Well, this week was Goose Fair in Tavistock. If you’ve just read the poem/song, you’d think it was in the best traditions of a thriving English market town.
Alas, the reality is very different. There are indeed a good number of stalls right along the Plymouth Road from Bedford Square to Drake’s Statue. But it’s not clear to me that they really add anything to Tavistock’s regular market, which is open five days a week all year. Or the farmers market on Saturdays. What distinguishes the Goose Fair market is that every fourth stall or so is a squalid fast-food merchant (and always of the grease-grease-grease kind), so the whole town is pervaded with a stench calculated to cause nausea in anyone other than a burger-junkie. Yesterday evening I travelled on a bus that stank of vomit: something I don’t think I’ve ever suffered before in 7 years in this area, and surely not a coincidence.
Perhaps even worse than the stench is the noise: an industrial-grade sound system pumping out a continual soul-destroying thump-thump-thump, at a level that destroys the peace even on the far side of Whitchurch Down and the golf course. Why, ferchrissake? Who benefits from that?
Now, coupled to all this squalor is a funfair, with a lot of rides, including high and fast. That of course is a genuine attraction, and hugely exciting for the children. I’d probably even have indulged myself if the whole event around it wasn’t so foul.
So, that leaves a lot of young children having a huge treat from it. And they’re being conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs, to associate a really good time with squalor, noise and filth. No surprise then if they seek excitement in the squalor of binge-drinking, drugs, and hooliganism in their teens or even later, when childhood’s half-remembered excitement has given way to boredom and angst.
Good funfairs, like Copenhagen’s Tivoli gardens or Goteborg’s Liseberg, give you all the excitement of superb rides in a far more pleasant and wholesome environment, without the squalor and nuisance. But here, it seems we have much to learn. Unless of course the whole thing is run by and for the merchants of trouble. Oh, of course. Silly me.