Being the unemployed bum that I am, at 3pm I was still in my bed staring at my laptop feeling my brain rot, devoid of ideas and willing for anything to distract me; so I decided to make the bold move out of my flat and on to the Meadows for a good solid walk and constitutional. The niceties of having a relatively large expanse of green for walking about on and melting from the world become more apparent as the days get longer and the Sun grimaces its little face and squeezes some heat out of its rays, not least because there’s no more satisfying place to have a smoke than blinking into the evening Sun with the wind rustling your hair like grass and the crisp quick air cleaning out your lungs.
And as I sat on the grass at 7.14pm, smoking my rollie and trying to give the general impression to any passers-by that I was a pretentious arseburger by writing nonsense in my Moleskine, I noticed that the Carnival had come to town.
There, on the Meadows, hemmed in by a circle of large white vans and with its back turned to me in every direction, was a Fun Fair. From where I sat I could just make out the odd distinctive detail; flashing lights, the high-pitched scream of an age-old ride suddenly cut short, bits of fluffy toys hung up around stalls and groups of large men huddled around talking.
I haven’t been to a Fun Fair since I was about 8. One of the reasons for this being that I’ve never been able to shake that sense of evil that pervades all my mental images of Carnivals. As a child I remember gazing up at lurid colours and characters that would crane over me with their painted faces, who would invite me and tease me, laughing in their own way that was alien to me in every sense as I tripped out on an overdose of candyfloss. I’ve always been slightly terrified of them and the mystery, romanticism and other-worldliness of the Carnie lifestyle.
At first I was reticent to peek inside but then I reminded myself that I’m a big boy now and no clown or fortune teller will emotionally destroy me over a 14 year period ever again. Steeling myself against all the bizarre and freakish things that awaited me in that encampment I crossed the threshold into the Fun Fair world.
It seems childhood lies or the world has changed. Before me all I saw were cheap stalls filled with cheaper cuddly toys and games that the cynic in me wouldn’t touch for knowledge of them being rigged. All the stall owners were in matching branded polo-shirts, security wandered from stall to stall. The rides were covered in safety warnings, metal barriers protecting everyone from themselves. Groups of teenagers in shiny clothes stood around or blankly pushed money into arcades. Fathers with young children tried to impress. Young lovers strolled along in a completely different world altogether. Blandness and straight lines everywhere I looked.
And out back were parked the vehicles of the Carnie folk. Twenty or so cars, some BMWs, a couple of Mercedes and not one of them older than five years. It seems a good time to join the Carnival.