Something I would never have envisaged myself attending would have been the flower show run by ESRA. This is not because I have any reason to dislike flowers or ESRA; quite the contrary in fact. Just that it would never have loomed onto my radar in the same way as, for example, a beery evening in a Brit bar watching the footy might. Not, in all honesty, that there are many such evenings; I simply use this as a counterpoint.
It was quarter past eight yesterday morning. I was fast asleep. I had gone to bed at two thirty. The mobile went off. It was Jason at "The Bulletin". Car trouble. Could I do him a favour ...? Erm, and what might this be, I mumbled. The ESRA flower show. In the cloisters in Pollensa. Giving out the award. I suppose I was too sleepy to say no.
As the weather forecast was so poor, it did occur to me that a storm of biblical proportions might yet cause Pollensa, its cloisters and so therefore the flower show to be washed away. There was no storm, although there was rain. And it was bloody freezing.
The ESRA folk are universally delightful. But as I was being shepherded around the contestant entries (twenty-one classes of flowers, plants, photos, greeting cards and whatever else), I felt unnervingly like I was David Walliams or Matt Lucas in their Maggie and Judy sketch. There was no vicar to vomit over, but when it came to the coffee and cake (not part of the competition obviously), the thought of Little Britain took hold to such an extent that I feared there would be an explosion of laughter swiftly followed by an expulsion of what little breakfast I had had time for. Fortunately, there was neither.
The entrant displays, sprays, designs were mostly all superb. There was some real creativity and clearly plenty of loving attention and devotion to be seen. Alas, I have pretty much forgotten what all the various classes of entrant were; there were that many. Names of displays, photos etc. I can just about recall. "Whiter Shade of Pale" was one, though which class this was in, I honestly couldn't tell you.
It was only as I got to the end of the tour of the exhibits that my charming judging assistant, Jill, pointed out that I would only be judging the photos. Was that all? I had been making mental notes and paying careful attention, assuming that I held in my hands the power to determine the victors and losers for all 21 classes of entrant. I was rather disappointed, if I'm honest.
There was then a PA announcement informing those exhibiting that they had to leave the premises while the judging was done. This did surprise me somewhat, as I thought I had already been sort of doing this, but this was before Jill had marked my card as to my purpose for being there. In fact, though, now there were to have to be some really conscientious and detailed discussions and debates as to the merits of the entrants for the photo competition. Jill, I must say, was particularly adept at pointing out things. The detail on a cactus. The invasiveness of some leaves at the bottom of a photo of some hanging gardens. The contrast between foreground and background. I was glad she was there.
The choice duly made, some time elapsed while all the certificates for first, second and third in each class plus those for special award winners were handwritten. The splendid Howard Mullen said that he would have to cobble together his flower-show report from all of this manual labour.
Eventually, the prize-giving took place. There were any number of yellow things in pots and certificates handed over to the approximately 63 first, second or thirds plus special award winners. These winners had to tramp through the puddles to the place in the cloister that had been improvised for the handing over of prizes; the stage was sodden, and it was raining on and off. Some of these winners kept on having to return, such as the lovely Dorothy Loeffler, who bagged any number of certificates, and a lady called Imelda, who, so it turned out, was number one and two in the photo contest that I had been judging.
When it came to the special award on behalf of "The Bulletin" - a small wooden box affair that apparently is designed to keep photos in - Imelda initially seemed shocked to realise that her presence was required yet again. "Thought you could escape," I suggested to her, as the box was handed over.
And that, pretty much, was that. What a bloody shame that the weather was so lousy. Flowers, plants, photos of plants, painting of flowers, greeting cards with plants and flowers; they should all be on display in bright and warm sunshine. And perhaps they will be next year. I might never have envisaged having ever gone to an ESRA flower show, but something tells me that I will go again. It was all rather lovely.
Any comments to email@example.com please.