The Flower Show day one.
Who would have believed that 125 years ago Shrewsbury Flower Show would still be packing the people in? Heaven knows what someone from 1887 might have thought had they been there amongst the high tech arena displays or the plethora of bands and attractions, not forgetting the most beautifully cultivated blooms, which the show is really all about.
It is possible at the show to sit and reflect on nature’s beauty one minute and marvel at a flying quad bike the next. The flower marquees, however, seem to take on a character of their very own. They are a combination of colour, beauty and expertise. They make you feel that you ought to go home and get busy with the spade and fork and finally create that new flower bed that you have always dreamed of. Well they might make you feel that at the time, but how long after the event you can maintain that level of enthusiasm varies from person to person.
With me, the flame usually dies when I realise I don’t have a garden but I vow that when I do I will grow beautiful chrysanthemums and giant onions. My venus fly traps and my fuchsias will be the best in the county. Back in the real world, it was lovely to just look and admire. Ambling slowly around the tents gives you a feeling of inner calm and I would recommend it for anyone. Ensure you have nothing pressing that needs attending to, lose your sense of time and just wander around from exhibit to exhibit.
I was surprised at some of the vendors’ wares though - motorcars, furniture, clothes? Really? Who goes to a flower show with the objective of landing themselves with a thirty two thousand pound car or an electric reclining chair? I did wonder, is there any escape from this cash focused society that we have built for ourselves? I realised the answer was a resounding no when I paid five pounds for two ice creams. Five pounds, think about that for a moment. That has absolutely no comparison to what you can buy from the shops and I felt a little disappointed that amongst such beauty there was the ugly face of greed. Seriously how much is a cup of hot water and a tea bag? The answer seems to be anywhere between one pound fifty and two pounds fifty. The real answer is of course pennies. When I saw a child being relieved of six pounds of saved pocket money for a glowing piece of plastic I realise just how much we have lost since 1887. However, that has very little to do with the show itself and certainly didn’t mar my enjoyment of the day.
It was hard not to laugh at the sheep dog herding geese into a pen in the middle of the massive arena, which acted as the heart of the show. The show jumping was second to none. It was wonderful. There were even a few Olympians from the British team in Beijing; such was the gravitas of the event. Interestingly enough there was also a two thousand pound prize for the winner. That was always going to bring the best riders to the fore. The course was challenging with a seriously tough water jump which cost several riders their dreams of winning. There were very tight turns and some fairly substantial jumps to test the competitor’s mettle.
Then of course there was the almost mandatory motorcycle stuntman. This one was slightly different to others, however, because his main tricks were on a quad bike and it was deeply impressive to see him charge up the ramps and fly his bike over a huge chasm. There was always the potential for disaster but I was relieved it all passed smoothly. The rider added a little more interest by actually commentating the act as he performed it. That was a good idea but it might have been a better idea to let the sound man know and we could have avoided the Van Halen CD playing Jump as loud as it could whilst the rider was talking; it just crashed the sound and became somewhat cacophonic.
Tall wooden giraffes seem to sell well. I must make a note to self that wooden ducks, giraffes and large stuffed toy animals are worthy of future investment where I ever to turn to stocks and shares for a living. I am sure they are spur of the moment purchases and one could only imagine that when they get their new editions home customers may well think, “What on earth did I buy that for?”
Evening time brought the top electric folk band in Britain today. The Oysterband. Of course Shrewsbury needs no real introduction to the lads as they have been playing here for several years at various events and lead vocalist John Jones is even the patron of the Shrewsbury Folk Festival. It was a brilliant new thing for the show though and proved that the organisers are aware that diversity will bring in so many more people.
The stage for the band was a tidy little unit but appeared to be a very long way away from the seated audience, a whole arena’s width in fact, but the video screen was excellent and all the action could be seen and heard right from the top of the park. This gave the chance for people to sit and eat their picnics and still not miss the show. I asked the band what was it like to play the gig and whilst they all enjoyed it they found it unusual to see such a wide split in their audience. There were upwards of two hundred or more people standing facing the stage, the arena behind them, then thousands of people sitting on their chairs and watching from afar. Overall they went well and acted as a wonderful precursor to what was still to come.
And what a finale it was, just before dusk the arena hosted the military marching band playing some rather challenging works. They were joined by the Shrewsbury Male Voice Choir and it became quite a moment. When they got to the national anthems of Wales and England, it was somewhat pleasing to firstly see all the Welsh members of the audience stand for their anthem and then everyone else stood for ‘God Save the Queen’. The orchestra finished with the cannonade from the 1812 overture and suddenly the sky was filled with the colours and stars of some amazing fireworks, bang on cue. But that was just a taster for what was to come.
Every Shrewsbury person knows that the Flower Show ends each day with a fantastic firework display and this year was just as good if not maybe even better. People of all ages stood captivated by the show. Synchronised with some highly Wagnerian music, the fireworks grabbed a hold of the night sky and tore it apart with delicious bangs, amazing stars and a myriad shimmering petals of gold and silver.
That was it for the day. All horses stabled, musicians fed and watered, tired children and worn out parents shuffled towards the gates to make their way home feeling no less, one would imagine, than thoroughly entertained. More tomorrow - watch this space.