Twelve-inch bean, twelve-foot sunflower

Measuring up for a prize-winning bean

All around the village, there’s the sound of polishing, beating, buzzing, chopping, cutting and the snapping shut of steel rulers as bakers, beekeepers, bloom growers and the proud tillers of Calverley soil prepare for the annual show.

Never have carrots been so orange, or cauliflowers so caterpillar-free. The peas in the pods are so alike, they could be octuplets and dahlia petals have been curled, coaxed and teased to perfection.

There is still a week to go and I have high hopes that my twelve-inch runner bean will burst into giantism and take the prize for the longest, though probably not tastiest bean. The competition is strong, last year’s 21 inches will take some beating, but I have it on good authority that growth hasn’t been good on the allotments and I’m hoping my bean plant’s diet of cold tea and unauthorised visits from the cat will give it a last-minute spurt. Noel flinched when I asked him to get the tape measure and follow me, muttering something about quality, not quantity until he saw we were headed for the bean patch. What else did he think we were measuring?

I was hoping to enter my giant sunflower which must surely be the largest in the whole of Leeds until I noticed it’s a children’s class – maybe I could send it with four-year-old Oskar from next door, it’s not really cheating, I gave him some of the seeds to grow for himself, but I think he ate them. My sunflower’s at least 12ft, soon pasengers on the upper deck of the 670 will be able to reach out and touch it when their bus pulls up at the nearby stop.

There is a photography class, but my father-in-law, a veteran of many a show, assures me that arty-fartiness doesn’t score anyone any points with judges who have no first name. I think Mr C Elliott’s senses may be surprised, or even a little shocked by my interpretation of A Calverley Scene.

And despite immodestly proclaiming my Christmas/birthday/wedding cakes are the best in the world, and certainly the most alcoholic, they are not going to make it to the show table. My spies tell me the judges, on loan from the Fundamental Branch of the WI and also boasting no first names, are looking for absolute perfection and an adherence to the letter of the recipes.

There were tears by the trestle tables last year when dozens of Victoria sponges were rejected outright, pushed into the bin as Miss B and Miss D declared them unfit to judge. The bakers had made major bungles by covering the jam-filled sponge with icing sugar, the chorus of judgemental tutting could be heard in Rodley. Don’t they know a Victoria sponge should be covered with caster sugar? And the jam should be raspberry, or strawberry if they really must? With one sweep of the arm, sponges were toppled from the table. Village shows can be so cruel.

There is still a week to go and I have plans for stretching my beans and pushing up my sunflower – they may even be the photographic subject of A Calverley Scene.

The sunflower overshadows the house

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