It was still only 8am when I arrived at the large field where the meet was taking place and I didn't think there would be anyone around so early but there was already a steward at the gate. Seeing my large UKCS sticker in the front windscreen he directed me to another steward where I booked in, paid my fee for the weekend and collected a sticker for my tent and a wristband which entitled me to go in and out of the show as many times as I wanted over the two days. After that it was just a case of pick my spot and pitch my tent - the meet had the use of two fields, and though most members seemed to be camped in the first field I decided to go over to the far side of the second field where there was only a handful of other people. I didn't want to seem ant-social, but both Sophie and Sugar are very good at warning me when anyone comes close to the tent or the van and there were so many people around I didn't want them to annoy anyone by barking so I thought a quiter spot would be better.
It didn't take long to pitch the tent and sort out my bed, then after walking the dogs the length of the field and back I went across the lane to the showground in search of some breakfast. The first catering wagon I came to did bacon and egg rolls; that was good enough for me so I ordered one of those and a large coffee, then sat in the sunshine at a nearby table to watch the comings and goings of people getting ready for the show to open at 10am. Most of the exhibitors were already on site but a few late-comers on tractors and in vintage cars came slowly through the entrance, and stewards and programme sellers gathered near the barriers in readiness. While I was sitting there a guy in his early forties came over and started chatting to me, he seemed to have a reasonable knowledge of vintage tractors and we had quite a good chin-wag about them. It turned out that he was the owner of the catering trailer and went to many of the vintage shows held around the country - he joked that I could always go with him and help do the cooking, that way I would get into every show free! It was nice chatting to him but eventually he had to take over from his assistant, so I finished my coffee and went for a walk round the showground.
The first row of stalls was a mixture of tractor and auto-jumble, with spare parts and bits for all sorts of old tractors and cars, with various second hand items thrown in, then the rest of the stalls were all the usual ones to be found at vintage shows, including a couple of stalls selling camping items. The packs of gas canisters for portable camping stoves were on special offer at one stall so I bought two packs then made my way back to the tent. I was beginning to feel a bit tired from my very early start so decided to relax for an hour or so - I could look round the rest of the show later on. It was late lunchtime when I went back across to the showground and by then it was really busy - I had a good look round all the stalls then went to see the vintage tractors and steam traction engines. The engines looked superb, having been lovingly restored and painted in their correct livery by their owners. Most of them were standing idle but some of them were running on tick-over with steam puffing out of the top - now call me odd if you like, but there's something about the smell of the steam from these engines which really grabs me; I love it. When I'd had a good look round all of them I wandered round to the fairground - this was a real old-fashioned type fairground and the rides and attractions made a very colourful scene at that end of the showground.
When I had walked round everything twice I decided to go and visit some friends who lived only a couple of miles from the showground, so I went back to the van and after settling the dogs in the back I drove off the camping field. I had first met Ken and Shelagh on holiday in Italy in 2003, we had met up again the following year at the same place and kept in touch ever since, though I had only actually visited them once before. My memory and sense of direction didn't let me down and it didn't take long to find my way to their address, but even though I knocked on the door twice there was no answer - it was as I was getting back into the van a neighbour came out and told me they were away on holiday and wouldn't be back till the following week. That was just typical of my luck - I hadn't seen them for two years and the one weekend I decided to visit them they were away on holiday! I found some paper and a pen in the van, wrote them a note and put it through the door, then went back to the show in time to watch the parade of tractors and engines. My favourite tractor in the whole parade just had to be a red one - not only is red my favourite colour but there was just something about this particular tractor which stood out for me. With its brand new tyres, superb paintwork and lettering in all the right places it really looked the part - and of course it was driven by a woman!
When the parade was over I made my way back to my van and tent, where I made myself coffee and a sandwich, then I had a wander round the field and introduced myself to a few other members of the UKCS meet before having another chill-out session - there was evening entertainment in a big marquee on the showground and I didn't know how late it would finish, so I didn't want to be too tired to enjoy it. It was almost dark by the time I went across - a couple of the catering wagons were still open but all the stalls were closed, the visitors had long since gone and the main part of the showground was totally deserted. It was only when I got near to the marquee that there was any noise - the fairground was still open and the sound of music and singing came from the marquee. There was a stage at one end of the marquee and the entertainment was in the form of a comedy skiffle group called Kick 'N' Rush. A lot of people had brought folding chairs and were sitting in comfort, while children and other adults sat on the grass - I stood at the side for a while but then noticed a young woman and her children who I had been talking to earlier, they were sitting on the grass so I went over to join them. The group was brilliant, singing songs interspersed with jokes, and when they played their last set quite a lot of people got up to dance. I enjoyed myself so much that at the end of the night I bought one of their cds to sing along to while driving. I didn't go straight back to my tent afterwards, instead I decided to test the enhanced night shot facility on my camera and take some photos round the fairground. The rides had all closed by then but they were still lit up and made bright splashes of colour against the night sky - the one I thought most attractive though was the big wheel, standing tall against the other rides and more brightly lit.
When I got back to the van I took the dogs for a very quick final walk across the field with the aid of my flashlight then settled them onto their beds in the tent and got into my own - it had been a very interesting but very long day, and I was more than ready for sleep.