The big show, and all the fun of the fair

The McLean hobby horse. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The McLean hobby horse. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Hooray for the Murchison A & P Show.

This hometown event has lifted my spirits even though it is not till February.

Usually at this time of year, my annual dread of Christmas sets in with much daydreaming about how I could avoid the whole ghastly business without offending too many people.

Planned surgery in the family solved the problem a couple of times in recent years, but that’s not an option this December.

I could crash parties in the week before Christmas in a brazen attempt to lose my Covid-19 virginity but that seems desperate and potentially life-threatening.

I am not sure any stressed health workers need the Christmas present of me turning up breathless at the Emergency Department.

Adding to my despondency this year is the spectre of a new government which claims to be serious about climate change measures but cannot bring itself to have the ministers for climate change and the environment within the Cabinet.

It was silly enough having James Shaw outside Cabinet in the last government, given the big talk from former prime minister Dame Jacinda Ardern about climate change being her generation’s nuclear-free moment, but at least Labour might have argued the reason was that he was not in the same party.

The same does not apply now with the new ministers for both climate change (Simon Watts) and the environment (Penny Simmonds) both belonging to the major party.

Also, anyone hoping the new government might do anything effective to address the public health issues stemming from fast food and alcohol consumption will not have been impressed at the example set already by the plans to roll back smoke-free measures considered world leading.

We can expect to hear much talk about education and personal responsibility and choice because that is easier than implementing policies which are evidence-based, and which might achieve something worthwhile. Taking on food giants, Big Booze or Big Tobacco can be steadfastly avoided.

It is not clear to me either what is meant by the plan to "update Pharmac’s decision-making model to ensure it appropriately takes patient voice into account".

If it means Big Pharma will be able to sneakily wield influence by convincing vulnerable patients and their supporters, and the media, that they have wonder drugs Pharmac must buy, that seems downright dangerous.

But enough of that. The 103rd Murchison A & P Show is moving with the times with the introduction of a hobby horse competition.

Hobby horsing has taken off as a sport in Finland in the last 20 years, with its annual national competition attracting 300 entries.

Other countries have joined the trend with a variety of events including showjumping, high jumping, dressage, barrel racing and sometimes even neighing competitions.

It sounds silly, and it is, but that does not stop some people from taking it seriously.

Among the group of us who make the annual pilgrimage to the show to compete against each other in the baking, there has already been interest expressed in having a go at hobby horsing.

(Rumour has it that some may have been drinking something stronger than the cup that cheers at the time.)

But I am ahead of the game, being the only one who has a hobby horse.

Sartorially, it has issues — its straw-stuffed head keeps falling off, its mane resembles Donald Trump’s hair and its expression has more than a whiff of insanity about it, not unlike the Donald’s recent mug shot.

Strictly speaking, it is not my hobby horse.

I bought it for the First Born when he was in year 12 — a wobbly nod to him taking equine studies, no doubt to avoid something more taxing.

It has been stabled in my stairwell for about 25 years, so I am not sure how energetic it is likely to be.

Reflection during a practice prance/hobby horse hobble around the front lawn made me realise I will have to rein in my enthusiasm for competing, not just because I am an ACC claim in waiting.

Given the scant information about the competition in the show schedule, how would any of us agree on what was required? Should we compete in the dressage in teams of four or singly? Do we have to make up our own dressage routine? Do we do it to music? What music?

Would we need industrial strength incontinence pads to compete in the barrel race or the high jump? How high is the high jump?

Heck, we can’t even be relied on to all follow the same recipe when that is specified in the baking challenge.

Act New Zealand’s wannabe regulation buster David Seymour should get off his hobby horse and take note.

Even silly things can need rules to get them off the ground.

 - Elspeth McLean is a Dunedin writer.