Monday, 31 March 2014

Rescued by ABBA.

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!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

It's a family affair!

The BAS National Show 2014. What a fantastic show!
Everyone is thanking the two main organisers, Tim and Barbara, and rightly so. I know there were a lot of other people involved in making it a great show but Tim and Barbara deserve the highest praise, every team needs strong decisive leadership and that is what they gave, massive congratulations!

And so it is time to tell the tale of the mighty Patou over the past weekend. Did we enjoy the show? Oh yes indeed.

It all started on Friday morning. We had planned on taking Gus out of school at midday and Harry, our excellent house/animal sitter was due at 1pm. We planned to be on the road by 2 and we were, but not before a rather unpleasant tantrum inducing series of events.

I was so ahead of myself that I had packed all the show stuff on Thursday in order to leave a relaxed and stress free Friday morning. This is a point well worth remembering.

I hitched up the trailer and carried out my usual pre departure lighting check. I was missing a left indicator on the trailer. No problem I had a spare bulb which I duly used. Still no left indicator. And now....... no brake lights on the trailer either. Now at this point I must stress that I am in no way a mechanic of any sort. Basic electrical matters bemuse me. Minor engineering mishaps leave me bewildered.

I unhitched the trailer and looked at everything whilst the first wave of general muttering passed my lips. Using the mantra of  'turn it off and turn it back on again' I put everything back together. Now I had no left indicator, no brake lights on the trailer and no brake lights on the Discovery!
I stood and looked both bemused and bewildered and then went to fetch my hammer.

I stood next to the offending tow hitch, hammer in hand, but didn't know which bit to hit first. I then went inside to buy myself a bit of thinking time and told Sue that I wasn't having the best of mornings (or words to that effect).

The thinking time gave me inspiration as I remembered that I had a Haynes manual somewhere. Having located it I consulted the electrical section. Fuses! Of course it must be a blown fuse! Ha ha, how I chuckled as I located the two fuse boxes and the fuse removal tool anticipating a speedy end to this slightly annoying series of events. I removed a fuse and it did appear to be missing a piece. A spare was located and I finally had brake lights back on the Discovery. I started to calm down slightly as it was surely only a matter of time before I had the trailer lights up and running too.

Twenty minutes later (I don't feel the need to paint a picture of the intervening action sequence), I slumped, sweating, against the garden wall, my hammer slipped out of my fingers and landed amongst the pile of tools, spanners and screwdrivers which had all been used to no avail. I surveyed my surroundings noting that the garden furniture which was now where it hadn't been 20 minutes previously and considered the throbbing in my right foot.

Silently I put all my tools away, hitched up the trailer again and went inside. I could do no more, it was time to go and we would be travelling with a right indicator only. I was a beaten man, exhausted and mentally crushed we set off for the National! It couldn't get any worse and that was a fact!

A pleasant Friday evening, notable for getting sandwiched between two northern beauties late on, rolled into show time on Saturday.

I am not allowed in the ring very often these days, Gus and Sue enjoy it so much and do a great job, so I am relegated to team photographer and general dogsbody.

We had taken a team of 6. The two junior black Qjori girls, Violet and Willow were first up.

Here is Gus with Violet, personally selected for Gus, by me, as being the best of the two. What do I know as a short while later they were unplaced and doing the 'walk of shame' back to the pen. Look how attentive he is though, superb!

Sue, meanwhile, was with Willow who took a very nice third place. We were up and running!

Next was Vanilla, a junior brown Qjori girl. Now we ummed and ahhed about bringing Vanilla as she has had a pretty rough start to life and as such is small, still a little on the thin side and her fleece is quite brittle about an inch out from her skin. However, her fleece is lovely and she had come a long way and would be indoors surrounded by food for two days. Just to make her feel less stressed we had also entered her mother, Amelie.

Another large class and Vanilla took a fourth place rosette. The judges got it spot on with their comments noting the brittle fleece and her condition as well as pointing out that she had a lovely highly structured fleece, nice words to hear.

Gus demonstrates the best way to hold a rosette once it has been bagged!

After Vanilla came her mum, Amelie in the senior brown female class. Now the records will state that Amelie won a first place rosette and no-one needs to know that she was on her own in that class, no-one! It's not her fault that she had no-one to beat!

So the females done it was brown boy time. Sadly another walk of shame for Gus as Warrior failed to impress the judges but hey ho onwards and upwards!

Now Amelie is not just the mother of Vanilla, no, Amelie is also the mother of our lovely boy Tsar and it was now Tsar time.
Regular readers will know all about Tsar and that for a long time we didn't know if he was going to live let alone enter a show ring. Well he did enter the show ring and he was awarded fourth place in a very high quality large class of intermediate brown males. We love that boy so much it hurts sometimes you know. Stupid I know, but there you go.

So that was it, a great dinner that night followed by a relaxed Sunday watching a lot of very pretty pale coloured alpacas in the show ring and then home time.
Four rosettes, a hangover and a good time. Not a bad weekends work!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Brown boys make some noise!

After a surprisingly dry day today I managed to grab a few pictures of some of our brown boys when I checked them this afternoon. It was only when I got back and downloaded them from my phone that I realised that Tsar was in every shot, bar one. Followers of the Patou drivel will know Tsar well and will understand why he is a huge favourite here. He is a Qjori son and his mother is Millie who gave birth to Vanilla last year (another favourite). Both Tsar and Vanilla have had rough starts to life with one problem or the other and it is great to report and see that they are both doing very well.

Tsar is pictured below with little Wasimba behind him and Rafiki looking on from the next paddock.

Here he is again this time standing behind Patou Warrior, a Popham Thunder boy who we are rather pleased with. Tsar and Warrior will be representing us at the National very soon!

Tsar Tsar Gabor with his father, the big Q, (scratching himself), to the right is Warrior again and Patou Willoughby, another Qjori boy.

Tsar, Tsar Superstar posing with Willoughby, both have the Qjori look about them, Willoughby is showing promise too.

And finally, a picture from the other day to complete the happy family, Millie and Vanilla.

Millie and Vanilla will also be representing the mighty Patou at the National and I can't wait!

Oh and the one picture that didn't have Tsar in? Patou Vickery who follows us around every time we go into the field clucking and humming away. He is very partial to a cuddle and is the friendliest little alpaca we have ever had.