Fair DaysSep 27th, 2006 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Personal Columns
But, in my memory, the weather was always like this at this time of year. When the Ryder Cup was disrupted by the weather last week, I looked at the calendar and noticed 21st September – Saint Matthew’s Day. I don’t think the weather was anything to do with that First Century Revenue official; it’s just that Saint Matthew’s Day is close to the autumnal equinox.
Memories arose of visits to Bridgwater Fair, which still takes place at St Matthew’s Field in late-September each year. Was there always mud? I certainly remember going in Wellington boots.
The street approaching the field was lined with ‘cheapjacks’ intent on parting people from their money. The offers were too good to be true, but everyone knew they were, that was part of the entertainment, watching to see who might be taken in.
As the field was approached there was a gateway through which the countless thousands of feet passed. The ground would have been well churned up by the Saturday evening, the closing night of the fair.
Stalls and other stuff were OK for grown ups, it was the funfair that was the magnet for a small boy clutching a half-crown. Looking back now I’m sure it was gaudy and garish and completely unsophisticated, but to a child who lived in village of 300 people and went to a two classroom school that had just 40 pupils, this was the most amazing place.
The rides were often frightening, more for watching than trying; there were constant wonders to discover as we pushed through the throngs. I remember tents that were forbidden to small boys, but perhaps my imagination invented them. In my memory, there were at least a boxing ring and another involving the charms of some lady. Did they exist or are they the later interpolations of a mind fed on stories of travelling shows and circuses?
Is there the same magic now? Where do half-crown clutching children find a world of excitement and delight?
The world has become a prosaic place and there is work to do.
Do you think people would mind if I wore my wellies?