We went to the fair last week - three times - and yes, I cheered and waved at the children as they whizzed past on whizzy things or crashed into each other in dodgem cars. I even went on a ride myself - in a spinning teacup - and screamed as the world blurred, my stomach churned and the music blasted.
|FR did really well to capture us, we were going REALLY fast!!|
|Throwing coins onto boxes of turron - you win if the coin stays put.|
I ate candy floss and the turron that Romy won. (Not all of it! We shared it.)
However, being honest, the fiestas in Alcala la Real this week were uninspiring. There were very few rides and the stalls were all the same; either throw three darts into three different rings or burst three balloons with three darts (so if you miss with the first one, there's just no incentive to continue) and the prizes were truly dreadful. The noise level was absolutely deafening; the prices were sky-high for food that was full of sugar, salt and fat; designer fakes were on sale everywhere. It didn't live up to my expectations.
There, I've said it. I didn't enjoy the ferias this time at all. Each time we went, I returned feeling my soul had suffered a little more damage. I go thinking that I love fairs and whilst this was obviously a disappointing one, it felt worse than that - in some way, this fair was damaging. And I should have learned after the first visit.. like my eldest son.
Because Mateo sussed it all out on the first evening, when he went with his friends. He gave it a good go - staying out for three hours. He spent just 20 centimos (like 20p) - arriving home at 11.00, full of enthusiasm only for the kebab he'd bought on the way home, which he had clearly really enjoyed. As for the fair, he didn't visit it again despite our encouragement. Why did we feel we had to encourage him to go again? Well, because that is what everyone else was doing. I have to admire Mateo's clarity of mind despite being only 13 and of an age when most youngsters do what most other youngsters do. He felt no obligation to go just because it was there once he'd established that there was nothing there to interest him.
I think things have changed since the fairgrounds of my own youth - or am I just seeing things through time's rose-coloured spectacles? Weren't they full of stalls where you could win a goldfish in a bag; where real coconuts could be won at the shies; where rubber ducks bobbed around watery canals, smiling and resisting the hook; and didn't the rides include gorgeous galloping-horse merry-go-rounds, helterskelters, big dippers, waltzers and ghost trains - and of course, dodgems which are one of the sole survivors that seemed familiar. Yes, they were noisy; yes, there was the all-pervading smell of hot dogs, onions and candy floss(even then full of fat, sugar and salt) and there was always music but not so loud it was painful, relentlessly reducing people to yelling or being totally subdued. Was it better then I wonder - or I kidding myself?
Fairgrounds have always been about show and amusement and fun. Passing through a place to temporarily lighten the load and the purses of the more permanent inhabitants, providing a glimpse of a 'romantic', bohemian life. Nowadays, a brisk and efficient team arrives a few days prior to the opening of the fair and sets about with power tools, rigging, poles and wires; great modern trucks pull up and disgorge their contents which are quickly converted into rides or stalls. And when the music starts, it drowns out all conversation and forces the heart to beat at an unnatural speed. This modern fairground does not bring much that is genuinely good with it.
And it makes me think back a few months to the Etnosur Fiestas, when our children so enjoyed the simple wooden games that they played in the main square and how different was the atmosphere then, with happy smiling people on the streets, talking to each other and sharing in the fun that was going on around them. I know which we will remember most in years to come. But I do regret the decline of the fair and hope that this time was just a particularly poor show and not one to measure future fairs to come. Because, next time, without being a stick-in-the mud, when the fair next comes to town, if it doesn't set me alight on the first visit, I will take a leaf out of Mateo's book and not go back again to find out why.
Are there are any wonderful fairs happening anywhere in the world? What makes them good? I really would like to know.