The Devon County Showground has been my home for most of this week as I travelled west on Wednesday afternoon with the Mighty Patou Show team. I was once again 'flying solo' as Sue and Gus stayed at home.
Devon is a cracking show, the alpaca marquees are on top of a hill looking down on the rest of the show (how appropriate) and there is a lovely grassy area at the back where the happy campers stay on our illegal campsite. Having looked at the weather forecast I had chosen the 'tent within a tent' method of staying dry and with both tents being of the pop up variety I was very quickly set up and welcoming visitors for beer and sausages!
Thursday was our day, all the coloured alpacas were to be shown, leaving the other sort, you know, the see through ones, for Friday. This meant that there would be a flurry of activity as we had consecutive classes. I teamed up with Simon from Moonsbrook who was also flying solo and as I introduced him to coloured Huacayas on Thursday he let me into the see-through Suri world on Friday.
First up for us was little Patou Viking, on his show debut in the junior black male class. Sue and I had realised when loading up that we had forgotten to halter train Viking so it was going to be interesting! We had a few drag sessions and I thought the little fellow was going to fight me all the way but come show time, he pushed out his chest, held his head high and walked into the ring as if he did it every day. The National champion and his stable companion (4th place at the National) were in the ring so I was aiming high! I was absolutely delighted when Viking came third, a very decent effort!
We then went into the next class with our two little grey superstars, Patou Vickery and Patou Wasimba.
I was very pleased when we took 1st and 2nd place! What a start to the day!
However, next was the moment I had been waiting for, it was brown boy time. We had Warrior in the juniors and then Talisker and Tsar in the intermediate class. They looked great in the Devon sunshine, proper colour, proper alpacas. I was starting to feel very proud of our team and with Tsar time coming up I was in danger of getting emotional. For those of you who don't know me very well, I may look like an ageing nightclub bouncer but I am a big softie at heart.
The brown junior male class was the biggest class of the day and Warrior came home in creditable fourth place. Warrior is a smelly little sausage, over-fleeced and stinky, he needs shearing!
Warrior, Talisker and Tsar, waiting to do battle.
So, intermediate male time. Tsar time. Emotion time. Tsar was looking great, the sun shone and his fleece was absolutely gleaming. He came first, I just managed to hold back the tears but couldn't speak. When the judge, Liz Barlow, gave me the rosette I think I sort of squeaked at her. Thank you for the photograph Joy!
Talisker picked up the third place rosette and we were done for the day. Everyone had won something and I was very happy. The colour championships would be held on Saturday morning and Tsar, Vickery and Wasimba would be battling it out on behalf of team Patou.
The team relax after a hard days work and I pose for the camera with the days winnings. (Thanks again Joy)
Friday, I was honoured to be in and out of the ring with see-through Suris as Moonsbrook had a string of great results. Opposite end of the alpaca spectrum for me but they are intriguing beasts those Suris. Strong, feisty and a little bit mad, but beautiful when they are in full flow, but no, we won't be wavering from the fluffy path of darkness.
Late on Friday we were told that the main show was cancelled on Saturday, torrential rain overnight, every night, meant the car parks were mud baths and people simply couldn't get on to the show ground. It is the first time in 119 years that they have had to cancel a days showing. Splendidly the alpaca showing and the colour championships would carry on regardless. Less silly questions to answer at the pens and a concentration of breeders without distractions.
Vickery was in first and was awarded Reserve Champion Grey Male behind Di Davies' big boy. What a start to the day, again.
It was then brown time and Tsar was also awarded Reserve Champion brown male behind a Classical Mile End junior with a stunningly dense fleece. No complaints there and emotions under control.
Tsar, exhausted by his exploits spent the rest of the day fast asleep.
Overall a hugely successful and enjoyable show for us. I now have two days at home before setting off with the Mighty Patou Show team to the Royal Bath and West Show. This time I will be accompanied by Gus and his best mate George so I will once again be relegated to my role of Patou photographer and cooker of sausage. Happy days.