Everywhere I go people are talking about the British Summer, or lack of it ! The weather influences so much of our everyday life and also our hobbies. As some of you may know, my main hobby for many years has been " Showing Dogs". Nowadays I hardly ever "show" prefering to leave such strenuous activities to my daughter, but I do go as a spectator.
The breeds I have shown have been Maltese, American Cocker Spaniels and Afghan Hounds, all, you may notice, heavily coated breeds ! As the majority of large Championship Shows are held outdoors the weather plays a large part !! Of course wet weather tents are always available but that does not necessarily make life easy for the exhibitor !! The very first dog show I ever attended was Bon Accord Show held in a park in Aberdeen . It had rained steadily all the previous night and when we arrived the park was grey and dismal and water-logged and packed full of people squeezing into every available space in the rather small marquees. It was made worse by the fact that I hadnt really much idea of what I was supposed to do having had one 10 min crash course in " showing" from the breeder of my dog , the previous day! The enduring memory of that show is moving my snow-white Maltese round and round in a tent , while trying to avoid a tent pole , a huge puddle and rain pouring in from a hole in the roof ! You would have thought that experience would have deterred me, but NO , I was completely hooked and every weekend saw us whizzing off to some far-flung location to run up and down with dogs in the hope of winning a rosette .
Living in North Eastern Scotland meant lots of travelling and so the next show was in Bournemouth, of course ! Rain again , but this being a Championship Show meant the facilities would be better ? Oh, foolish reader.........NO ! This show is held in the beautiful New Forest , a gorgeous location but our classes were held on the last day of a three day show so the ground was more like a ploughed field after days of rain . To be fair , the organising committee had tried their best and had put down lots of straw in an attempt to soak up some of the water . The fact that they had used tractors to transport the bales did somewhat spoil the effect though ! Once again I found myself showing in a muddy tent, this time with trousers rolled up to my knees and in bare feet as my shoes were so muddy..........I was getting good at this !
Rain was not always the problem as I have shown at venues where we were in serious danger of losing life or limb due to high winds . At Blackpool a few years ago the show had to be abandoned due to winds of hurricane proportions lifting huge marquees into the air , ripping the stakes holding guy ropes out of the groud and blowing them around like matchsticks . We rushed to car parks with our terrified dogs as seating and trade stands flew around like dolls toys , truly frightening and not something I would ever wish to experience again. And of course often the sun shines ! It certainly shone at the South Wales Championship show , held on the side of a hill near Chepstow . By 10 am we were baking and the benching tents were airless but , as there is no shade outside , it was that or burn . Childrens swimming pools were filled so that dogs could paddle and keep cool and the stalls did a roaring trade in sunhats and parasols .Even travelling home was difficult as holiday traffic caused jams and I kept spraying the dogs with water to keep them cool during the long delays . It was like being in a mobile sauna !
The show season moves on all over the country and we were back to rain again . I lost a shoe in the mud at Leeds , never to be found again and had to buy some hideous plastic sandals; but the wettest show I have ever been to was the Scottish Hound Ass. Championship Show the year it was ill-advisedly held at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow. We lived in East Yorkshire at the time and had been having the most glorious weather. However, we were aware that there had been some rain in Scotland ! Oh, how little we knew ! When we arrived it was raining and it soon became clear that it had been doing just that for quite a considerable time . The ground was already becoming water-logged and as we went down the long slope to the showground OH voiced the opinion that we were doing a very foolish thing and that there were bound to be " tears before bedtime" ! Well , for me, the glass is always half full so I shrugged off his comments and said all would be fine ! Silly me ! We parked up , wheels of our trusty Granada Estate already struggling for grip. I started to unload the dogs and bags and put the wet-suits on the Afghans and we set off for the entrance . ................and walked straight up to what looked like a lake ! The entrance was in a sort of dip, which had filled with water and people were literally wading across. The dogs had to be carried ( cant get the coats wet !!!!) and we waded almost knee-deep through muddy water to the tents . Showing in a tent the size of a postage stamp, on the side of a hill with , what looked like Niagara Falls rushing through , was quite an experience !...........Then of course we had to get back to the car . The complete park was now under several inches of water and tractors were pulling cars out of the grounds and trying to haul them up the slope to the exit. With our hearts in our mouths were were inched slowly up the slope ,slipping scarily backwards two or three times until finally the tyres reached tarmac and we were safe .......It was later reported that the authorities had not realised that Bellahouston had no form of drainage !!!!
And then of course there is snow ! The Ladies Kennel Assosiation Ch show is held in December at the N.E.C in Birmingham. It is a lovely show , full of festive spirit on the run up to Christmas. People take the opportunity to meet up with friends, exchange Christmas cards and maybe have a glass of something cheery, I love it. Of course , being in December the weather is often a factor but show people have a carefree attitude and a feeling of " the show must go on" . this particular year, many moons ago, the weather had been very cold with a few half-hearted snow flurries, but nothing to cause alarm . We were inside the cavernous venue merrily showing our dogs when reports started coming in of sudden huge blizzards and freak snowstorms and dangerously icy roads . Apparently roads were being blocked with snow and lorries were jack-knifing and all manner of mayhem was taking place outside . At first people thought it was all being blown up out of proportion but eventually the N.E.C officials made a public address and told us that we were more or less snowbound ! The M6 was all but closed and the M42 was not passable unless you had a snowmobile . The police were advising NO TRAVEL. Well, slight panic followed that announcement and as this was before the mobile phone era people were queuing at the phones in the atrium , trying to get messages to dog-sitters and child-sitters and various relatives. And a few intrepid folk decided to risk it and make an attempt to get home . But the rest of us gradually accepted that we had to make the most of the situation and everyone rallied round. Grooming tables were pulled together and sandwiches laid out , hot coffee was provided free by the restaurants. Bottles of wine were pulled out of show bags and the trade stands gave dog food out for any dog that wanted it . Christmas music was played on the public address and dancing and general jollity ensued . As the night wore on thick foam mats were pulled into the hall and people could try to catch a few hours sleep, bundled up in dog blankets and coats and anything they could find .The lights were dimmed slightly and then someone started singing . I will never forget the feeling of warmth and cameraderie as a few hundred people sang carols and other songs well into the night and I hugged my dogs and felt safe and warm and part of something truly amazing . That truly was a show to remember .
Of course the weather is not always so inclement, in fact "unremarkable" is probably the best way to describe our usual fare. But its so nice to know that, with true British grit and and cheerfulness , when Mother Nature bowls us a "googly".......................we can cope !