Despite a childhood growing up in regional Victoria, followed by several years living in Melbourne, I’ve never been to the Show.
This year, unexpectedly, my time finally arrived:
#57 Enjoy the Royal Melbourne Show
In the ’50s and ’60s, it seemed the only ones who snared such an exotic outing as the Show were the kids with fabulously wealthy parents or indulgent grandparents who could afford the trip to Melbourne, the entrance fee AND the cost of the enviable Showbags. Or the kids who, lucky little sods, had a carnie for a relative. How I envied them.
They’d all return after the September holidays full of exciting tales of terror-laden big dipper rides or crazy dodgem cars and they’d be sporting the coolest toys that the rest of us could never have because they were only available in select Showbags once a year and only at the Show.
Toys like yoyos with red and white curly logos reading CocaCola on the side while the rest of us had to make do with plain, ugly ones that didn’t advertise anything, or hula hoops with glittery colours, so much more sophisticated than the plain-jane ones we had to suffer.
…aah, the carnies
Of course, by the time I moved to Melbourne to study at eighteen, no self respecting, cool ’70’s chick would be seen dead at the Show. Not that I could afford it then either, but how naff would it have been to admit I wanted to go?
A few weeks ago, my sister and I were reminiscing about Bertie Beetles, those little insect-shaped treats of our childhood made up of the crumbs of Violet Crumbles coated in chocolate. We discovered, via the internet, that they can no longer be purchased in shops, but here’s the rub: you can buy Bertie Beetles once a year if you purchase a Bertie Beetle Showbag at the Royal Melbourne Show!
Foiled again, damn it!
But there’s a joy in growing older. Now that there’s no-one to impress and nothing much embarrasses me any more, I could jump at the chance to attend the Show when friends invited me to stay an extra day recently while I was visiting them in the city.
As I was telling my friend the Bertie Beetle story on the train, having just accepted her invitation to attend the Show the following day, she mentioned that the Showbag pavilion could be bumper-to-bumper with people sometimes (there’s a whole pavilion dedicated to Showbags? Really? Amazing!) and it might be difficult to get the Showbag of my choice. So I said it didn’t really matter if I didn’t get a Bertie Beetle show bag.
A stranger sitting opposite, a woman about my age who evidently overheard our conversation, leaned forward, looked me in the eye and said.
‘Yes, it does matter. You must get a Bertie Beetle Showbag.’
Aah, I thought. A woman who understands what a 50 year history of Showbag envy feels like.
As well as the Showbag pavilion, there were other things I didn’t know about the Show. Something called Pie in the Sky
which is apparently as well known a meeting place at the Show as Under the Clocks at Flinders Street station is in the city.
But then I saw the plaque about it, and it seems it’s a pretty recent addition…
…it only went up in 1977
The joy of the Show is that there’s something for everyone.
The baby animal petting arena was a delight – though the animals wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to capture a good image – and the dog shows were … well, different, unusual, nice.
There was the sublime…
the humorous …
and the ridiculously wacky…
But best of all, there was this:
So thank you, my lovely stranger on the train, for your understanding and encouragement.