Orcadian Column 18.08.16

It is amazing what can be achieved on a diet of ice cream and coffee. Fuelled by little more over the course of 24 hours last weekend, Marty Flett and William Sichel powered through a combined total of almost 400 miles of continuous cycling and running respectively in aid of cancer charity, CLAN.

This was a remarkable effort by two men who are no strangers to putting their bodies on the line for good causes. Indeed, given his astonishing ultra-marathon pedigree, William presumably saw this as a brief ‘warm up’ before his next mind-boggling feat of endurance in Switzerland at the end of September.

I had the privilege of joining the pair at the Picky for an hour on Saturday morning, during which time Marty clocked up his 250th mile while William strolled through the 100 mile mark. Making my way up to the Bignold Park afterwards for the County Show, I ruefully concluded that another 23 hours of such exertion and I would be screaming for more than coffee and ice cream.

As for the Show, it presented different challenges. Heavy rain in the run up to Saturday had left the Bignold Park ‘soft under foot’. Within a couple of hours of the gates opening, trench foot and swamp fever were looking like very real public health risks.

Despite that, the public turned out in decent numbers and, as ever, were rewarded by a good show of animals. Sadly, at a couple of the agricultural shows this year, that was not the case. Hopefully, as has happened in the past, this will encourage others to step up to the plate next year. After all, If people don’t show, over time, there is no show.

It has, of course, been a difficult time for Orkney’s farming community. The farm payments shambles, which the Scottish Government still appears not to have entirely sorted, was quickly followed by the uncertainty of Brexit. Even now, despite assurances from the Prime Minister, the landscape post-2020 looks decidedly hazy.

There is more to the shows, of course, than the animals and it was good to see the usual variety of stalls over the course of the week. As well as offering a chance to highlight the work that different organisations do, this is also an important fundraising opportunity. I can confirm that my pockets were bulging with raffle and prize draw tickets by the end of proceedings. Sadly this was not reflect in my winnings.

Care though, should be taken when entering into the spirit of such fundraising ventures. At the Bignold Park I found myself on a rowing machine and in a static bike race in unhealthily quick succession. A by-election was narrowly averted but I may have a word with the Show Committee to check there are defibrillators on hand in future.

Alongside the agricultural shows, the industrial shows play their part too. From whacky vegetable animals and lego models to exquisite crafts and mouth-watering homebakes; from wonderful pot plants and flower arrangements to jams, wines and photo exhibitions: a veritable Aladdin’s cave and too often the unsung element of show week.

Together these events not only showcase what Orkney has to offer, they also provide a time, place and a reason for the Orkney community to come together. This is something we should never take for granted, support where we can and give thanks to those who help make it happen.

After all, we are fortunate to live in a very special community. For those who still need convincing of that fact, I can do no better that point to Marty and William, and all those who joined them, particularly overnight amid the wind and rain, to do their bit for those in Orkney affected by cancer. You are truly worth your weight in coffee and ice cream.

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