An agricultural show with a bit of aggro
A DAD'S LIFE:The family sets out to enjoy the fun of the fair
WE PARK in a field and trudge towards a hole in the wall, following the existing line of hopefully clad families. Acres of nicely pinking up flesh mark the second Sunday of June when the local agricultural show takes place.
Forget the grassy car park and the bunker-like, breeze-block ticketing booth, this is a smooth run operation. The man in the bunker eyeballs me. “Two adults, four kids,” I say. We are babysitting an additional duo.
“€20,” he says, “Kids are free.” I get a wink for my efforts as the cash is handed over. He peels two old, cinema-style tickets from a roll hanging on a nail on the bunker wall and presses them into my hand, “Enjoy yourselves.”
I’m doubtful, not because the feeling of being fleeced and of future fleecings is present, but because I’ve been here before, more than once. As my enthusiasm has waned, the kids’ has conversely skyrocketed. The show is a June highlight, a beacon of high entertainment in an otherwise mundane existence of play and beaches. The poor maltreated pets.
We step through the gap in the wall and are greeted immediately by a pen of people busied with what appears to be DIY chores. It is the local Macra na Feirme’s building challenge. I halt for a moment to attempt to figure out what is being built. Six separate groups in their own cordoned off areas are in various stages of digging out square sections of earth, glueing grass panels to plyboard and woodcutting. I can honestly say I have no idea what they’re at but before I can inquire my arm is grabbed and dragged.
“Daaad. C’monnnnnn. The horses are over there.” I am pulled northwards without even a chance to marvel at the tug o’ war teams manfully tugging the bejesus out of each other, their monstrous thighs competing to thud the earth off its axis.
These boys are serious. As I am dragged by, by my tribe of small girls, I puff up my chest, suck and tense abs, and attempt a walk of supreme physical power.
I will the trainer of a team to notice me and shout, “Oi, we’ve had a major tugging injury and need a beast to anchor the senior heavies in the final. You, with your awesome ability to take the strain of four small girls, are just the man for the job!”
The call does not come. Instead my skinny frame is herded to the equine arena where much drama is unfolding. There seems to have been bias at work in one of the dressage events where my kids’ riding instructor has been “done” out of second place by someone “in the know”. We are outraged and plot revenge.
For a minute. Before the girls remember the Waltzers and I am dragged to the far corner of the large field where it costs me €12 to get all the “free” kids into one Waltzer seat. At least while they spin I can enjoy my coffee and people-watch. I get nostalgic and tell my friend my first job was at a funfair. I collected the tickets on the Octopus in Funderland, January 1988.
She says, “Oh yeah? Girls always fancy the guys at funfairs. You must have had a ball.” She is wrong. The 50p-an-hour wage was eaten by the meal I bought halfway through every 10-hour shift, as my teenage body craved massive amounts of fuel to keep jumping on and off those Octopus arms.
We tried to make it glamorous though. Within a couple of days I could balance on an arm as the machine started its launch, leaving the final collections to the last minute, sucking carnie-suavely on a Rothmans and dancing to safety just as it went airborne.
We carnies played a game of chicken as to who could leave stepping off until the very last moment until someone (me) fell and caused the machine to be emergency stopped and our Dutch paymasters to abuse us for a good 30 seconds. That wasn’t glamorous.
Nor is this ag show. But they scream and roar through the ride and, as soon as it’s over, come running with hands outstretched for money and another spin. At that rate, I tell them, I’d be better off buying the machine. Come on, I say, let’s go and bounce down an inflated slide instead, pet some rabbits, ogle chickens and price milking machines.
“Yay!” they say, “Let’s!”