In June, Graham, Matt, Catriona, and I headed down to Royal Bath and West for our first show of the year. We packed the vans and set off on the Wednesday, arriving in good spirits despite Matt’s detour through Bristol at rush hour – something we reminded him of all week. The coffee machine and fridge were plugged in to chill the champagne, ready for what would be an early start in the morning and the return of a VVS tour staple: champagne for breakfast. It turned out that we’d actually stolen our neighbours electrical hook up and had not in fact booked any for the week – a reminder to check the tick list for every show. Every day is a school day.
If there is one thing that rugby is known for, it’s that is it the ultimate team sport, you’re only as strong as your weakest teammate. It turned out that Graham’s sinbin got upgraded from a yellow card to a red as he booked himself into a hotel for the evening, leaving us to fight the elements as we set up what would be an award-winning stand. Cat, on her show debut, wasn’t bitter at all when her air mattress deflated during the night – who needs hip bones anyway? Plus, what’s a night without getting to listen to my snoring…
On the first morning, as is tradition, we popped our first bottle at 9am and all boarded the champagne train. I gave my famous team talk to get the troops riled up for a good day of average chat and boot selling, and the first half got underway. During the coffee break I took to discuss the end of my sabbatical, we realised that my phone was the only one with signal to connect to the card reader. As is the way with team sports, we all put our heads together to find a solution. In the end, we let technology have that one. All was well again when, at about midday, one of the show organisers came round to award us with silver in the Best Non-Agricultural Trade Stand competition. Clearly, my competitive streak from being a professional sportsman hadn’t died away – fuming, should’ve been gold, but who’s counting?
It wasn’t long before we identified one of our first work-ons when we realised I’d left all the size 11-14s of our most popular boot, the Tobacco Suede Harlestone, in Worcester. Luckily, the system of research, preview, execute, and review had not left me and Menanta was able to bring them down on the Saturday – nothing a bunch of flowers can’t fix.
Once that little hick up was resolved, the rest of the show went pretty smoothly. Had I closed my eyes, I could’ve been back in rural South Africa with the boots, rugby shorts, and mullet combinations on display. It reminded me of myself: a very curious, tall, pale GJ with a sunset brown mullet from 2007. Unfortunately for Matt, a fresh rookie to the game of ‘odds on’, now has to replicate the look at Ragley Hall Game Fair. He’ll learn. Watch this space.
The weekend was filled with great people coming onto the stand. One of our favourites was Vinny, who literally took the boots off my feet and was willing to buy a well-worn, broken in boot just to have that exact pair. After some liquid persuasion, I managed to convince him to wait for that model of Harvey’s launch in July (plug intended). Amongst all the new faces, some old friends came to share a glass with us too. Spotted on the stand was Bath Rugby’s Mike Williams, an old friend who I shared the pitch with during our 2014/2015 season at Worcester Warriors. It was great to be able to give him his first pair of boots. We loved that people who’d bought a pair at past shows were walking around in their boots and came to tell us all about the memories they’d made in them. Overall, we had a great time of drinking champagne, above average chat, making memories and selling boots.
It was a quick turnaround then as we were headed to Bramham Horse Trials the following weekend, and the Scottish Game Fair very soon after. Everyone was on full steam ahead to get the champagne glasses cleaned; the curtains washed and ironed; champagne restocked; and to get Cat a new mattress.
“We make the Boots, you make the Memories”
Gerrit-Jan van Velze