By: 26 July 2017
A Presidential Appearance

Patrick Walker is elected president of his village agricultural show and finds power in the people

Perhaps you have had your fill of elections, but I have important news for Donald Trump and for you. It is official: I am the president.

Furthermore, unlike Mr Trump, I was elected by a clear majority, and so far there have been no protest demonstrations.

There are other dissimilarities between my appointment and those of most leaders. I did not put myself forward for the job, and indeed found out what I had become only after my election. Such is the democratic process that drives our village agricultural show.

Offering two committee members a drink in the pub, they politely replied that my generosity was unnecessary.

“Don’t worry,’” I said. “It will stop before long when I am sacked from the post.”

Both of them laughed with gusto. “Sacked lad? You’ll be lucky if you are ever allowed to leave now they’ve got you.”

Within minutes I was expected to exercise my presidential powers. The committee were hotly debating last year’s tug of war, which had apparently been won by the ladies. The question was whether the men had let them, or as the ladies contended, whether they had proved their physical, as well as intellectual, superiority. I was asked to settle the argument, which would have been difficult in any circumstances, but was a particular challenge when I did not witness the event. I scoured my instantly empty mind for an answer and hoped my silence would be interpreted as judicial consideration.

Finally, I pronounced that I could well believe that it was the ladies who dug their heels in.

Miraculously this appeared to satisfy everybody and we returned to the pressing problem posed by unintentionally asking a teetotaller to judge the homemade liqueur class.

Tension mounted as the big day approached, with storm clouds threatening the mostly blue skies and alarming reports of reduced entries to the pony classes and the possible illness of Punch and/or Judy. I asked whether I was expected to make a speech but was told, “we don’t do that sort of thing” and that my duties would be limited to drawing the raffle and sorting out any disputes. My enquiry as to “what sort of disputes” was deflected with the skill of senior counsel intent on failing to meet each and every request for further information.

The day was glorious with sunshine, a light breeze and just sufficient cloud to remind everybody that they were in God’s own county. The marquee doors were closed and the judging commenced in such secrecy that I will never know whether the sloe gin and rhubarb whisky were actually tasted. The raspberry liqueur was marked down for having pips: I looked in vain for evidence on the judge’s teeth!

Particularly at a time of terror attacks and political tensions, it was good to see so many people enjoying themselves, whether admiring sheep, jumping their pony, or testing their strength. But for me, the most rewarding thing was to see how the event had come together when a small community had put its mind and its hands to an event that could support important charities and hopefully bring people closer.

More recently, the same energy has been used to incredibly powerful effect in Manchester and London, where a suicide bomber’s shrapnel and a 24-storey blaze of flammable cladding have proved the power of community spirit in the face of evil and administrative ineptitude.

These are troubled times but the goodness and decency in the overwhelming majority of individuals remains cause for hope and occasional celebration.