Monday, June 16, 2014

A splendidly 'royal' day!

I have now had about six months to get to know Kwazulu Natal and although many areas of the Natal Midlands are lovely - especially the Midlands Meander - I have to admit that Pietermaritzburg leaves a lot to be desired. It has all the characteristics of a lovely old town ruined by bad town planning and lack of urban maintenance. Beautiful old buildings have faded due to neglect and the city centre has been invaded by street traders who leave litter and debris everywhere. The shopping malls are reasonable but the service delivered by apathetic staff make our PE retailers look top notch. I loved the Tatham Art Gallery which is not just a really attractive piece of Victorian architecture but also houses a fantastic art collection. I will definitely be returning there and to the Botanical Gardens which are a lovely tranquil green oasis that are also well maintained.

Seeing that I appreciate art and love gardening this isn't surprising!What did surprise me though was how much I enjoyed The Royal Show. The last time I went to an Agricultural Show in South Africa was at Bathurst and I expected home made preserves, WI needlework exhibits, sheepdog trials and a flypast by the Red Arrows. What I got was a fairground and a whole lot of Nigerians selling cheap sunglasses and  Chinese fake  'Lolex's' and Suey Vuitton handbags! So my expectations were low when I was asked to accompany V's brother to the highlight of PMBs rural calendar. Grin and bear it I thought - but my smile got wider when I saw that The Royal Show is exactly what an Agricultural Show should be.
We were greeted by a line of tractors and farm implements all polished to perfection and gleaming in the sun - eye candy to all farmers and country folk alike. On route to admire them we were stopped in our tracks by irresistible smell of pancakes and even though we had just had breakfast we joined the queue to order ours and enjoy them in the sun. Then a very patient tractor salesman explained the intricacies of the latest SAME tractor - a huge powerful machine - the grand daddy of all tractors that did everything. "Does it make coffee?" I asked. "Does it come in pink?" For R1.2 million I think it should - perhaps women should start to design and manufacture tractors.
I left the brother in his element as after a dozen tractors, my excitement was dwindling and I was starting to imagine counting tractors that night to help me sleep!

I was drawn to the pungent smell of cattle and inspected the livestock on show. I was brought up by a mother who considered all animals 'livestock' - this was her standard response to any animal that we wanted to domesticate, "I will have no livestock in this house!" A bit dramatic I thought when all I asked was if I could bring the hamster home from school for the holidays and we children kept all sorts of secret pets in the garden shed. I am ashamed to say that many small rodents, Guinea pigs and tortoises were lured into that house of horrors and mostly starved or froze to death! After striding around the live exhibits pretending that I knew an Aberdeen Angus from a Hereford - I made my way to the sheep shearing demo and then the exhibits of very large vegetables which the Jolly Green Giant would have been proud of! Then on to the 'Halls'.

These Halls were full of pickles, chutney, marmalade, embroidery, knitting, stitched garments, hand made toys, bead work, Macrame, wood carving and all manner of home made items that the very clever folk of Natal had made. There was also an exhibition of photography and some lovely art on display. So satisfying to see that the good citizens of Pietermaritzburg are whiling away the hours in a creative frenzy - perhaps brought about by there being nothing else to do in this town!

The Rotarians were out raising funds and I met Vs brother (who arrived armed with a million tractor brochures) by their stall to enjoy a steak roll and to rest my feet which by now were resembling the hooves of an Aberdeen Angus!
Yes there was a fairground and yes there were some very suspicious looking "Owega' watches, "Nikie" Shoes but at least the Royal Agricultural Show had some sexy farm implements and a whole lot of variety of goods on display that had all the characteristics of what an Agricultural Show was designed for. It was all well organised and well attended and next year I may just by a three day ticket so that I can triple my enjoyment.

As we left the noise of low aircraft rumbled towards us and we looked up to see neat rows of planes flying towards the grounds in V formation. V for Very Very Good !! See you there next year.

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