Last weekend we visited the Countryfile show in Oxfordshire. Before we went I thought the trip would make a good blog post, combining as it does families and farming, and I was sure I could find some feminism somewhere. Here are a few things I learnt…
- If you want to show boys that girls are just as good as them, stick everyone on ponies. We watched a polo match, the mounted games and galloping acrobatics. The women involved rode like their pants were on fire, thundering around the arena, throwing themselves on, off, and across their ponies with the same skill and disregard for their necks as their male counterparts. They destroyed just about every single stereotype about weak/passive/fragile women.
PONIES: clearly the answer to modern feminism’s challenges.
- If a boy has longish hair people will assume he’s a girl. This happened twice. Despite the fact that we did, quite loudly, refer to him as Bear. Though maybe they were just out-feminist-ing me by behaving as if a girl can be called Bear too.
- More girls need to sit on massive machines. My boys climbed onto the top of a huge JCB thing and I went with them. Ginormous machines are usually the preserve of boys. And we just stand back and let them clamber on while we hold the babies or the picnic. Which is stupid of us, because massive machines are fun.
- City people do not understand tractor queue etiquette. Despite my best tutting, jaw clenching, eye rolling and passive aggressive hip swaying, a dreadful mother and her dreadful friend let their children play on the tractor for at least eight minutes, when there was clearly a queue, i.e. Bear and Raffy, behind them. Andrew assured me this kind of breach would NEVER happen at the Virginia Show back in Ireland.
- Puppy classes for families would be a very good idea. As we watched the Essex Dog Display Team, the man in charge talked to us about the rescued dogs in the display. One had been thrown out of a car on the M25, one had savagely attacked its owner, another had been nearly beaten to death. Each one of these dogs was now happy, obedient and safe. They jumped through rings of fire, sped around an agility course, ‘attacked’ a heavily padded man and ceased attack on command. The reason for this transformation was that the people now handling these dogs took full responsibility for the dog’s behaviour. The key tenet being that bad behaviour in dogs is caused by people, not dogs. I have always thought it true for parents and children too. What a shame we can’t take our kids to a village hall for an hour a week to learn how to handle them. Raffy would certainly benefit from a retractable lead. If not a cage.
- Though obviously, there are exceptions to this Blame The Parents approach. Here are just a few:
When a four year old child takes off one shoe and sock in the morning and insists on remaining like that for the rest of the day. Even when they visit the Portaloos, (though to be honest, hygiene concerns were swept aside by pride in him using an actual, official, designated toilet).
When a one-year old single-handedly dismantles a chicken coop (with real, live chicken and chicks inside). When the same boy is so fast that he twice nearly manages to streak behind the railings that keep the birds of prey safely away from the crowds.
When, despite repeated warnings from his mum, an overenthusiastic four year old nearly falls into the ferret enclosure.
When an over-hungry one year old begins eating the flowers in the sponsor’s fancy display stand.
Andrew and I took it in turns to pretend we had nothing to do with them. Fortunately it was his turn for the final set-piece. With Raffy on his shoulders he approached a man carrying a huge tray of Covent Garden Soup samples. As he did Bear handed Raffy his shoe. As Andrew went to lift his soup Raffy casually tossed the shoe into the middle of the tray. Soup flew, people ran, the poor man holding the tray was covered in Chicken Chowder. I hissed at Andrew, who was clearly trying to work out whether to blame the one or the four year old, that perhaps the 39 year old should apologise. Then I legged it, putting as much distance between me, the soup, and my family, as possible.
This incident aside, we had a brilliant day. We were so late leaving that Co-op had started to give away boxes of display strawberries on their stand (we found this more thrilling than it’s perhaps cool to admit to). By the time we got back to the car park it was nearly empty, and the roads were gloriously quiet. Our little boys fell asleep in the back, grubby-fingered, happy, and covered in mashed strawberries; pretty much how every summer day should end. Though I’m not sure we’ll be allowed back next year.