I have mixed emotions towards fairgrounds.
It might stem from the temporary one that visited out town every summer when I was a teenager. Several stomach-clenching rides were set up on what, for the other fifty one weeks of the year, was the market place. These rides appeared at worrying speed and were taken apart even quicker. How safe can tons of very complicated machinery be when they seem to rely on half an hour’s construction and a few steel pins to hold them together?
As well as rides there were stalls where you could win goldfish and very cheap, dangerous soft toys filled with pins by flinging things at other things. There was candyfloss, drifts of chip paper that rolled down the street like tumble weeds, the music was so loud you had tinitus for several days afterwards and everywhere stank of cheap burgers and stale ketchup.
Worse was the fact that it was such a big deal when I was a teenager. You had to go to the fair, even if you only had enough money to buy one hotdog, even if you really didn’t like been spun around on the Waltzers by a twelve year old with an attitude problem until you had whiplash.
That’s not what the fair was about, though. The fair was about dressing up, seeing people and being seen. Mainly, for me, it was seeing other teens- one’s who could wear pedal-pushers or ra-ra skirts and not look fat, hot and uncomfortable- chew each other’s faces off while I consoled myself with a toffee apple.
Then there’s today’s word- CAROUSEL.
This week, it’s not about the word itself, but about what it means. To me it means fear, horror, nightmare’s- think psychotic clowns if you’re wondering where I’m coming from.
There are several reasons for my sitting in a corner, rocking and weeping at the mention of this word.
Firstly- let me take you back to when I was around eleven. I was at the fair and decided to go on the carousel (We in the UK often call them Merry-go-rounds, which has a quaint, whimsical quality to it, so wholly innacurate as far as I’m concerned). There were several rows of horses- I decided to sit on the outer row. I paid my money. The music started. The carousel began to spin. Everything was fine, the world dashing past me in a colourful blur- pretty. Then the ride gets faster. And faster. And faster. In the end, I have both my arms wrapped round the neck of my horse, my knuckles white, my head tucked in, my legs clenched against the wooden saddle. It doesn’t make any difference because I’m sure I’m slipping, I’m sure it’s spinning faster and if it does I’m done for. I imagined some crazy, Igor-esque lunatic, cranking some huge, steam-punk machinery, laughing like a maniac, winking his one good eye, lisping,
‘Thcream if you want to go fathter!’
Just at the moment I thought my pathetically weak limbs would give out, the thing began to slow. When it finally stopped, I clambered shaking from the revolting wooden torture intrument, swearing ‘never again’- and I never did.
Reinforcing my prejudice against all things fairground is the song Carousel by Siouxsie and the Banshees.
It opens with woosie, off-key notes which entwine with fairground music. There’s a nightmarish quality to the whole thing- you’re not sure if you’re awake or dreaming, a music box plays. The lyrics describe small, weeping children being strapped to snarling horses, cockerels and other garish, terrifying creatures by dwarves. I kid you not. There’s mention of monsters- a lot. Images of being lost in a hall of mirrors, of being small and alone… It’s brilliant and absolutely terrifying.
I’m put off for life. You’d have to truss me up and sedate me to get me onto one of those things again.
In fact, scrub my opening statement, I don’t have mixed emotions towards fairgrounds- they’re threatening, trashy, soul-sapping, loud, overcrowded and may just be the cause of me needing some very expensive therapy.
CAROUSEL- my worst nightmares carved in wood.
Ta to Katy for startig W4W and just making it so darned fun 🙂