Column July 2010
Here we are July 1st and still no rain except this evening a sort of sprinkling. Well, much as I need a good downpour in the garden, I hope it does not happen until Windsor is complete. This show seems to have weather either end of the scale, it is either blazing hot or pouring rain and not much in between! In my showing days, Windsor shows remembered for summer sun were especially 1976 when many people on gundog day took their dogs down to the river and gave them a cooling dip. That year all the commons were on fire and several roads closed because of the smoke and we all took a while to get home, melting in the car on the way, no air conditioning then. I remember showing on one day when a deluge overnight turned the venue into a mud bath. Our breed was benched in one of those old leaky canvas tents one side of the showground and our wet weather ring was in a similar structure the other side of the showground. The sight of exhibitors carrying heavy and indignant Field Spaniels across was extremely funny! Hopefully, the really hot days have passed and the cooling breeze we have here is wafting over Berkshire. I am due to go tomorrow on terrier day so will add thoughts on the show, when I return.
Outdoor championship shows have improved so much in the past decade that people who have come into the dog showing world will never realise how lucky they are.
A phone call from friend Margaret Struthers in Scotland brought the sad news of the death of our mutual friend Sally McComb from the world of Flat coated retrievers who had lost her brave battle against cancer. Sally lost her doctor husband a few years ago now, but on my trips to judge in Scotland I stayed with Margaret and we joined the McCombs for a number of highly enjoyable and at times hilarious dinners. One hotel we went to was owned and staffed by OAP’s. It was marvellous from the little man in Highland dress who popped up like a puppet from behind the reception desk, to the elderly lady who cooked and served the wonderful puddings, shuffling round the dining room in her carpet slippers. The food was unforgettable beef bred and reared on local farms that melted in the mouth and with local vegetables, all fresh and properly cooked, so unlike the awful half raw stuff served today. It was an unforgettable evening. Sally held high office in the Flatcoat clubs and benched some good dogs and was a popular judge of the breed,this will no doubt be published in the official obituary. Then next came the news that Frank Jackson who has not been well for some time had died. With his wife Jean they owned the renowned Clipstone Border Terriers, and was a noted judge. But to many he will be remembered as a weekly columnist with OUR DOGS for many years, and with his offbeat humour and in depth knowledge of his trade and dogs it made him a must read for many, many readers. Frank also wrote several excellent books, some in collaboration with Jean. My condolences to Jean and the family on their sad loss. The world of dogs is poorer from the passing of two dedicated and long serving members of dogdom.
Windsor – yes I did get there!
Situated as it is in Home Park overlooked by the Castle, Windsor has always been the Ascot of dog showing, no difference this year and the sun shone through cloud cover and bathed the showground in an orange glow, several ladies reported getting sunburnt noses. The offices neatly corralled in the pretty setting surrounded by a white picket fence were manned by the officers and committee in their pink blazers and all were so kind and helpful. Irene Terry, the secretary and her hard working team had everything in apple pie order. There was a constant update on the tannoy giving the temperature and warning people that the heat in cars would be much greater, a thoughtful touch which did not stop three calls for people to go to their dogs left in vehicles. I am sure a ban on showing would be the only way to stop this, although in the steward’s office I was told they had no calls on the first day which is good news. Grateful thanks to Irene and her team for their kindness and to Chris Seidler in her usual place welcoming every one in the Overseas with a refreshing cup of coffee which got me energised. A nice touch here is the display of photographs taken over the years since the show’s inception, many old faces here now sadly no longer with us. Among others I met up with Peter Jolley who had been judging on the first day and had come to see other breeds. There are numerous Stakes classes which were well supported and interesting to watch, all carry good prize money which is surely welcome as dog showing has become an expensive hobby. Managed to get around to see several rings and also watched some of the Border Terrier judging where Jane Gillam had a very good entry of 156 dogs and managed to look cool and relaxed despite the humidity. A most enjoyable visit and Windsor show just goes from strength to strength.