Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

The Pontiff on scones

I’m not a Catholic so I wouldn’t normally quote the Pope but I caught a quick sound bite from the Pope’s Easter address, just three words, and they were simple ones: truth, beauty and love. I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure he was speaking about scones.

The words resonated. They stuck with me over the next few days and I kept seeing examples of them; qualities of truth, beauty and love were evident in abundance everywhere I looked, and no more so than at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney.


It would be easy to dismiss the show as nothing more than a commercial stunt, a chance for kids to grab show bags full of sugary treats and trashy plastic toys and for their parents to gawp at the latest kitchen gadgets – and believe me, there was plenty of that going on – but the Royal Easter Show had so much more to offer.

The show was set up in the late 1800s to introduce city people to their country counterparts, to celebrate all things agricultural, and to my mind it did that this year in ways that were truthful, beautiful and full of love.

Hurrying past crowds of onlookers en route to an afternoon shift at the CWA (Country Women’s Association) tearoom I failed to register the beauty of large displays commemorating 100 years since the Gallipoli landings. It was only later, after a four-hour stint dishing out 800+ cups of tea, that I had time to stop and really look at them.

SONY DSCNo doubt regular visitors will know this, but I was astonished to discover the displays were made entirely out of natural materials – largely fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses and seeds.

This silhouette was made from canola seeds.

Detail from the winning entry from Central District

Detail from the winning entry from Central District

Those poppies were covered in red millet.

Standing back was the only way to appreciate the magnificent scale and effort that had gone into assembling the huge displays that commemorated the sacrifice of so many SONY DSCservicemen and women and their families during World War I.

They were truthful, beautiful and full of love.

The winning entry from Hurlstone Agricultural High School

The winning entry from Hurlstone Agricultural High School

Schools made their own smaller, but no less impressive, examples.


As for beauty, you only had to look at the smiling faces of CWA volunteers (including several men who ferried thousands of clean cups and plates out to the counter) as they baked scones, whipped fresh cream, fried chips, filled teapots with boiling water, dished out cakes and served up hundreds of pies and sandwiches to know that the most beautiful accessory you can ever wear is a smile.

Volunteers from the CWA with members of St John's Ambulance

Volunteers from the CWA with members of St John’s Ambulance

The CWA is the largest women’s organisation in Australia, set up in 1922 following a conference held in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural Show in Sydney, and if you want an organisation that believes in truth, beauty and love, you need look no further.

It wasn’t all truth and beauty mind. Things threatened to get a bit ugly when the tearoom ran out of freshly baked scones just after five pm one day.SONY DSC

Regulars were horrified.

SONY DSCStaff were apologetic and a hurriedly scribbled ‘sorry sold-out’ sign went up.

I asked Johanna and Carol how they really felt after two weeks of baking around 43,000 scones, SONY DSCwith more to come the next day, and they cracked a smile for the camera.

(And in the interests of truth those shots were clearly set-up, but I love them all the same.)

My Royal Agricultural Society show bag had nothing glamorous in it, nothing sparkly or glitzy, just a range of honest products made in Australia by hard-working Australian farmers and producers. The popcorn, coconut bars and butter finger biscuits I found inside that show bag kept me going on the long train journey home, and I reckon I loved them just as much as the kids must have loved their glittering toys.

I found beauty, truth and love at the Royal Easter Show, in the company of women with huge hearts, big smiles and endless humanity.

I felt blessed.





7 comments on “The Pontiff on scones

  1. monsoonwendy
    April 9, 2015

    Deb it would have been fabulous. And clearly you were part of that truth, beauty and love. How lovely to be so surrounded by it. I also am surrounded by it here and they all say Namaste to you!


  2. I’m sure you’re exhausted, but what a wonderful week. The non-commercial part of the Show is magnificent.


  3. nantubre
    April 9, 2015

    I adore organic art work!


  4. Pingback: Scones in Aus! | Market Harborough WI

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I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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