Lit­tle red rosette

Not dar­ing to risk the wrath of lo­cal show­go­ers, Edi­tor Jonathan Young steers clear of the veg and bak­ing classes at an agri­cul­tural show but chances his luck in the dog ring

The Field - - Young In The Field -

A GLIT­TER­ING shower of CVS cas­caded into my in­box, each trac­ing our guests’ suc­cess in busi­ness, the mil­i­tary and the arts. As the lun­cheon’s host, I was spared pro­vid­ing one, which was prob­a­bly just as well as I’m not sure the tak­ing of a Mac­nab, neat set­ting of a rab­bit wire and the abil­ity to dress a pi­geon in un­der a minute com­pare strongly with a plethora of hon­ours and non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor­ships.

Yet there is con­so­la­tion. These men may have con­quered their worlds but have they won first prize for sloe gin at the vil­lage fête? Doubt­ful. And I’m cer­tain none has climbed that ru­ral Ever­est of tak­ing a red rosette at an agri­cul­tural show.

For knight­hoods, though jolly, but­ter no parsnips when you’re fac­ing iron op­po­si­tion in Class 16, Veg­eta­bles, Six Run­ner Beans or dar­ing your luck against the ma­trons in Class 20, Bak­ing, Three Cheese Oven Scones at the Mull & Morvern Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s an­nual Salen Show (founded 1832).

In fact, it’s wise to keep your head down at these lo­cal shindigs un­less you’re from the par­ish. You may ar­rive all smiles and tweed cap but it’s best not to present scrupu­lously fair judges with an awk­ward­ness. Your Ar­ti­cle in Cro­chet may win the lau­rels but snatch­ing vic­tory from the grandma who runs the nurs­ery won’t win friends. And as for tak­ing the sil­ver for Best Vic­to­ria Sponge? Well, I’d make sure the get­away Volvo has the en­gine run­ning.

But while the Pro­duce and An­i­mal classes, with their as­sorted cups, are best left to oth­ers no one re­ally minds if you bag a rosette and woofer treats at the dog show. And as I was at the Mull show with Betsy the Sealy­ham it seemed fool­ish not to have a dib­ble in the ter­rier class.

We had low hopes. For the past few days, the Betsy had turned unusu­ally feral, even for her. She’d teamed up with the house pack of col­lie dogs, churn­ing out of the lodge and onto the beach oc­cu­pied by the res­i­dent High­land cat­tle, who love their daily midge respite. The col­lies gam­bolled in the waves, col­lected sticks and kept them­selves tidy. Betsy, how­ever, had dis­cov­ered the dunes held myr­iad rab­bits.

On the day of the show I’d lost track of her while I picked a cou­ple of pounds of field mush­rooms, abun­dant on the sheep cropped strand, and she emerged covered with enough burrs and bracken to ri­val a Royal Ma­rine on the Lymp­stone snipers’ course. I’d re­moved the worse be­fore we drove into the show but then she jumped into a small mud mire in the car park and in­dulged in a lit­tle wal­low. A dip in the burn washed off some of the brown stuff but it was still an off-white, rather mat­ted mutt that en­tered the ring against an as­sort­ment of non­de­script mixes, sleek Bor­ders and a very dap­per and leggy fox ter­rier.

His owner knew how to show him, too, en­sur­ing his chin was up and he was al­ways stand­ing in pro­file. The Betsy, in con­trast, mostly pre­sented her bot­tom to the judge as she tried to cor­rupt the Bor­ders with an in­vi­ta­tion to play.

We did our two cir­cuits round the ring, the judge gave the Sealy­ham a good feel for con­for­ma­tion and we waited for the red rosette to be handed to the fox ter­rier. Yet ex­traor­di­nar­ily, the judge came over and handed it to us. I’d barely re­cov­ered from the sur­prise when the fox-ter­rier owner shook my paw, of­fered his con­grat­u­la­tions and said, “Lovely dog. One of Harry Par­sons’? Thought so.”

The mo­ment needed cel­e­brat­ing, so walk­ing past the skir­ling pipes of the lo­cal school band we stopped at the Tober­mory Dis­tillery stall, where a charm­ing man was dish­ing out sam­ples of the 10-year-old malt, 14-year-old and the 21-year-old sherry cask fin­ished. All de­li­cious – too de­li­cious to make the call af­ter one tast­ing. So we had a sec­ond. And a third. By the fourth it was clear the 21-year-old would make fine presents for shoot­ing hosts.

“You’ll have to buy it at the dis­tillery. Or on­line,” said my new­found bestie. “We can’t sell bot­tles at the show.”

That was a dis­ap­point­ment but one reme­died back home. The real sad­ness was its ab­sence the next day, af­ter my host and I had trekked up to a hill loch. It was a hard haul – an hour and 40 min­utes – but when we reached the sum­mit there were the West­ern Isles moored in a sil­ver sea, Colon­say, Is­lay and Jura, the Paps sharp against the sky. It mer­ited a dram but we set­tled for peaty wa­ter and headed down to the loch where our long hike up was re­warded by the steady dim­pling of ris­ing trout.

“No one’s caught a fish here this year,” said my friend. “So you can have the hon­our of first chuck.”

I’d seen a few daddy lon­glegs blown onto the rip­ple and so quickly tied on a gold­head Daddy. One of the boys was ris­ing 6ft from the bank, so I crept along, kept well back and threw the of­fer­ing. In­stantly the trout came but missed it. An­other throw and he was on and fight­ing hard, a true clan war­rior.

A few min­utes later he came ashore, glow­ing in the golds and scar­lets of true wild trout. A good fish of 12oz but bet­tered 10 min­utes later by one that weighed more like 14oz. My friend was also con­nected and when the rise stopped and it was time for home we’d had four fish of ex­cep­tional beauty and power be­tween us.

None of which could pos­si­bly be put on a proper CV. But on a sport­ing CV it trumps, I think, a non-exec di­rec­tor­ship.

Hav­ing in­dulged in a lit­tle wal­low, an off-white, rather mat­ted mutt en­tered the ring

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