For some obscure reason I've just thought of those Milly-Molly-Mandy books...they were long rather than book shaped and I haven't the faintest idea what they were about but I had a collection when I was little...

And glass animals...you could buy them from Woolworths for about one shilling each...the girl on the counter where you went to pay used to wrap them up in a bit of tissue paper...I liked having the paper almost as much as I liked the animals. They took a while to save up for though because my pocket money was divided up into what Mother deemed to be essentials...like a savings stamp with Princess Anne on the front...sixpence for a bar of Cadburys milk chocolate...one square a day to make sure it lasted the week...another sixpence for the Church collecting box...neither parent ever set foot inside a Church mind you, but I had to go...though sometimes an old lady would give me threepence for 'being good' so I didn't always lose out by too much...and the rest of the two shillings and sixpence went into the Christmas box for buying presents.

When the Fair came to town we were allowed to go if our friends were going...my little brother would tag along with me but he wasn't ever any bother...just had a passion for the coconut shy and the stall with air rifles that you had a target to fire at...the rifle was about twice as big as he was but he still had a go. He once won a fluffy monkey on a stick and was thrilled to bits until he stuffed his nose into the fur and said it smelt just like our cat...

The Fair came at the same time every year so that needed to be saved up for as well 'cos otherwise we couldn't frighten ourselves witless going on the Big Dipper. I hated the Big Dipper but would never have actually admitted it...and there was a Helter-Skelter...it took longer to climb to the top than it did to slide down to the bottom but we loved going on it and it was free...there were carasals (sp) with huge painted horses and a boy in charge who'd swing from pole to pole on the outside collecting the money...

And bright pink candy floss and toffee apples and paper cones of rock hard caramel toffee that was broken up into pieces...and music. Sometimes they'd play the latest pop songs at full blast or else it would be well known nursery rhymes on the little childrens rides...we'd have a turn on the dodgems...shrieking with laughter when we ran into anyone and the chap in charge seemed to spend an awful lot of time pulling the cars apart when they managed to get stuck together...

One year there was a man with a pet monkey who sat on his shoulder...it wore a bejwelled collar and he held tight to the lead attached to it...you could have your photograph taken holding the monkey...who was dressed in a little waistcoat and trousers...but I remember clearly looking at the animal and disliking it's small pointed teeth which it showed when it chattered...and I backed away and wouldn't let my brother go near it.

We needed to keep an eye on the time for the last 'bus which dropped us at the end of our road...then it was a three mile walk along country lanes to home...but we never minded...our heads still resounding with the music and the sounds of the bells which were rung at the start of each ride...faces sticky with candyfloss and a pocket of hard toffee and John's furry monkey which he made me carry because he'd decided it was made from cat fur...we'd say goodbye to the Alvitis when we reached their farm track and then it was just Morva and me and John for the next mile...

Some years later I was at College and an assignment was to go to the Fair to capture the atmosphere on paper with paint or sketching...we were by then so enamoured by the fairground lads with their long hair and gold hoop earrings...their tight pale blue jeans and equally tight white t-shirts that our small class produced almost nothing to answer for a days work...the Fair wasn't open during the day...it was during that time that the fairground workers spent cleaning and on maintenence and were only too willing to down tools to chat to us...we went to the local coffee bar and spent the rest of the day chatting and flirting and playing the juke-box.

I know now that most of those boys were Irish born with their black hair and dark blue eyes and soft lilting voices...and were more than likely the descendants of the Spanish sailors who made it ashore to Ireland after shipwrecks and escaped being murdered by the villagers...

Johns monkey, made from the fur of a cat, lasted until I left home when Mother gathered up my collections of glass animals and Milly-Molly-Mandy books and all those precious fossils I'd found in the quarry and threw them away...

I'm indifferent to Fairs now...can't summon up any enthusiuam for sliding down a Helter Skelter...don't much care for dodgem cars and wouldn't eat Candyfloss if you paid me...