work but it is clearly a lot of fun.
In the Church of England marquee there is face painting and someone doing keepie-uppie. At the other end of the showground, the entrance to the pigs’ show area is – I assume by coincidence... or is it? – next to a bacon and sausage van.
Once upon a time wellies only came in black and green, now you can all colours, with spots, animal print and star-spangled.
In the shopping avenues, Dubarry boots are flying off the shelves. I can’t tell you how much they are as I didn’t see a label and someone once told me: “If it hasn’t got a label, you can’t afford it.”
At the same time, they are awfully nice.
I pass a nest of Morris Dancers (if that’s the correct collective noun) wearing floral bedecked straw hats. Their board announces: “East Suffolk Morris Men. Recruiting Now.”
In the food courts, people are meeting old friends:
“Remember old Tom?”
“You know – old Tom.”
“Yes, old Tom.”
At one of the stalls, I buy a bottle of rose gin... as a present for a friend of mine. Honest.