As a child, I spent quite a lot of my time entering classes in the flower show that my town had every summer - I got quite competitive about it, about my placing.

Five Years Trying to Win the Flower Show Vegetable Animal Class

Highly Commended : a large baking potato –
its shape already reminiscent of the humpback whale –
set on a plate, surrounded by cabbage
shredded from the centre of the head
where its waves are tightest.
Eyes for a blowhole, and also for eyes.

Highly Commended : a crocodile
in cucumber, sliced out wedge
for a gaping mouth, radish teeth and feet,
and winding down its curving spine,
a double crest of battlements, contrived
from cocktail sticks and arrowheads of swede.

Highly Commended : a glossy purple eggplant
as the body of a bird of paradise,
wings from tiers of rocket, mint and carrot tops,
comb from sprouting mustard seed and dill.
Beak a nutshell, tongue a nut,
side-dish of summer fruits, its song.

Third Place : the coconut gorilla.
A corn dolly armature whose stooky thighs
and sloping head are covered
in the cracked off shells of coconuts,
the pile of the coconut fibres
precisely matching the nap of gorilla pelt.

Highly Commended : an aquarium of fish.
Goldfish, guppies and angelfish whittled
from melons, peaches and artichokes.
Highly skilled engraving suggests drift and flurry,
fins and scales. A year’s work wasted on the system
to blow bubbles fat as berries from their mouths.

from Hannah and the Monk (Salt, 2008), © Julia Bird 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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