Best in Show
Mr Yates has the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen. I should know, I’ve measured them.
Heritage tomatoes they are, that’s what won him extra points last year. It’s not enough these days to just grow a bunch of whacking great, shiny flawless tomatoes: now they’ve got to have crazy stripes and a family tree that goes back to the Norman Conquest.
I was a judge at the Village Fete last year, on account of being a new addition to the local council, it’s a tradition apparently. They take the fete very seriously around here, I had to do loads of research, really needed to know my onions – haha! Mr Yates won, hands down. There was no contest really, even though everyone had gone to quite extraordinary lengths to grow their veg to perfection. I know it sounds ridiculous but it got so tense in the judging tent with all the competitors standing lined up, looking so goddamn heartfelt proud of themselves, I could feel a cold trickle of sweat run all the way down from the back of my neck to my trousers. And that’s when I got the idea – when people get this passionate about something, there’s money to be made. I planned to open a book on the veg contest the following year.
Mr Yates won, hands down. There was just no denying his tomatoes.
I went over to see him a few months ago, to see how he grew them. He doesn’t have a back garden anymore, even though it’s a big space – it’s just covered in hothouses. He’s got all sorts in there, some of it he wouldn’t even show me! And all of it is monitored more carefully than a newborn baby. Monitors showing temperature, humidity, growth rate, you name it. And with his really precious plants he has the monitors INSIDE, racked up on the wall of his lounge.
We were having tea in there when one of them started beeping to show the hothouse with the tomato plants in was a fraction too warm. Out of his chair he shot, like a man whose shoes are on fire, and dashed outside to turn some gadget or other up or down.
I’d gone there with a cunning plan. I was going to ask him to throw the veg contest. deliberately lose – let those baby vegetable monitors go blaring off all they liked, better yet turn them off altogether. If I took bets on the veg contest, you could count on most of the population staking big sums on Yates to win. If he deliberately threw it, by my reckoning, we could split a very fair amount between us.
But now I’m actually here, now I can see the tomatoes are like his offspring , I’ve got big doubts. The prospect of a couple of grand isn’t going to tempt him – he’s got half of NASA’s equipment blinking and beeping away in here.
Mr Yates is unbeatable.