By Laura Besley
I’m really lucky that I’m not a competitive person. Taking part really is, hand on heart, the most important thing for me. Far more than winning. Making other people happy is also really vital and how I achieve this is by baking my (may I say delicious?) cakes.
I’ve been taking part in the Blakeside Flower Show for nearly twenty years now. Once the children were teenagers and didn’t need (or if I’m honest, want) me anymore, Tim kept urging me to make more of my baking skills. I’ll never forget my first show. It almost didn’t happen because I didn’t realise that I had to fill in an entry form and hand it in three days in advance. Not to mention the rules about how many eggs you can use, how many tins you need to bake it in, etc. Now I could recite the rules in my sleep.
The fact that I’ve won the Victoria Sandwich and the Chocolate Sponge thirteen years and fourteen years (respectively) in a row doesn’t mean anything to me. If I was more competitive, I’d enter more cakes, or scones, or muffins, and have a chance at winning the most points in the Domestic category. Then I’d get a cup and prize money. But that kind of fuss isn’t for me. I did try the Swiss Roll once, but I was up night after night for weeks beforehand and I just couldn’t get it right. No-one will be interested in hearing about that.
This summer the excitement has been cranked up because it is the fiftieth anniversary. There are extra categories and a minor celebrity is opening the day. Normally I get in around 6:30 in the morning to set up, but today I arrive at six o’clock sharp and am surprised to see that the car park is already fairly full. As soon as the marquees open, swarms of us start busying ourselves. I confess to having bought new cake stands. Well, I say new… I do have an eye for vintage and have spent months scouring secondhand and charity shops looking for exactly the right ones.
The judge arrives at 10:30 and a hush falls over the marquees. We all file out past his bright white coat and stand around in the morning dewy grass waiting to be let back inside. Usually I go home, but today Tim brings a flask of coffee and a bacon sandwich wrapped in foil. I’m too nervous to eat and sip my coffee in between making stop-start small talk with the others.
There’s almost a stampede after we’re let back in, but I walk in casually, it doesn’t do to look too keen. Second place for both. Tim squeezes my shoulder and I shrug it off. It’s not like it matters. Not really. It’s the taking part that counts.
Laura Besley writes short fiction in the precious moments that her children are asleep. Her fiction has appeared online (Fictive Dream, Spelk, EllipsisZine) as well as in print (Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, vol.9 No.1) and in various anthologies (Adverbally Challenged Vol.1&2, Another Hong Kong).