I got involved in The Garden Show about five years ago when my lovely friend (who set it up 21 years ago with her friend,) inveigled me into it.
She and I had met in Brussels and become friends, and then we both ended up back in the UK (we were in this part of the world thanks to her.)
Anyway, she invited me to her house and we sat and nattered and solved a few of the world’s problems over a glass of wine and then she asked if I would like to come and help.
Yes, I said, of course.
Then she poured me another glass of wine and told me about this event which is part elbow-sharpened gardeners fighting for the particular plant they have been looking for all year, part lovely day out for all the family, part shopper’s paradise for those looking for something unique and made by a local craftsperson, and more.
Then she poured me another glass of wine ( or, if I am honest, a couple of glasses) and said I would be the Health & Safety person.
Yes, I said, of course.
Now, part of that response was her, I would have done anything she asked, and of course, part of that was the wine.
Anyone who knows me (slapdash and bodge are my middle names, and an eye for detail is not anywhere on my radar,) would have strained their corsets laughing at the choice of me as a H&S person.
But here I am five years on, and I do it.
This year was the show’s 21st birthday, as I said, and a great show it was. Thousands of people came, the weather was brilliant.
Behind the scenes, there is a ‘family’ of staff and I have never worked anywhere where the ‘we are a team’ is more manifest.
Health and Safety has a loose definition in the team so I can find myself on my hands and knees (oh those knees can make it hard to get up after a while,) taping down rucks in the marquee flooring, getting a tired car parker, with no money on him, a sausage sandwich, trying to talk intelligently to the Trading Standards Officer after a long day…..
Lost children, heat stroke, smoothing the ruffled feathers of annoyed exhibitors, telling an endless series of people where the toilets are….
And juggling birds and arrows.
We have some birds of prey which come (with handlers, I hasten to add,) and they do flying exhibitions.
This year we also had, for the first time, a man who let off white doves at weddings and who wanted to let them off to show his ‘wares.’
Also for the first time we had, an archery ‘stall’ where you could go and see if you could hit a target.
This was quite near the birds of prey.
The white doves apparently circle the area before they set of home.
You can see where this was all leading.
With a bit of negotiation we got the birds of prey in their large cages whilst the doves were released – the archery stopped whilst the falcons were flying – and all was well.
H&S Garden Show style.
My lovely friend and I – during a very busy three days – always found a bit of time to wander about, and she would take photos because she was a great photographer, and I would tell her the tales of ‘H&S’ issues and then one of us would be radioed to collect money or sort out a complaining stallholder – and it would be back to work.
This year she wasn’t there and will never be there again.
So, there is this fantastic event going on in the sunshine, created by her vision, charm and practicality, and there are a lot of people – staff, friends, exhibitors – who cannot really believe she won’t be here again.
We were crying, and telling each other stories of her, hugging – and getting on with the show.
I’m sure she was pleased to know the show was going well.
I know she would have laughed at the juggling of doves, falcons and arrows.