The Fair proper - ie the bit where travelling carnies take money from punters - feels a bit like Coney Island in it's heyday, or at least it feels how I think Coney Island would have felt. It is noisy, brash, extremely colourful, loud and a thing that you go to just because other people go there. But there is another side to Hull Fair, in that it co-incides with 'traveller' Parliaments. Outside town, the four 'traveller' sites expand massively, and spontaneous sites arise wherever possible. I would use the word 'Gypsy' to describe 'traveller' but political correctness has told me that I am not allowed to describe these people as such. This is despite the fact that real Gypsies, or Romanies, do refer to themselves as Gypsies. Adding to the confusion is that the Gypsy culture has been added to by a bunch of New Age hippies, drop outs and people seeking an alternative lifestyle.
The Gypsy Parliaments sound fascinating: there is horse trading (literally), dispute resolution, weddings, divorces and social gatherings, all of which outsiders are excluded from. These events occur not in the Funfair but in the camps that spring up outside and around Hull during the Fair. It is a mysterious and unconnected world, dramatically removed from the Ivory Tower of academia that we can now both claim to inhabit, and while I am thinking "Vive La Difference!", I am also thinking that I would not want to share this world for all the tea in China, even the Fairtrade stuff. Caravans are just too cold.
Me, RHB and Chris descend on the Fair just at the right time: it is shutting down for the night and there is an air of disreputableness about everyone and the rides which are still open. We wander the aisles, and I win a Light Sabre by hooking little duckies with a magnet. Chris and Nel disappear into a house that advertises "Get lost in the maze" for so long that I think they're kidnapped, and later we all have a go on the Dodgem cars. Among all of this, RHB and self inexplicably decide to go for a ride on some thing that looks like an eighty foot long pendulum. As we discover, about a minute after getting on the ride, this is becuse it IS an eighty foot pendulum. After about three minutes of G forces and stomach churning action, I am getting a little bored, while RHB just wants it to stop, so we are both grateful as it settles into the dismount position. Unfortunately, the roustabouts decide that as we are the last ride of the night (or something) they will give us a bit longer, so the ride takes off again, flinging us into the air with gay abandon. By this time, my jocular comments to Red are becoming a little forced, because I've suddenly become mindful that Hull is an epicentre of subsidence, and as each swing reaches it's apogee, the ride gives a little lurch, and I'm picturing two little orphan cats. Red just wants it to stop. Eventually it does, and we get off. Surpassed only by buying Large Villas, it is a significant 'What were we thinking?' moment.
We have missed the previous Fair (last year) and unless someone like Chris comes again at the same time next year (she is a great observer of nuance in crowds, and sees stuff we just do not notice) this may well be our last HullFair. It is definitely interesting, full of sulky teenagers, wandering families and a whole strata of human society who just look lost, and would do no matter what environemnt they find themselves in. AT the same time, we have great fun, as we are all avid people watchers. The people that attend Hull Fair are divided into a few categories. These are:
1). Teenagers on dates
2). Teenagers who wish they were on dates
3). Teenagers who try to give the appearance that they could have been on a date if they had wanted to but are having fun anyway
4). Amateur photographers trying to get gritty photos of the 'real people'
6). Families pushing pushchairs. This is the strangest category, mainly because if the intention is to give the child a sensory experience, they could have saved themselves a long bus ride (or difficult park) by just strapping their bambino to the back of a friendly neighbourhood dog and driven it (and said child) into their local pub during Karoake night. For the child the experience would have been the same.
Nevertheless, I would have to say that Hull Fair is one of those brilliant social anomalies that should continue forever, unadvertised, un-branded and MacDonald's free.
|Hull Fair 08|
Next day, on the local news, a report tells of how the ride we had been on got stuck when a couple of guide cables snapped. Minds are made up - Hull Fair 08 may well be the only time the event appears in this infrequent report.