First, there are a few things that you should know.
Mrs Steele will tell you, if you ask her, that I am an emotional sort of man. She will also, if pressed, tell you that I can be irritatingly 'bouncing off the walls' delirious one minute and 'the world is against me' down in the dumps the next.
I also have a very low tolerance level for caffeine. Sue will often return home to find me swinging through the house whooping like a mentally disturbed gibbon due to one too many cups of coffee, broken ornaments and puddles of wee everywhere. It feels great to me because I am in the loony zone but I understand it can be a little bit annoying to other people, including Sue.
So why am I revealing this to you, dear reader of this drivel? Well because I have just returned from a weekend of alpaca showing at Alpaca Showtime where I went through the full gambit of emotions. This new and splendidly well run and organised show was held at the Houghton Hall Equestrian centre in Cambridgeshire, home of Houghton Hall Alpacas. Sue and Gus stayed at home to look after the animals and I went in tandem with a small team from the Inca agisted herd, led by my new chum Dave from Ardent Alpacas. Dave drove the Inca wagon with the Patou trailer hitched to the rear.
With 270 alpacas entered and some of the big breeders present it was sure to be a competitive event and so it was. The Patou team, in running order, consisted of Violet (junior black female), Vanilla (junior brown female), Amelie (senior brown female), Warrior (junior brown male) and Tsar (intermediate brown male).
Violet was in the first class of the day and sadly, as at the National, we were politely asked to complete the 'walk of shame' before the judge handed out the rosettes. Violet will now concentrate on getting big and strong ready for a date with a big boy later in the year.
There was then a rest period whilst the greys were paraded before our Australian judge; and then all hell broke loose.
I was in four consecutive brown classes. I knew it was going to be tight as I went in with Vanilla but figured there would be a class in-between the junior and senior female classes. Whilst the judging of the junior brown females commenced John Potts announced that the next two classes would be in the ring together. Now as I have said earlier I can be quite excitable at times. I also can panic quite well. In fact when I panic, I panic big style and that is exactly what I did.
Our pen was as far away from the ring as you could get, right at the back. I was looking for Dave to come to my aid but I couldn't see him. I then managed to attract the attention of the wonderful Graham MacHarg and by using various hand signals and gestures communicated my message of help to him. Graham hastily set off to fetch the 'senior brown female'. I then had to quickly turn my attention to the judge as it was our turn to be inspected and when I turned round I could see Graham coming back with Tsar in tow! Now Tsar is a lovely boy but he is not a senior lady! Panic levels rose to apocalyptic proportios, I could feel my head going bright red as my stomach did continuous tumble turns. Just before I was about to think that Graham was the biggest buffoon in buffoonland I saw Dave standing to one side with Amelie next to him. Graham had gone to get a senior female and had found only one large alpaca left, he was off the hook. I almost collapsed with relief and can't thank Dave and Graham enough.
Anyway the lovely Vanilla bagged an equally lovely third place rosette and a short while later Amelie picked up the nice blue one reserved for first place. That's enough now Millie you can stay at home and grow your next baby.
The judge was pretty rapid so there was only a brief respite whilst the female brown champion was selected and then I was straight back in with little Warrior. A splendid 4th place behind a Qjori boy in third and it was then Tsar Tsar time. All was well with the world.
I won't go into too much detail but I was shocked a few moments later to be making 'the walk of shame' with Tsar. My mood was taking a sudden and unstoppable nosedive into the darkness.
Suffice it to say that the afternoon passed in a bit of a blur and I was then able to retreat to a pub where room service was employed.
In order to get to sleep I plugged myself in to my i-pod and hit the 'random' button. The first song that hit my ears put everything into focus and all was once again well with the world. It was my favourite ABBA song of all time, a song called 'Move on' and the chorus goes like this:
Like a roller in the ocean, life is motion, Move on
Like a wind that's always blowing, life is flowing,Move on
Like the sunrise in the morning, life is dawning, Move on
How I treasure every minute,Being part of it, being in it,With the urge to move on.
In short, I moved on. How corny is that and how fickle too. Ah well, that's the way it is.
Thank you to the people who put my mind at rest and helped me 'move on' the following day.
Here is a picture of the Patou show team relaxing on Saturday, job done, panic well and truly over. Millie, being the matriarch, stands guard.
And, as there was no-one there to photograph us in the ring, here is a picture, taken this morning, of the utterly gorgeous Vanilla.
So, let me see, Heart of England Spring Fiesta next. Bring it on!