Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fair play

Thame Fair is an institution round these parts and like all great institutions it’s barely changed in at least 25 years. It cuts the whole of Thame High Street off, a logistical and economic nightmare, and coincides with Thame Show – the largest one day agricultural show in the country. The two events together are the highlight of the town’s social calendar.

When we were at school, it would all start the night before it actually opened. Wednesday night was for setting up. We used to have the day off for Thame Show on the Thursday, so Wednesday night was free. Wednesday served three purposes; firstly, to check out what was new, to see if there was the opportunity to test the rides for free, and to get a fair job.

All, completely fanciful; there was never anything new, nobody ever tested the rides and why would hardened fair ride owners cut into their profit margins by handing jobs out to twelve years olds?

Because of school the next day, mums and dads throughout the county locked down their children for Thursday’s opening night. Those who did make it out would turn up on Friday morning with stories of how one of the rides had broken and killed someone. Usually a car had flown off the Tri-Star hitting the Town Hall. Oddly, the Thame Gazette chose never to feature the story; which suggested that there was some grand conspiracy, Thame’s resident hacks had bigger stories to cover, like the new tree that’s being planned for the war memorial or it was complete braggadocio.

Friday was The Night. The whole school would descend on the town; cars from the surrounding villages would stack up round the ring road waiting for clearance to drop their payload of children off at the end of the High Street. Kids would walk around four stone heavier laden ten pence pieces in their pockets. It was an egalitarian social event, because whether you were cool or a geek everyone could go down the fair.

Friday was the night Wiggazz finished his shift at Budgens and between leaving its front door and meeting us at the arcades two hundred yards away; had blown his week’s wages on slot machines. It was when Choggaz spent the night comparing Star Wars strategies some mystical lard arse and the night we encountered Gauntlet; a revolutionary game you could play with your mates and keep your characters power up by putting more money in. As a result it ate money.

Saturday was best kept clear. Rumours were abound that ‘posses’ from Aylesbury, Wallingford and all obscure villages in the surrounding area would turn up. Apparently (though typically, this again was missed by the paper) the fair would end in a massive riot with all the posses and fair workers scrapping it out for supremacy. For years I imagined that all these posses had club houses and robust governance structures and they planned their assaults meticulously. In truth it was just kids you didn’t recognise from school.

We went to the fair last night with Millie. Nothing has changed. Presumably it’s ludicrously expensive to paint a fair ride as each one is stuck in a timewarp. Like the ride which featured Ally G or the one that screamed ‘WASSSUP’ every two minutes, or the stall where you could win a cuddly Crazy Frog. I’m sure the Superbowl ride had a painting of Dan Marino on it. I found myself staring at people my age trying to regress them in my mind back to the school days. If you could take 3 stone and 20 years off their faces then, yes, they were from school. Yes, like us they have children and like us they have to go home at 7.30. But essentially, everything is the same. Now, like then, these people hang around in groups barely making eye contact with each other. And that’s just the way it should be.


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