High Tea at The London Ritz to Pig Racing in Griffith

Our spirits were high as we stepped out of revolving doors of The Ritz after the decadent high tea (or was it the champagne?) even though the rain was bucketing down and this was our last night in London. Our holiday was coming to an end very quickly now. The doorman summoned a black cab for us, we walked to the cab door without the shelter of the umbrella offered, it didn’t matter if we got a little wet now, we were on the way home after a very pleasant evening.

The trip was slow, a combination of the rain and traffic congestion in central London. When we arrived at Camden Town the cab driver had a problem finding our address. Unfortunately for us we assumed he would know how to get into our street so when we passed a landmark near the street we didn’t mention it.  He drove around a little then said “sorry mate, I can’t find how to get to your street”.  So much for the “knowledge”! Even though we’d walked back and forth from the house to Mornington Crescent tube station, to Camden Town, to Camden Lock and to Kings Cross/St Pancras we weren’t familiar with the driving directions. The cab circled around for the third time and we were back near Mornington Station – “We’ll get out here and walk thanks”. There was no point in driving all around the area racking up a taxi bill because the driver didn’t know how to reach our street, better to walk the 10 minutes to the house.  Thank goodness the rain had eased!

We finally opened the door to the house, Darelle was sitting upstairs watching TV, her packing all done. We still had packing to do and no time in the morning – we had booked the private taxi for 6.45am.  Tonight was the last night of our 5 week holiday and I think we were all ready to go home.  It’s a long time for four people to spend together and still arrive home friends.

We’d been home from our UK trip for just under 2 weeks when the October long weekend came around.  One of my good friends lives in Griffith and we hadn’t had time to catch up for 18 months – a visit was long overdue. Griffith is a city in south west NSW , a citrus fruit, grape growing and wine making area, part of the Riverina.  Griffith had a notorious history in the 70’s with organised crime gangs and marijuana distribution with one very high-profile murder where the body has never been found and no one was ever charged.  The main suspect legged it to Ireland. However that’s in the past and if this piques your interest in Griffith you’ll find more information on internet – just Google the name Donald MacKay.

Griffith is a 7.5 hour drive (on a good traffic day with very limited stops) from our home on the Central Coast of NSW, flights from Sydney are available and take just over an hour.  “Why wouldn’t you fly” you’re thinking – I can read your mind!!! I’ve flown once and would fly again but Ty is not so keen on small aircraft….the little planes going to Griffith are SAAB340s with capacity to carry around 30 passengers.  Too small says my husband!!! We drive 15 hours return trip and spend about 30 hours with Betty.

This particular October weekend the Griffith Country Show is on – Ty has never been to a country show so Betty and I tell him we’ll take him to the Show. All of you who’ve attended the Royal Easter Show in Sydney and a country show will know they’re a little similar – both have show bags, rides,  pavilions showcasing local talent in cake making, bread making, flower arranging, needlecraft, photography – to name a few or possibly I’ve covered the lot!  There are also ring events such as tractor pulling, horse events, bike riders, cat and dog shows and pig racing. Previously there had been a set of geese wearing various outfits of gingham and lace but they were absent this year.

Before going to the show we had the Saturday night dance to attend.  Betty and her friends, Lino, Jo and Penny to name a few, are into New Vogue dancing, they travel far and wide to attend dances and balls. Being a little co-ordinated  dance is not for me but we go along  to have a chat and a few drinks with this friendly group. The dances are generally held in small clubs and the women bring a plate of something savoury or sweet for supper.  Very much a  country tradition….this tradition has died out over time in the City …if a city dweller received an invitation with “please bring a plate” these days more likely than not they’d think the host didn’t have a enough plates for everyone so would bring an empty plate!!!! Yes, you may laugh but I know of someone who did just that……

Back to the show……the entry fee to the show was $15 per person and that included parking as well!!! Even though Griffith had rain in the past week the ground was very dusty, being a windy day the dust was swirling around us, in our eyes, mouth and nose. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t step lightly enough to stop the dust from rising…..where was a water truck when you needed one??  We headed into the first pavilion we saw, it contained people with their home-made honey products and some items that might be of interest to farmers. Hmm, farming doesn’t have much appeal for me (no disrespect to farmers and their wives they do a fabulous job but I couldn’t do it) I would miss the shops way too much!! We didn’t spend a lot of time in that pavilion…back out into the dust and into the next pavilion.  This was more interesting, I particularly like the photographic section and there were some interesting cake ‘masterpieces’.

Outside there was a crowd surging (sounds good) 10 people were rushing to the pig pens.  We were caught up in the crush and went with the flow.  There they were, the little oinkers, lying around, sleeping, oblivious to the adults and children clambering for a front row position around their pen and the race track.  Two presenters from one of the TV House and Garden shows was on hand with a film crew ready to call the race and record every exciting second.  Looking at the sleeping piglets I doubted there would be any race at all….how would they get them to stand up let alone run when they were so sleepy?

Let me set the scene for the pig racing…..first of all think small, small oinkers, small race track even smaller ‘jockeys’.  A bell rang, the pig keeper jumped into action, waking the pigs, tying on their jockeys whilst another handler filled the finish line dishes with milk and food.The ‘jockeys’ were little stuffed toys tied around the piglets’ bellies.  A raffle was held before the start and several children won the right to name a piglet for the race.  The piglets were lined up and the bell rang again, they were off….sort of.  A couple of the piglets stood around, one went the wrong way, they had to be steered to the track. A couple of jockeys fell off. Eventually a hungry piglet found its way to the food trough, others soon followed although one cheated and, rather than complete the race, pushed his nose through the wire on the other side to reach the food trough.

After the excitement it was time for lunch, we all know the array of food available at a show and this show was no different. Dagwood Dogs or Pluto pups, hamburgers, pies, steak sandwiches, greasy chips followed by large portions of fairy floss or toffee apples washed down with copious amounts of beer or soft drink.  All those culinary delights that people only seem to eat at show time.  Betty and I chose to sit in the grandstand and eat our sumptuous lunch (i had a pluto pup, Betty a small hamburger) whilst Ty wandered off to the ever exciting tractor pull…..eeck…another ‘dust in all orifices’ experience for which I was pleased to abstain.

Before leaving the show we felt it wouldn’t be complete without a walk through sideshow alley……it was a rather short walk.

As we drove away from the Griffith showground we commented on the fact two weeks ago we were in London getting ready for High Tea at the Ritz and today we’ve witnessed our first pig race!  Who would have thought……………..

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