Usually when I go to an Agricultural Show it’s been to gawk at something I’d never be able to afford and wouldn’t know what to do with if I got my hands on it, which, from what I understand, is much the same premise as a strip club.
Lately though I’ve been doing the rounds to promote RIDGEVIEW STATION, starting at Mingenew Expo, (pronounced Min-geh-new, not Minge – new; it’s not a beauty salon), followed by Dowerin Field Days, and yesterday I ducked out to Toodyay for their Show, which was, er, interesting to say the least.
The day started well. I wheeled the ute in, found my little 3 x 3 metre site all neatly marked out on the grass, and began to setup. One thing became immediately apparent. When everyone buys a 3 x 3 pop up gazebo to go onto a 3 x 3 site, there’s not a lot of wiggle room, since all the legs want to go in the same spot. Luckily I had the bigger hammer, so staked my claim pretty quickly. It was then I realised the ease of gazebo erection is inversely proportional to how much you paid for it, and lets just say I bought the cheapest one I could find.
After the gazebo finished doing it’s best impression of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic air vent pose, I managed to get everything staked and tied down and proceeded to stand up my new vertical banner proclaiming just how good RIDGEVIEW STATION is. I tell you what, if Tom Hanks had one of these when he was stuck on that island, he’d have been home in time for dinner. Tie that sucker to a raft and you’ve got yourself the next America’s Cup winner. I didn’t have a raft, so I tied it to the gazebo, which in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best idea. I believe they call that the spinnaker in sailing. When a gust of wind came through in the afternoon my own spinnaker fairly clenched.
The table was laid out with Mum’s best black sheet – I haven’t yet gotten around to organising a flash branded table cloth like some of these other professional authors (Fiona, I’m looking at you) and soon everything was setup; books, some photos of Gabyon and brochures for the Station Stay out there. People might wonder why I don’t mind promoting Gabyon still when I’m no longer involved, but the book was written originally to get people interested, and like I say in the Acknowledgements, if you like what you read, go for a drive and you’ll recognise a few things.
After regathering the freshly wind-blown photos, I sat and waited with the other stall holders for the punters. And waited. Aaaaaaannd waited. Now, I’ve never been to Toodyay before, but after yesterday I think there is a slightly different customer base there than Mingenew or Dowerin. I don’t think they’re big on early rises, and I can relate to that myself, but it was nearly eleven am before the first crowds started to build. In the meantime I amused myself by listening in on the tent behind me. They were an anti bauxite mining lobby group, but unfortunately for them, some guy who worked in the industry noticed they were sucking back on aluminium cans sheltered by their nice lightweight aluminium framed gazebo, and proceeded to have his own little field day with them.
Further down the path were a couple of guys selling Jesus. I saw these two at Dowerin, but thankfully they’d left their guitar behind this time; their poor neighbours could recite every campfire Kum Ba Yah song by the second day. I thought things might get interesting when I saw a rainbow shirt wearing lady stop off for a chat with them, but it turned out the shirt was just her uniform for her stall, not a form of Yes campaigning.
People began to turn up, and as usual everyone follows the same MO. Don’t make eye contact, if you make eye contact you’ll have to buy something. So what you get is people walking past with head fixed forward while trying to browse out the corners of their eyes. This is partly why I got the banner made, so people could read without getting too close. Show punters are a lot like sheep and cows – you don’t to get into the flight or fight zone too early, best let them come to you.
It would go something like this. They’d read my banner from a safe distance, while I pretended not to be watching them. Then they approach and I’d say hello, good morning etc and shut up as they read the back of the book. About half the time they’d ask if I was the author, which given the large photo of me on the banner makes me wonder if I haven’t put on a bit more weight in the last eighteen months than I realise. Then we’d go into the spiel and sometimes they’d buy one, sometimes not. I don’t mind if people don’t, at this stage it’s more about getting my name out there, and I quite like chatting with folk.
And that was pretty much how the day went. Other highlights included a politician’s gazebo almost back-flipping under some strong wind pressure, which I thought was very apt, meeting the lady who wrote the original Red Dog book, and someone telling me they won RIDGEVIEW STATION in magazine competition and loved it. The rest of the day was spent trying not to freeze and willing the rain to hold off. I watched with interest as a rather hippy looking couple spent nearly half an hour trying to detect heat coming off crystals the neighbour was hocking. If I’d known they give off heat I would’ve bought the bloody lot and used them as a hot water bottle.
Finally it came time for the mad dash to pack up and try beat the slow crawl of traffic back to Perth. Taking down the cheap gazebo isn’t much better than putting it up, but with a little help we got there. I think it was a slow day for most the sellers, apart from the coffee van, but I went home a box of books lighter so that was good enough for me.
RIDGEVIEW STATION is available in stores, online retailers, in ebook format or from www.michaeltrant.com.au