John's Jottings

111. Badges of Honour - September 2015

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 11:25 AM

The members of the Dewcliffe club were very pleased with themselves at the Catfield show. This was the fortieth show at which they’d exhibited Wyeknotte West. Quite an achievement. The screen in front of the fiddle yard had all the plaques to prove it. For something as basic as a plaque, the wide variety of sizes, colours and styles on display was quite surprising. Some just gave the town and year. Others were more informative, with the name of the host club, the number of its show, a logo, and so on. We wondered if the various plaques yielded clues as to the financial position of the various exhibitions and the organisers’ perceptions of the status of their shows.


Reading the plaques in order we could see how the Wyeknotte West team had first done their local shows. And then, as the quality of the layout was increasingly recognised, they’d been invited to travel to ever-more distant events, each resulting in exhibitions even further afield, including the near continent.


Now at Catfield, Wyeknotte West had been awarded, quite deservedly, Best-in-Show. And they’d been presented with a special plaque to add to their collection. But it was much larger than the others – getting on for A5 size, specially engraved and mounted in a wooden frame. The team were delighted at this recognition of the excellence of the construction, operation and presentation.


However, once the official party had gone away and the applause had died away, there was much bickering within the operating team. Some thought it was showing-off to have the plaque on public display. They wanted it put backstage for now and then kept in the clubroom, while others were quite happy to have it on display at least for a time. Chaps on neighbouring layouts got involved and pleaded with them to have it on view for the duration of the exhibition. This compromise won the day.


But disagreements continued. Where should it be put temporarily? There was no obvious space for it to hang on the fiddle screen. And anyway, using bits of string or wire to hold it in place was far too crude for a layout that was Best-in-Show. The only other place available was the goods yard, but this would spoil the artistic effect of the scene and stymie shunting. The neighbouring layouts suggested that they could always lift it off to shunt.


And what would happen when they got back home? Should they pull off all the other plaques from the fiddle panel to make space for the new one? Or leave it behind when they next went out.


By contrast, we know of one layout where the owner, confident in the sublime quality of his creation, and in anticipation of many plaudits it would earn, had built a small shelf into the layout specifically on which to display each trophy that he would undoubtedly receive. But such rewards never came his way.


“What to do with a trophy is always a dilemma,” the chairman observed. “Brazen display can give the impression of recipients being big-headed, upsetting the public and other layout teams. Keeping an award secret could imply that the accolade is considered worthless and so offends the awarding committee. And visitors often like to know who has won what, both at that and previous shows. So perhaps a small discrete plaque would be in order.”


And we thought this was a good compromise. We’ll have to wait until we win something ourselves to find out how it works in practice.


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