Well, due to my wonderful husband double-booking himself, it fell to me to accompany my daugther to the Horse of the Year Show yesterday. What's to complain about? Well, I'm allergic to horses and crowd phobic... so I wasn't exactly looking forward to it.
The journey was about two hours, through driving rain (hate the M6 in the rain - actually, hate it any time). I was taking my daughter and her friend, and our spare adult ticket (due to last minute changes) meant I was the only grown-up. So, if I ended up requiring medical attention, we had no back up driver.
Just as well really that I was fine! The NEC arena was big and there was enough air space for the horse fumes not to affect me (just a bit of sneezing). And the crowds? The crowds were calm, 90% female (and 70% aged between 10-14 too I'd say) and because of the way the day was run, there were no great crushes of people. That's what I hate (ever since going to a Pink Floyd concert in about 1979 when I completely freaked out) - crowds that squish and mill without a seeming purpose. These were well behaved, spaced out (physically) crowds and I could cope. And - after all - there was SHOPPING! One whole hall dedicated to the delights of shopping.
OK, so I'm at a horse show (but I don't have a horse and neither does my daughter, though she asks regularly). What will I buy? One of those trendy pink leather stetsons all the little girls are wearing? Some smart waxed jacket for my contry jaunts? Some of that fantastic silver jewelery that is right up my street? Nope! I bought (for me, no one else) a lovely set of ratchet secateurs. That was my extravagance. For my daughter she got a new padded jacket thingy (very horsey, very smart, very pink), a new PE kit bag (very horsey, very pink - you get the picture) and of course lots of food and drinks (all at extortionate prices). I even bought a mug for the adult who couldn't come. It has a cute little horse (of course!) on it, and her name engraved. Cheap and tacky - it will make her laugh.
The show itself was very slick - with excellent set up and take down between events. The local TA were running round in camouflage trousers and blue tee shirts (perhaps so they didn't lose their heads) and very efficiently moving jumps, flower stands and all sorts of area acoutrements. It was a new world to me. Though I'd seen it on TV, I didn't realise just how exciting it was going to be. My heart went over every jump with every rider - it was exhausting! The whole arena took to a new young rider, an Egyptian lad of just 17. He was wonderful, no two ways about it. The jumping was my daughter's favourite, but there was also 'Pony Club' events with children on incredibly small ponies who had trademarked 'cute' all over them, plus the most wondrous display from the Household Cavalry's musical ride. I love a man in uniform - and a man in uniform on a horse? Well, I certainly enjoyed that bit.
In the display area I'd been talking to one of the Household Cavalry lads, saying how I liked the uniform. He explained how each bit of it had originally had a practical use - the wide belt was a spare girth, the small rope a spare musket fuse, the metal 'dangle' on the end of the braid was used to stopper cannons, and the box on the back for powder and shot. I wonder what they keep in it now? "It's a bugger to clean, though." he said.
One of the TA lads running around the arena caught my eye. Bright ginger hair - black eye. There was a story there, that's for sure. And at all the military stands (in the retail area) the young soldiers were kept very busy - mostly by the 14+ girl visitors I noticed (and smiled to myself - in just a year or two that would be my daughter too - dumping me and off to visit the 'fit' blokes.)
It was a good day and I was glad I went. But today - the day after - I am sniffing and sneezing and my eyes are puffy and red. How come I get an allergic reaction the day after?? Oh well, I put a happy girl to bed last night (well, this morning at 1.30 am to be accurate) and despite her extreme grumpiness this morning ("I'm NOT TIRED" stomp stomp), it was all worthwhile.