All the Fun of the Fair

Saturday afternoon was for families. Ed smiled at the kids enjoying roundabouts and horses and the little train.

‘Let’s go on the Caterpillar first,’ Jackie shouted. ‘Come on, Mum.’

Mum protested, but allowed herself to be pulled over to the clattering carriages. She and Jackie found seats, Jackie shouting to Ed to sit by her. He shook his head and indicated he’d stay with Dad. They watched as his mum and sister set off, Mum gripping the bar, Jackie arms in the air. The ride gained momentum and as the green cover came over, the riders screamed with delight as they trundled on in the dark.

The fair was a melee of movement and noise, each ride playing its own pop music. Lights flashed, stall holders yelled, there were screams on the Waltzer and shouts from the dodgems. They stopped at Howard and Son’s Temple of Black Magic, which advertised Vanishing Doves, American striptease and the Giraffe-necked Girl. 

‘A shilling to get in – we’ll give that lot a miss,’ Dad said. ‘They’re all fake any road.’

‘You can go off on your own for a bit,’ Mum suggested. ‘I want to go to Littlewoods to look at summer coats. How long do you want, an hour?’

‘How will we know when it’s an hour?’ Jackie asked.

Dad pointed upwards to the market clock. ‘Ruddy great clock up there,’ he said with a grin. ‘Meet us back here at five o’clock and we’ll get something for tea, how about that?’

By 5 o’clock, with empty pockets and faces smeared pink by the strands of sticky candy floss, Ed and Jackie slumped against a wall by the clock. Ed’s head was spinning after a turn on the Waltzer, when a guy had stood by their car, tipping it into a rapid spin to take the downward momentum. Jackie screamed so loudly he thought his ears would never recover. The big wheel was more his style, lazily swooping above the town to get a bird’s eye view of the fair. He saved sixpence for the goldfish bowls and at last the ping pong ball bounced into a bowl and he could choose a fish in a plastic bag full of water.

The highlight of the afternoon had been the arrival of the Mayor, a jovial-looking man, regalia proudly displayed around his chest. He arrived with his a following of town clerks and was up for the whole experience – big wheel, shoe-horning himself into a space rocket, trying his hand at the coconut shy. Ed thought he would split his sides laughing as the old boy slid around the Helter-Skelter, closely followed by a po-faced town clerk. As he arrived at the bottom, some of the crowd clapped.

‘Wouldn’t be a fair at all without him,’ someone said.

‘It’s moving next year, and the pot fair,’ another voice piped up. ‘A new shopping centre’s coming to Blackburn.’

‘Won’t we be posh,’ a woman remarked.

‘Clock tower’s going.’

‘No! They wouldn’t knock the market clock down.’

‘And Thwaites’s Arcade.’

Indignant voices expressed their dislike of the planned changes.

Mum and Dad finally strolled across, arm in arm. 

‘Had a good time?’ Dad asked.

Ed said, ‘Look.’ He held up the goldfish. ‘Meet Fergal.’

‘You can’t call a goldfish Fergal,’ Mum said.

He’s my goldfish, I can call him what I like,’ Ed replied, the words sounding somehow familiar.

‘A last ride?’ Dad asked.

‘Dodgems,’ Jackie clambered. ‘I’m with Dad.’

‘What about Fergal? He can’t go on the dodgems.’

Mum took the bag of water and goldfish, relieved she had an excuse to watch.

Dad and Jackie got in together but Ed had a car to himself and enjoyed five minutes pounding the pedal with his foot and gripping the greasy steering wheel taking great pleasure ramming other cars, especially the one with Jackie in.

‘Take it easy,’ she shouted.

‘Why? They don’t call them bumper cars for nothing you know.’

When the cars came to a halt, they joined the queue at the hot dogs. With filled rolls in a screw of paper, they walked back to the bus stop munching on sausage and fried onion. 

The full story will be available at the end of the year as part of a collection of short stories set in Lancashire.

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Blackburn’s Easter Fair