Bridgwater is generally a pretty crappy place to live. Somerset as a county has a lot going for it, but Bridgwater, quite frankly, doesn’t. Since the cellophane factory closed down a few years ago, it has even lost the one thing that people in other parts of the country identified the town with – namely the pungent stench of rotting eggs and fish as you drove past on the M5, on your way to somewhere else.
One thing Bridgwater does have going for it though – fair.
I have deliberately omitted the ‘the’s here. In Bridgwater, you don’t ask ‘are you going to the fair?’. No, no. You ask ‘are you goin’ up fair?’ It’s a subtle difference, but one which immediately marks you out as not being local i.e. none of your families members have married each other.
Of course it’s a complete rip-off – picture hook-a-duck for two pounds a go, the prize being a scary looking plastic doll worth approximately 17p – but I still love it. It always starts on the last Wednesday in September and having lived in or around Bridgwater for over 20 years now, I’ve grown up associating going back to school with the smell of burnt onions and diesel.
There are only two days to go now, so as we speak the fairfield is filling up with caravans and cranes, and kids are starting to brag about how many times they have thrown up on the Rotor, and how their cousin’s mate once broke his neck on the Cage, but still managed a quick go on Freddy’s Revenge before the ambulance could get to him.
I have fond memories of visiting the fair as a teenager. The fairfield was between my house and my school, so I could walk through it on my way to school in the morning, when the site was empty and sad looking, and then back again on my way home. Although most of the big rides weren’t open at 3.15pm, it allowed plenty of opportunities for sitting on the steps of things, listening to Snap’s Rhythm is a Dancer, and trying my best to look cool. I never was cool of course, but I tried my best.
Last year, fair took on a new meaning for me, as it was in town while I was doing a spot of online dating. I took advantage of an unusual date location had two blind dates at the fair. There’s something terribly exciting about arranging to meet a man at the Helter Skelter. One of the dates was a teacher from a local school, and the romantic atmosphere I was trying to create was rather spoilt by the gangs of teenage girls, hanging out by the dodgems drinking cider, calling out “Hello Sir!”
Belle loves it too, and this year is even saying she wants to go on the ghost train. It was only this time last year she wouldn’t even go into that corner of the field she was so scared. They grow up so quickly don’t they? A few more years and she too can enjoy the experience of going on the Rotor and throwing up at high speed into her own face. Now there’s something to look forward to.