Saturday 27 August 2011

Flower show horror

The worst bit about Lily getting third prize out of three entrants for her Six Jam Tarts on a Plate is when Dan points out afterwards that he and my chic neighbour Annie have been exchanging mirthful looks behind my back on hearing me complain about it in three separate tents.

I won't go on about my third prize out of three entrants for my village scene, tragically cropped to adhere to the rules and regs, when the first prize winner was four inches wider than the allowed dimensions.

'It's the entering that counts, though, isn't it?' Annie smiled initially, in an all-the-fun-of-the-flower-show manner.

'Yes, it's the entering that counts, isn't it, Lize?' goaded Dan. He's been doing this since he was born. Winding me up. Twisting the knife. Picking up the baton and running with it, mockery seeping from every pore.

No it is not the entering. It's not the winning either. It's Justice that counts. May the best jam tarts win. The judge hadn't even tried them! Hadn't even taken the clingfilm off! Wouldn't have even noticed if a tart were crack'd underneath or tasted like three-week-old anchovies.

'Thing is, Lize, you forgot the stars in the middle,' says Dan.

'It said nothing about stars in the middle!' I splutter. 'Look at Lily's tarts. They're the only six that are perfectly symmetrical and not overcooked.'

'No stars in the middle though, Lize.'

'I wouldn't mind if the judge had tasted them!'

'Didn't need to,' he grins.

I study him carefully. Are he and Lily in league? Maybe she's channelling through him?

Or maybe I'm just in a bad humour after the late-night printer/wifi debacle. But actually there's something else niggling me. Nobody wants to come to my impromptu lunch party tomorrow. Including Dan. As we watch the silver cups being presented, I tell him the rollcall of people who aren't actually doing anything else but have declined my kind invitation.

'They all say they're having a quiet day at home. I don't get it. If I'm not doing anything, I'm delighted to get an invitation to go out. I think it's a privilege to be invited out to lunch. I'd never think of staying in as the better option.'

'What about them?' Dan points to a pair of strangers. 'They look quite hungry.'

Ah, Hugh is striding towards us. I open my mouth to introduce him to Dan, but he pats me on the shoulder, swerves and speeds past. I follow his departing figure with my eyes.

'He thought you were going to ask him to lunch tomorrow,' says Dan.

Dusty, meanwhile, has wandered off, her lead trailing in the mud. We watch as a man, some 20 yards away, picks up her lead and ties her to the gatepost. We start giggling. Dusty looks at us as if to say, 'Why?'

'The trouble is when they call for her she won't be able to come,' we overhear the man telling his wife as he walks past to the tea tent. Dan and I are now jacknifing with laughter. We rescue Dusty and go home for tea.

'So why exactly won't you come to lunch?' I ask for the fourteenth time as we tuck into Lily's perfect jam tarts.

'Because I was really looking forward to coming to the flower show.'

'Are the two mutually exclusive?'

'To be honest, I think there might be a chance that I've got jobs to do.'

'It's Sunday, the day of rest.'

'Yeah,' he sighs wearily, trying to think of something he could usefully be doing tomorrow instead of simply avoiding having lunch with his sister. 'Well, I have to make a fly-proof fence in order to protect my air-dried hams and salamis.'

Dan is a smallholder. Or, as he puts it, a tinyholder. Practically self-sufficient except for the contents of Waitrose's dairy counter which fill his fridge. He has recently slaughtered his Oxford Sandy and Blacks, which went by the names of Ordinary, Standard and Basic.

The phone rings. Sally. 'Sorry not to get back to you before,' she says cheerily. 'We've been away all week. We're just on our way home.'

'Are you coming tomorrow?' I ask over-eagerly.

'We'd love to,' she says, without a trace of irony.

'Ha!' I smirk, as I put the phone down. 'Sally and Giles want to come to lunch!'

'They've probably been trying to think of an excuse all day,' says Dan, standing up. ''Well, I must go and get the supper on.'

'You won't have to cook tomorrow if you come to lunch,' I point out.

'We'll have loads of leftovers.'

'Cook less and then you won't have any leftovers.'

'Thing is, Lize, lunch comes in a joint.'

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