Tuesday, 29 May 2007


This past weekend the fair came to town, as it does each final weekend of May. This particular fair consists largely of exorbitantly priced amusements, aging carnival rides and of course, the usual carnival fare; greasy chips, hot dogs, popped caramel corn, hot sugar donuts and candy floss…. among other things; so-called food stuffs that smell good in theory, but in hindsight always leaves one wishing there were such places as food confessionals, where one could simply reveal thy food sins, offer up ten Hail Mary’s and miraculously be absolved of all cholesterol, calories, rotten teeth, future cellulite and spare tires.

The other consistent feature of fairs such as ours, are those humorless nomads, otherwise known as carnival employees. Each ride or amusement tends to be manned by these atypical characters; faces lined and leathery from over-exposure to the elements; hands and clothing oiled and greasy from rigging together their equipment; fingers swollen and nicotine stained, knuckles gnarled from physical labor; and while the ability to chuff upon a cancer stick seems to be a requirement of the job, “jolliness” and “must be good with people”, certainly didn't seem to have been a mandatory component of the job criteria.

Most of the carnival characters sat begrudgingly on the crude stools, glaring grimly and sullenly into a vacant abyss, occasionally rising to intimidate some over eager, sugar hyped kid and/or their impatient parents, like some kind of boorish nightclub bouncer. I am sure they have a lot to deal with, particularly those who have to deal with smart-arses and alcohol inflicted teens, but I have noticed that the carnival really does attract a certain type of individual into its employ - the positively miserable, and they remain so, standing in stark contrast to those enjoying the thrill and vibe of the carnival.

Having said all this, my children were very excited to learn that the fair would be taking place over the weekend, and were eager to hurry along to it. Friday night was opening night for the fair, and the carnival rides were all half price. Mister happened upon at least half his pre-school class there, which was an added bonus, as far as he was concerned.

I arrived with a limited amount of cash, determined that this meager amount would be our budget for the evening, but I was soon shocked and dismayed at how quickly the cash supply ran dry; frittered away into thin air it seemed, for we certainly had nothing significant to show for it. Nevertheless, we did enjoy three rides (my young ones being very easily pleased) and managed to escape with that mandatory bag of candy floss that is said to be “for the kids”.

Saturday and Sunday are the serious carnival days. Everything is full price and there are more exhibits, craft sellers, and a petting zoo. Sunday caps off the carnival with a parade, which mainly consisted of local business people and politicians, and also fancy cars owners who had been summonsed to chauffeur some posing old codgers, whose identities I hadn’t the foggiest about, but the parade is really an illustration of town spirit, and with that in mind, it was indeed, a great success.

Today in the aftermath, I took Missy Mopps to her ballet class, which takes place in a hall alongside the carnival grounds. Since parents are not invited to witness classes for that age group (parents are seen as a distraction – and rightfully so, from what I have witnessed), I decided to venture out and gather a glimpse of the carnival clean up effort, but much to my disbelief, there was nothing left.

At some stage through the course of the past night, those diligent rough bastards of the carnival had packed up the entire show and hit the road, and what remained was our humble town park; a pristine picture of how it stands on any other given day. If one was to venture into town for the first time, one would never have known that this land had only yesterday, been teeming with people, colour and noise. And as I stood there taking in that still and unspectacular scene, I thought I might allow myself to delve into the deeper layers of what I was witnessing, so I took myself for a wander around the park, and allowed myself to feel.

It is an interesting thing to do; to return to the site of particular and recent activity. If one allows oneself, one can feel the flurry of activity still churning in the atmosphere like a disturbed river bed, whereby the water is left muddied and unclear. As I walked, I noticed the faint outline of a square. A shallow pool had been resting there the day before; my son had paddled a little boat in it; he had stood upon that very spot, feet bare and waiting in line for his turn. I walked around a playground perimeter fence; we had stood there Friday evening in a long impatient line up, consisting of overly excited children, surly teens and tired parents, all waiting for the tardy ticket collectors to open up their booths.

I meandered over to where a large stage had been set up the day before; a band had been playing there. The stage was now gone, but the green tiered bench we had sat upon while eating hot dogs, remained, and I imagined us sitting there, munching away to the tune of a howling child who had just spilled the entire contents of his lemonade onto the grass below. I could still feel us there.

I then moved over to a square patch of earth that had temporarily housed the petting zoo. Remnants of straw were scattered upon the hoof trampled grass. It amazed me to think that this small fragment of land was completely surrounded by people, just yesterday - 5 or 6 people deep in some places, and a dozen rabbits hopping behind the fence; dodging a brood of fluffy chicks. A piglet and lamb scurried in another pen, while a tiny pony nibbled at tufts of grass alongside a calf; a solitary llama stood alone in the remaining pen, peering our from behind the hairy fringe hanging over his eyes. Children clung to the fence in the hope of being asked if they might like to hold one of the smaller animals. My son was patient and was finally rewarded which the chance to hold a chick, which he said was warm and soft in his gentle hand. We each crouched down to stoke the chick held loosely in his grip, which seemed surprisingly calm and happy to oblige, despite the excitement surrounding its temporary environment.

On my way back to the ballet hall, I passed a concrete picnic table, such as the type commonly found in parks everywhere. I noticed six extinguished cigarette buts lying discarded in the well trodden grass surrounding the table. These buts were fresh; their filters still white, appearing not to have endured much time on the ground. I concluded that they must have been smoked yesterday. Two buts had been thrown to the ground when the smokers were done with them; embers of ignited tobacco left to wane, dulling and transforming to grey ashen conclusion. The other buts were crushed on one end, snuffed out by a rubber soled toe; an action that had left a sooty smear on the ground.

Yesterday people had stood right there and smoked those cigarettes, and in a way they were still there, with me standing like a future ghost in their circle, or perhaps traces of these yesterday smokers were now encircling me while I stood pondering, and it struck me that much of the weekend’s energy was still present in the park as I walked. The faint smell of hot cinnamon donuts wafted in the air as black birds pecked feverishly at minute food particles that had been scattered over the lawn. The energy stirred and it hummed. It hung in the trees like dark bats and swirled along the ground like tumble weed carousing across a dusty plain, and I wondered if that energy might still be there next week, when I returned for my daughter’s next ballet class.

There are ghosts everywhere and in everything, you know. If you don’t believe in ghosts, you are just not looking hard enough.


monkeyinabox said...

I was ALMOST looking forward to the fair this year. heh heh. Great observations. Amazing how something in the eye of a child can be so wonderful and to us as adults, it's nothing but a place that sucks up our money and gives us little back in forms of entertainment or value, or even memories.

Scotty said...

Sounds just like the Royal Adelaide Show, eh, strauss? Ridiculous entry fee, overpriced rides, overpriced food and drink, surly ride operators, crappy side-show alley with cheap prizes - thank heavens for the art and craft displays and the arena events of wood chopping, etc, or else I wouldn't go at all.

Ghosts? Yeah, the money that used to be in my wallet...



strauss said...

The RAS is WAY better, although this fair had similarities to the crappy side show alley, on a smaller scale. I too, prefer the other exhibits at the show than the amusement rip off section. The dairy foods hall was always a family favourite - ice cream mmmmm!Also the animals. I always loved the show as a kids, I wouldn't be able to sleep for a week, before our scheduled day to go.

Muse said...

Places like airports give me the same feeling. The transient hoards of humanity shifting through the wide corridors, the high emotion of 'Hello's' and 'Goodbyes'. After a plane takes off, the lounge empties for a moment... You can still feel the lingering hug of a loved one, and the ghosts of travellers past.