I've been blog-walking recently, with some chattering about travelling as a writer (or writing as a traveller?) here, on Karen G's great blog, and here on Ros Adam's - it is especially wonderful of Ros to invite me, as she has a fit of the vapours at the mere idea of some of the things I get up to.
So, after my blog-wandering, I'm back to writing about my home town and its quirks. Travel writing from home, so to speak. Every October, on two successive Saturdays, Marlborough High Street closes and the fair moves in - known as the Mop Fairs. It goes back, or so we are told, to times when servants would stand in the street at the end of harvest with the tools of their trade (hence the 'mop') and new masters would inspect and hire them.
But this was not an organised gathering - it was not like choosing teams at school - I'll have Nicola cos she's good in goal and you can have Enid who can't run for toffee - no, it wasn't like that. Servants jostled for places, trod on each others' toes, may even have speared each other with pitchforks. The ale houses were busy, beer slopped onto the street to mix with the horse droppings. Stray dogs snuffled in corners till kicked away. There was shouting and mayhem - and fun.
Now - we have the Big Wheel, the Dodgem cars, the Waltzers. A great stall called Froggit (smack the little post with a mallet and send rubber frogs flying towards the lily pads). Hook-a-duck. All play different music - which gets louder over the course of the day until by 11.00pm it can be heard half a mile away. The ghost train, with its bits of old tights dangling down pretending to be spiders' webs. Lights flash, children scream, lads prove their manliness by not throwing up when turned upside-down. The pubs, of course, are as busy as years ago - though now it is plastic glasses that litter the street alongside the wrappers from candy floss and hot dogs. Children clutch blue bears twice their size. (My grandaughter won a vulgar blue creature with a band round its head that said 'Tony Bear.' If I could have separated it from her long enough to take its photo for you I would have done.)
I love it - It is noisy and smelly and disrupts the polite order of things.
Yes - this happens on two consecutive Saturdays. In between, the fair retreats to the common. For our ancient charter, which allows this fair to continue, stipulates that it must clear the High Street by midnight, leaving everything clean for the righteous who must put all this revelry behind them and go the church on Sunday morning.
Such a wonderful, ridiculous collision of tradition and modern celebrations! Do you have anything like this where you live?