It was that time of year again, midsummer. One of the highlights of the year for me is our little village fair. We always seem to get the weather as well. I think once in the last ten years we had rain. It was only a little shower though and was soon gone. In the middle of the village green, they set up a marquee. People from the village bring along their flowers to show. The best flowers get a certificate and a rosette. As a gardener, I like to show my roses off. I spend all year looking after them. Every year I get a runner-up prize.
I was sure this year would be different. My roses were spectacular, even if I do say so myself. The thing is, Mrs Smith-Bowen usually wins first prize. It’s all but expected now. To be honest, I always thought that my flowers looked better. But I suppose I’m bound to say that and I am not the one judging. That’s a job for our local banker, Mr Forbes. I’m not really sure why Mr Forbes always gets to do it. Village politics I suppose. He seems to be on just about every committee going.
Anyway, I really don’t want to give you the wrong impression of me. I’m quite a nice person really. I never bother anyone. I don’t like to get involved in gossip or anything like that. No, I’m always polite to everyone, even Mrs Smith-Bowen. There, I’ve mentioned her name again. I’m sorry, I just can’t help it. She looks a bit witchy, oh my, perhaps she casts a spell on the judge. I know, I know, I must stop being silly. It’s just one of those things; I enjoy the fair and showing my lovely roses. Coming second is still very good.
It was the night before, the weather forecast was looking good, the marquee was up and ready. It was going to be a fun day indeed. I was getting quite excited. I had been out in my garden, giving my roses a final check. I thought I would take a little walk around the village. You know, to tire me out a little. It was such a beautiful night for a stroll, a warm breeze, and the birds singing their goodnight songs to each other. I was walking back to my cottage along Millpond Lane when I notice a car parked up. It was just a little way up the dirt road that leads to farmer Jenkins field.
It’s quite unusual for a car to be parked there; it wasn’t that dark so I had a little look. A big shiny black Jaguar, just like the one Mr Forbes owns. I thought I better have a look as perhaps someone was having trouble. I could not believe my eyes, there on the back seat was Mr Forbes. He wasn’t alone either; Mrs Smith-Bowen was with him. I’m going to be kind and say that they were smooching, although it looked like a lot more than that. Fortunately, they did not see me. Can you imagine how embarrassing that would have been?
So, it turns out that Mrs. Smith-Bowen wasn’t a witch after all. No indeed, she casts a very different kind of spell. At least now I felt a bit better about always coming in second place. My roses were getting their rosette for looking good. When I got home I told my husband, he just laughed and said he had always suspected there was something going on between those two. He wasn’t sure why he thought that way exactly. Perhaps it was just the way they looked at each other at village meetings.
Whatever it was, at least I knew I was probably going to come second, again. I actually felt a little relieved, I’d always felt that my roses were worth a first prize. Oh well, onwards and upwards as they say. The following morning I was up very early, partly because of the excitement of the day to come, but also to take my time in choosing the perfect roses to show. It was a difficult choice as I had so many. That had been a really good year for the roses.
When I arrived at the marquee, Mrs Smith-Bowen had her display already set up. I’m surprised she had the energy after what I saw last night. Oh dear, there I go again, listen to me. I must really sound bitter and twisted. I don’t mean to, it’s just that this year my roses were so much better than hers. I almost felt like taking them home again. Then again, I am a person who likes symmetry. You see, I have five second-place certificates hanging in my garden shed. One more and it would look symmetrical.
As I was leaving the marquee to have a look around the fair, I saw Mr Forbes walking my way.
“Good morning Mr Forbes,” I said with a smile.
“Oh, hello Miss, Miss?”
Five years he’s been handing me the second prize and he can’t even remember my name, blooming cheek.
“It’s Rambles, Verity Rambles, Mrs.”
“Oh yes, of course, I remember now. Are you showing this year Mrs Rambles?”
“I am indeed Mr Forbes; I have brought my roses along.”
“Splendid, well good luck.”
Good luck my bottom, he already knows who is going to win. Still, I never let it show on my face. And then I thought to myself, why not?
“Oh, by the way, I was walking around the village last night. I noticed a car, just like yours. It was parked on the dirt road to Jenkins farm.”
“Last night, last night, let me think? Oh yes, I had a headache and decided to get a bit of fresh air. Yes, that’s what it was. A bit of fresh air works wonders, don’t you agree?”
“Oh yes, nothing like a bit of fresh air to clear the head. And, Mrs Smith-Bowen?”
“Yes, she appeared to be suffering a headache with you.”
There, I said it. I really wasn’t going to. I suppose that him forgetting my name may have pushed me over the edge. All I know is, I actually enjoyed it. I was tired of being invisible, the little lady who people couldn’t put a name to. He won’t forget me now. He didn’t look very happy when I said it. If anything, he looked like he had just seen a ghost. I remarked that he didn’t look that well and asked if his headache had returned.
He didn’t answer; he just scurried off in the direction of the beer tent. Poor chap, probably found himself in need of a shot of brandy or two. As for me, feeling happy with myself I walked around the various stalls with a smile on my face. I do enjoy the fare, so much to see and do. It wasn’t long before I had completely forgotten about my conversation with Mr Forbes. I was sitting in the sun enjoying a cup of tea when an announcement came over the speakers, telling us that the prizes were about to be handed out in the marquee.
I finished my tea and made my way there. I didn’t need to rush as the flower display was always the last one to be awarded. First, we had to see the biggest onion, the straightest cucumber, and of course, the potato that most resembled somebody famous. You may laugh but it's jolly good fun. Last year it was Elvis Presley. I still remember Mr Woodall holding it up and saying, ”Ah ah, Love me tender.” Well, it may not exactly have looked like Elvis but it certainly sounded like him.
So there I was, standing behind my roses, arranged nicely on the table. As is usual, they gave out the prizes in reverse order. Mr Fellows had just received the bronze for his dahlias. He is such a lovely man and always wins the bronze, just as I always win the silver. I believe it’s the natural order of the universe. I was all ready to do my bit in maintaining the natural order when Mr Forbes awarded the silver to Mrs Smith-Bowen. I looked over at my husband who had now joined us. He was just as perplexed as me. When Mr Forbes called out my name to receive the gold I almost fainted.
Perhaps I had fallen asleep whilst drinking my tea and was dreaming. It didn’t feel like a dream. And then he called me again. I walked up to the sound of polite clapping. “And this year’s award for the most outstanding floral display goes to Mrs Verity Rambles.”
It was almost as if I had been pulled into a parallel universe. I was struggling to take it all in. Surely the garden shed gods knew that I needed silver to maintain my symmetry.
After the excitement of the day, as I was packing away, Mrs Smith-Bowen walked up to me and said, “Congratulations Verity, your roses were just so delightfully presented this year. You fully deserved to win.” Before I could politely say thank you, she continued. “I would love to grow those in my garden. What is the variety called?”
I gave her my most polite of smiles and said, “Discretion my dear, it’s called discretion.”