A few weeks ago, I did an introductory lesson to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale which involved us all sharing our own personal vision of what a dystopian society might be like. Obviously my own view of what exactly would constitute nightmare living conditions - loss of iPhone, coming home to find no Prosecco in the fridge, air-conditioning in car breaking down - had to be swiftly and secretly amended in the face of some shamefully adult suggestions from the class, leading me to nod approvingly as I wrote up "permanent state of war, loss of identity, curtailment of personal freedom etc etc" on the board as if they were the ideas I'd had in my head all along.
Naturally, such a discussion tends to lead to a consideration of the opposite view, and what might feature in a perfect society. Here I am forced to abandon any pretence at noble ideals and confess that my version of utopia - paradise - appears to be happening next week, for on Wednesday 27th July, Nantwich is hosting a DAY BUILT ENTIRELY AROUND THE CONSUMPTION OF CHEESE. Yep, that's right - pop world peace on the back burner, for the International Cheese Awards 2011 are almost here, bigger and better than ever. Established in 1897, this year's festival promises a staggering number of entries vying for the honour of being awarded Supreme Champion - more than 3,650, from around 600 producers and 24 different countries (note to self - take handbag with v. large capacity.)
The celebrity judges this year are chefs Gino D'Acampo and James Martin, and pop star and soap star turned cheese makers Alex James and Sean Wilson, as well as a panel of industry experts who will have made their choices the day before the cheesy paradise is opened up to hungry Cheshire-ites. Tasting takes place in the thrillingly-named Cheese Marquee - 70,000 square feet of dairy goodness to house the 30,000 visitors expected.
*sharpens elbows and perfects get-away-from-my-cheese snarl*
Today - Wednesday 20th July - is the last day for booking reduced-price advance tickets, at just £13 for adults, £9 for OAPs and £7 for Juniors; under-5s go free, so if you have a handy child with big pockets, make sure you take them along. Full-price tickets will also be available on the day - visit the festival website for more details or to pre-book, and whilst you're there, check out last year's Supreme Champion, a gentleman holding the largest and most impressive wedge of parmesan I have EVER seen. I think I'm going to need a bigger hangbag...