Friday, November 26, 2004

Octopus: Fairground woe


We rode the Octopus.

These days it would be seen as a fairground ride for whimps, but back then it a test of hardness to the youth of Twyford as the funfair made its twice yearly visit to the village.

The big question was "How long could you stay on?" It was a trial by g-force that lasted as long as your money did, until you were thrown off or you could take it no more. Stories were told of those who managed five, six, ten rides in a row and hardly needing hospital treatment at all.

Melanie (known as Melon-y for two reasons I cannot even begin to express here) looked well set for a mammoth ride. With a wink to the ride operator, she was allowed to stay on for as long as she wanted, and every time the ride finished, she dipped into what seemed a bottomless purse for another fare and another ride on the swirling behemoth.

Quite a crowd built up underneath. Not simply because the entire fair consisted of a whole four rides and every bugger and their dog had had enough of the merry-go-round, the dodgems and the other whirly-round thing whose name escapes me and wanted a go on the Octopus - word of Mel's impending triumph was getting around. She had been in flight for the best part of 45 minutes, and records were being set.

It was rumoured that one year, car eight hadn't been bolted on properly and it had flown off at the top of its arc, killing some friend-of-a-friend's aunt as it plunged into a nearby back garden. Mel - Cthulhu save her - was in car eight. Surely history wouldn't repeat?

We watched in awe as the ride started up again. Somebody was keeping count, and great cheers went up everytime our heroine hove into view. Round and round went the bloody great wheel, up and down went the cars, spinning the occupants this way and that in a dizzying dance to thumping rock music and flashing lights.

"Hey Mel! What's the weather like up there?"



She could have least waited until she was round the back, or on the bottom of a swing. But no, car eight was at its highest point, right above our heads as Mel's stomach decided enough was enough and the words "projectile vomiting" entered my vocabulary for the first time in my young life.

Half digested hotdog, candy floss and cheap cider flew in a graceful arc and rained down on the attendant crowds to shrieks of great woe and gnashing of teeth. This, unfortunately, unleashed a domino effect of vomiting, as those who had also been overdoing it on the supermarket own-brand cider, junk food sourced from at least one named animal and consecutive rides on the Octopus decided to join in with the chorus of Rolf and Huey.

I've been on some rough Irish Sea ferry crossings, but the devastation below the Octopus that night made them look like a ride on the boating lake at Regent's Park. Days of chunder, indeed.

As the ride came to a halt, Mel wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and with a nod to the ride operator said "Again, please."

The next day, the fair left and the seagulls came.

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