It’s Friday night and the Fair is in town. Brilliant.
The rain has stopped, for a little while at least, so out we go into a clear autumnal evening, our path lit bright by the moon and the neon glow of the High Street.
In front of us four teenage lads hood along, a gang of giggling schoolgirls matching them step for step on the other pavement. All roads lead to the fair tonight.
Storm sweeps ever larger in the semi-distance and slowly the smells and sounds start to seep into our sense. Screams of delight, bass-heavy music, encouragement to step right up, the smell of toffee apples, frying onions, testosterone and vomit. Unmistakable.
We do the right thing, which is the Thame Fair Double Pass. You start at one end (those joining near the Co-Op alley have to add half a length to this walk), walk through the fair to the far end, not going on anything, just observing. Then when you reach either the hook-a duck or the Thame Players Tombola, depending which end you started, you turn and go the opposite way. This time you can go on things.
The four ages of the fair are all here tonight. The very young float on boats on a new water park, their parents looking on adoringly. Their older siblings hurtle off the helter-skelter and skid into the paths of the less experienced fair goers.
Then there are the teenagers, stage three of the ‘fair evolution’. They promenade up and down, catching the eye of the opposite sex and queuing patiently for the daring rides. These are the big spenders, and to my aged eyes they benefit from slightly lower fares at the fair tonight. With shorter rides a small price to pay in return.
The fourth generation, the town elders, walk through the fair knowing that their teenage children are hiding if they venture too near. They have had their share of the fair and for them (for me) it is a chance to sample the atmosphere and bump into old friends.
I run into three generations of the same family by the waltzers, then I run into a very old friend, let’s call him Richard, and we stand for a while watching his children smash their faces into the glass in the fiendishly difficult glass and mirror maze.
Years ago we did the same. Indeed, his face stayed that way.
The rides may change, although only a little each year, but the sense of excitement never alters.
Those who moan as the High Street closes for three days just don’t get it.
September is fair month and nothing should change this key event in the town’s diary.
Pulls pin, lobs controversy on to page, retires behind the Fun House to await the letters page next week ...