Despite a longing for 'normality' to return to my life, I strangely felt a sense of trepidation rather than anticipation when I set off to fulfil a judging commitment for NPS Scotland, last Sunday.

It was such an unfamiliar feeling, as normally I'd look forward to seeing and judging new ponies as well as meeting up with friends in a situation which has been a serious part of my life for the past 50 years or more.

While my head was telling me that my double vaccination would, hopefully, see me through the worst of a Covid-19 infection and confident that full Covid precautions would be in place, my heart was telling me something different. Personally, I was reassured by a person on the gate operating the obligatory Track and Trace function, however I still felt a bit guilty when welcomed by the smiling secretary as I hesitated to respond positively to the notion of being back on a showground.

Home had been both jail and sanctuary for the biggest part of the past 15 months – without meaning to sound overly melodramatic, it was obviously time to readjust to life past the farm gate in a way I never thought would be necessary.

I was a bit surprised to hear from others at the show that they shared similar feelings about 'going showing' and that in itself made me feel a lot better. Thankfully, my attitude thawed as the day went on aided and abetted by perfect showing weather and the picturesque setting of Strathallan Estate with the castle providing the perfect back drop.

It has to be my favourite venue in Scotland – if not Britain – made all the better for the warm welcome extended by estate owner Anna Roberts,who breeds some lovely Highland ponies in her own right.

Like so many other events, this show had been held over from 2020 and subject to the rigours of the Showing Council's 'blueprint' for showing, as applied to Scotland. None of these appeared to be onerous or created cause for concern, unsurprisingly since most of the rules are common sense, apply common courtesy and modelled on mitigations already in place outwith shows in every-day life.

From a judging perspective, I liked the little touch of finding a small bottle of hand sanitiser in my judge's envelope. It came in handy when attempts to pass rosettes to winners via the presentation basket became almost impossible as the wind gathered strength and the pre-Covid-19 system of handing over rosettes had to be adopted.

In addition, I was more than happy to queue for a meal at the very smart food outlet; a seat in the traditional marquee would have been appreciated but the weather was fine and sitting out most pleasant when there was good company and a view to die for.

Most obvious among the Covid-19 rules was the adherence to social distancing which everyone without exception seemed to follow throughout the day.

I am sure everyone attending would agree that this was very reassuring in terms of potential transferral of the virus however for those of us old enough to remember,it also harked back to times when people acted in a more respectful manner anyway and less 'in your face', which has become the common norm.

In some ways, this could be considered an unintended consequence of the restrictions set upon the show by Covid-19 and in this respect it was not alone. Others were also obvious and added a positive contribution to the enjoyable and somewhat relaxing atmosphere of the event.

Returning to an old chestnut of mine, pre-show entries to satisfy the 'Track and Trace' criteria, most definitely created a calmness at the admin' end of things. It was apparent that the secretary had time to enjoy the results of her hard work at home and actually to meet with exhibitors and speak with people – a rare occurrence when dealing with entries on the day.

As a result, it wouldn't surprise me if NPS Scotland maintain on line entries prior to the show for future years when, as an added bonus, exhibitors print their own exhibitor number.

As someone at the delivery end of things at my local agricultural show, I was particularly taken by the quietness of the day created by the lack of announcements over the PA system which was non-existent.

Apart from the obvious reduction of expense, it also reduced the number of volunteers required on the day by at least one person and no anxiety for the organisers from system malfunction or efficiency of the system installed which never seems to suit everyone. Supported by a timetable of 'not before' times, I understand that only one person missed a class during the day and exhibits appeared at the rings on time without exception.

On-line pre-show entries, printing own exhibitor numbers and no call-up system indicate to me that perhaps we have denied exhibitors responsibilities with which they are more than capable of coping.

To be fair to exhibitors, their day is made more easy and enjoyable if they are provided with 'not before' times on the timetable and sight of the number of entries in each class prior to the show.

There is also no doubt that spreading the timetable over two days with a single working hunter pony ring on the first and two showing rings on the second day, removed many of the difficulties of catering with a large number of rings covering many different classes on a single day.

This show spoke volumes for the benefits of a pared-down schedule not least of which was a requirement for only two rings, four judges with their four stewards along with as few as another four volunteers to run the event.

It goes without saying that any anxiety I may have had from attending my first post lockdown show disappeared by the end of the day and I felt much the better for having faced any reservations I brought with me to the show.

As for the show itself, it had a calm, old-fashioned air about it despite a good entry. The only things missing were an ice-cream van, some cheery Scottish country dance music and a small marquee for refuge from the sun with access to some light refreshments.

It would be marvellous to think that all these may be possible later in the year when the miseries of Covid-19 are potentially well behind us. In the meantime, the Royal Highland Showcase beckons and hopefully some more good days back at Ingliston.