In a time of hot, angry air, simple pleasures rule

Punch and Judy came out to play. Photo: Damian White Trip back in time: Brianna, 14, and Colby, 15, Wilksch get ready for a ride on Andrew Duyvestyn’s reproduction coach. Photo: Katrina Lovell
Nanjing Night Net

Mason Galpin, of Penola, won the supreme exhibit with his limousin cow at the Tyrendarra Show. Photo: Katrina Lovell

I attended a country show a couple of weeks ago.

It was one of those shows where chooks are awarded ribbons and there are tables groaning with scones and fruit cakes and creations with fancy icing and cooks eyeing off the competition; where shining horses prance about a show ring which doubles for a footy oval in winter and triples as a cricket ground in summer; and where you can still find a pavilion for a sit-down luncheon served by the good ladies of the district.

Burly blokes in singlets hefted pitchforks and hurled wheat bags stuffed with three and a half kilograms of oaten hay, their faces getting redder as they laboured to lob their sheaves over a bar that rose higher and higher during the heat of the day.

This was the 100th annual Tyrendarra Pastoral and Agricultural Show, or it would have been if they hadn’t called it off in 1942 and 1943 because just about all the men in that far-west Victorian district had trooped off to war.

It is lore that a member of my father’s family has been at every one of these shows since they began. With my dad gone, I was left to carry on the observance, accompanied by a daughter. I remembered my childhood when grandparents took me along and laid out a picnic in front of the highland dancing stage.

Family is a big thing at country shows – this year cousins cleaned up the first prizes in the produce section with their artistic arrangements of fruit and vegetables, won plaudits for their flowers and an aunt got a ribbon for her chutney.

There were no sideshow alley whirly rides.

There was, however, an old-time Punch and Judy puppet booth, and little kids squealed at it goggle-eyed as if TV and video games had never been invented.

Yes, and there was a wombat that escaped its enclosure, causing much leaping and carry-on as it hurtled among the feet of show-goers.

And I kept running into people I hadn’t seen for years and swapping stories about our lives and those of our families.

The sun shone and the rest of the world seemed a long way away.

If that day at the show put me in mind of the infinite worth of simple pleasures, the idea was reinforced a couple of days ago when I opened up my Facebook account.

There is something of a dread in this process these days, where rants about Donald Trump, Pauline Hanson, Jacqui??? Lambie or Yassmin??? Abdel-Magied are becoming about as common as the daily requirement to send some old or new friend a birthday wish.

A distant friend posted that “I’m getting a bit tired of Facebook. It’s all about news stories and they are all a bit the same – plus I’ve read them already. I want to know what’s going on in my friends’ lives.”

It was as if she had opened a gate to a crowd that had been milling outside, starved.

Messages of the small, lovely things of life poured in. From everywhere.

“My homegrown tomatoes,” someone wrote along with a photo of a bowl of the fruit. “I’m just so proud I had to share it with you.”

“Here’s my daughter in a bag,” wrote another, supplying a picture of a baby peering out from a little cloth playpen.

“I am writing a book while looking after a friend’s chickens and huge fruit and vegie garden and pondering a shift to the mountains and wondering if I will ever work full-time again,” offered another.

And there was the woman who wrote that she had just received a phone call “that made my heart squeeze”.

“Doctor phoned to let me know that Gracie girl does not have a torn ligament in her knee, nor any other nasties and will now be free to dominate at softball in a week or so.”

“I’m in the Solomon Islands meeting award-winning local cocoa farmers who are now teaching others to improve their growing and processing techniques to access global markets, benefiting entire communities” revealed some fellow. “Inspiring.” And a photographer announced she was on location in Germany, working on an exhibition to be called “Walking in Wiesbaden”.

There was a little tale of a christening (the baby wore “her great-great aunt’s christening dress which is 100+ years old”), of a broken wrist just as a house was being prepared for sale, of children born and kitchens renovated, of a son who confessed to being surprised at how easy it was to live without a phone after losing his in a mugging, of a grandmother who had just been married (with photo), and the news from someone else that “oh, and I cooked a chook the other night”.

On and on went the small stories of lives being lived.”My son caught a bus from an unfamiliar suburb to another unfamiliar suburb all by himself (if you don’t count a few frantic text messages),” informed a mother, with an update: “HOME AT LAST.”

And this: “Well, I went to the Kangaroo Valley Show on Saturday”, accompanied by an amusing picture of a blow-up shark jumping castle.

In a time that seems often to have surrendered to the shouted insult and where antagonists insist we take a side, it is worth knowing that much of it is wasted breath, and that true value resides in the small, universal and often unspoken things: simple pleasures.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.