Why the Mart Makes Me Smart*

*And by ‘smart’ I don’t mean ‘clever’.

Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump.

Just in case Valentine’s Day isn’t horrific enough, in the town where I live you can enter yet another level of Hell that day as the local fair inflicts itself upon us.

Apparently it was all Henry VIII’s fault as he granted the Charter for the Valentine’s Day fair. As if beheading wives and eating all the pies wasn’t bad enough!

Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump.

And, worse, it’s not just a Valentine’s Day ‘treat’. A place to make your loved one vomit from frenzied spinning and excessive candy floss. No. This monstrosity last for a fortnight!

Right in the middle of town. Which, is to say, RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR TO THE OFFICE WHERE I WORK.


Since Thursday, our view of the market square (well, it sounds better than ‘car park’) has been obscured by the back of various great lumbering stalls, offering the chance for you to have your cash exchanged for attempts to win knock-off versions of minions. (Although, back in my day as a kid, if you were lucky you’d get a goldfish; if you were unlucky and incredibly cheap fluffy toy with wonky stick-on eyes that was invariably stuffed with a cardboard tube. Tsk. Kids don’t know how good they’ve got it these days.)

But the view has only been the tip of the iceberg.

Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump.

Today has been ‘Children’s Day’.

Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump.

That is to say, they only rip you off half of your money compared with normal. Except for the big ticket rides. And the side stalls. And the sweets and candy floss and hot dogs. And I swear they only give you half as long on the rides.

They also open early on Children’s Day. From lunchtime onwards we had the joy of perpetual drum n bass, mercifully muffled when the door was shut, but still a constant whump, whump, whump, whump.

And every time the door opened the sound of shrieking. People being flung in the air, teenage girls screaming to get the attention of the traveller boys who posture on the waltzers, kids whirling on their mini rides, or just screaming because it’s all too much (I’m with you there, kids).



And then the announcements of the ‘scream if you want to go faster’ guy. His patter enough to make my ears bleed.

And not just the sound but the smells. The odour of old frying oil mixed with the teeth-rotting sweetness of the candy floss. The heavy drag of wet weather** and excessive people.

**Because it always rains. By 5.30 today it was coming down in torrents. But still they kept on coming. Because it’s not the Mart unless you go home with a soggy arse to your jeans.

And, oh, the people. So many of them. So much acrylic. God, please, get me out of here!


Or, maybe I’m being harsh. There are good things about the Mart. It gave the world the Galloping Horses. I love the Galloping Horses.

(Following a lunchtime recce this afternoon it seems they’re not here this year. Shame on you, Showman’s Guild.)

And nougat. (Which you have to pronounce as ‘nugget’.) In the words of a colleague today: ‘I like white nougat, I like pink nougat. I like all fucking nougat.’ Except it MUST be Rocky Thompson’s nougat, which, actually, if you’re doing it right is only pink and white and which will only be purchased in those two weeks of the Mart. (Just don’t consider that it could very well be last year’s stock you’re eating!)


And the kids love it. You don’t want to go. You don’t want to spend so much money on cheap crap. You don’t want to risk needing a tetanus shot just for going on the fun house.

Because nothing says ‘fun’ like 3 floors of hard, unpadded metal, spinning floors and gaffa tape!


You don’t want to spend £2.50 for a 30-second go on hook a duck/penguin/Nemo/Elsa only to exchange your catch for a toy that makes Poundland’s merchandise look classy and expensive. Worse, handing your money over to a kid no older than 10 with a baby in a Silver Cross pram next to him, who gives you a look that says ‘I know I’m ripping you off here, but what’cha gonna do about it?!’


You don’t want to have to endure the relentless fucking Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump.

But the kids really really do!

Better make it an extra large bag of nougat! I’m going to need it!


8 thoughts on “Why the Mart Makes Me Smart*”

  1. GSM, I am BOWLED OVER by your wonderful colourful pix! What awesome shots! It’s so strange now to see land not covered in snow…..I think this Mart screams summer even though I see everyone there in heavier clothes/coats. Maybe to get yourself through all the hubbub, you can just think how much this scenery is almost like summertime fun?

  2. See, for us, the arrival of the Mart lorries and trailers means that we all start digging our thermals out as it ultimately corresponds with the coldest, wettest fortnight of the year. Summer never seems further her away than when the fair’s in town!

  3. Okay, here we call this the Fair! And I don’t care if I never see another fair with the sounds that blare and the sights that glare. But give me a Mart anyday – – if you and your kids are there! 😉 (Loved every single word of this!!)

    1. It’s ironic that it’s called a fair when it’s anything but. The punters NEVER win.
      We watched from the office window as one of the Mart vendors (evil woman on the dodgems) found a KID’S purse and EMPTIED IT OF ALL IF ITS CONTENTS before displaying it as lost. I would happily never go again. I don’t like giving my money to thieves.

  4. Our neighborhood in Brooklyn had a similar fair in late August for Santa Rosalia, patron saint of Palermo (where most of the 20th c. residents were from). We couldn’t hear much of it from our house, and I have to say we loved the spectacle – we would go down and just walk up and down the avenue taking in the mayhem in the evening. But I think all that is much easier to enjoy when you don’t have to keep up with / provide snacks and entertainment for / manage sugar- and crowd-high kids!

    Also, February is a weird time for a fair, for real.

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