Candyfloss and shat pants: a guide to the fair

Somewhere along the line, I’ve become middle aged. I’ve suspected it for some time, what with me liking to wear slippers and making a noise when I get out of a chair. However, my rapid descent into old age was proved beyond any doubt the last time me and Alex went to the fair.

Expectation: eat candyfloss and hot dogs until sick, go on all life threatening rides, not really caring if the rides are held together with sellotape. A good time is had by all.

Reality: walk around a windy field for a bit, tutting at things. Shake head at the fact that the rides are held together with sellotape, exclaim that “you wouldn’t get me on that death trap”. Fail to even get excited at prospect of winning copyright infringing knock off toys. Go home for a nice cup of tea.

this way

It never used to be like this. I used to love the fair with a passion bordering on wanting to marry it. It was up there with Christmas and trips to the seaside for excitement value. But somewhere down the line I got old and boring. Since you probably don’t want to read about me having a nice cup of tea and doing the large print puzzles in Chat magazine, instead I’m going to tell you about the best things at the fair.

1. Hook a Duck

hook a duck


Hook a Duck is brilliant because it’s impossible for me to lose at it. Even I can just about manage to hold a stick and point it at a plastic duck. Admittedly, this wasn’t always the case when I was a child. Sometimes the guy running the stall would get so fed up with my clumsy attempts to manipulate the Hook a Duck pole without taking his eye out that he would just grab the end of my pole and attach a duck to it. In my head this was perfectly valid, and in no way made me a loser who failed to even win at a ‘prize every time’ stall.

Hook a Duck is also ace because it’s the fairground’s premier spot for winning shit. I don’t mean this in a Jay-Z ‘You ain’t winning shit’ kind of way, rather that you can win all sorts of crap. The following prizes are staples on every Hook a Duck stall in the land –

– knock off Disney soft toys, possibly with the face of one character on the body of another character
– a dead goldfish
– a plastic ‘fashion doll’ whose arms have detached themselves while the doll is still in the packaging
– key rings featuring things and people that were the height of fashion three years ago

As a way to tempt gullible young children into parting with their money, the stall would be festooned with ‘big’ prizes, all hanging off the roof, daring you to try and win them. The big prizes were usually giant soft toys that vaguely resembled a cartoon or video game character you’d heard of. To be honest, the big soft toys could have looked like Jeffrey Archer and I’d still have been desperate to win them. It goes without saying that I never won a big prize, not ever. I don’t know anyone who did. There must be a way of winning them – maybe you have to save up your ‘wins’ or something? But come on, what kid is really going to have the self control necessary for that? It’s always much better to win a ‘fashion comb’ or a broken yo-yo, because at least you get to play with it NOW.

2. Waltzer


The favourite ride of chavs everywhere, who will compete to see who can go on the most times without dying or getting thrown out of the fair for constantly breaking the ride rules. The ride rules are as follows – sit the fuck down.

I had a bad experience on the Waltzer when I was nine. I went on with my dad, who is even more of a wuss than me. Somehow, we managed to be put in a car where the bar wouldn’t fasten down properly, and as a result spent the next three minutes getting flung around the car, holding on for our lives while accompanied by German techno. I’ve been in funner situations than that.

Needless to say we escaped with our lives, but for those three minutes I had visions of getting flung out of the ride car, hurtling through the air at 7000 miles an hour before landing on my face.

Chavs have no such worries, and will happily spend the entire duration of the ride attempting to stand up, attempting to undo the bar that’s been put there to stop them from dying, or attempting to have sex with their woman, again to the accompaniment of German techno.

3. Dodgems


I’ve never understood why they’re called Dodgems. What is it you’re supposed to dodge? It certainly isn’t other cars, because everyone knows the sole purpose of this ride is to crash into as many people as possible. The people who named this ride are idiots.

Dodgems are another thing I’m quite good at, because you don’t have to do any normal driving, like remembering to go in a straight line or indicating. You can indicate if you want to, but Dodgems style indicating involves shouting “YOU’RE ON MY LIST!” at people in a nearby car, who will then look at you and tut.

When you’re a kid and you go on the Dodgems, not only do you have to wear one of those stupid horrible seat belts that attempt to actually saw you in half, you also have to be accompanied by an adult, who will do all the driving because you can’t reach the pedals. This results in you sitting there being bored, while the adult drives you round in nice, steady circles, all the time making sure to not accidentally bump into anyone, but instead giving them a cheery wave as they pass by.

This is a shit way to do the Dodgems. The correct way to do the Dodgems is as follows –

1. Get in a Dodgem car. Do not bother with seat belt.
2. Pick the person you least like the look of.
3. Spend the entire ride ramming that person’s car. Bonus points if you can keep them in a corner for the entire ride.
4. Run off after the ride before the person can punch you in the face.

4. Ferris Wheel

ferris wheel

Ferris Wheels are the worst ride in the world. The only exception to this is that rollercoaster in Japan where you’re only strapped in by one finger, but I might have dreamed that.

When you go on a Ferris Wheel, you sit in a rickety, swinging cage thing. If you’re on a date, you sit next to your date. Sometimes, if you’re riding alone, they pair you up with someone else who’s riding alone, so not only do you spend the entire ride in abject terror, you also have to make endless small talk with a woman called Sheila, who has chosen to wear culottes. Assuming you survive this part, you then spend the next five minutes going round and round and round.

Ferris Wheels are not meant to be ridden on, they’re meant to be blown over by a stiff gust of wind. Look at that picture. That does not look safe. When I have something circular and flat, like a bagel, I do not immediately think ‘Oh I’ll put it on its side, that will keep it nice and steady.’ I lay it down flat. Then I put ham on it. You can’t even put ham on a Ferris Wheel.

5. Ghost Train

ghost train

I haven’t been on many Ghost Trains, but I’ve been on a few. The scariest one I ever saw was in Bridlington in the 80s, and I never even rode it. That’s how much of a coward I was.

Of course, these days it’s different. These days I delight in trundling past plastic skellingtons, bits of crepe paper that waft annoyingly in your face, and fibreglass demons with red lightbulbs for eyes.

As a grown up, the most frightening things about Ghost Trains tend to be the following –

1. The fact that the man operating the ride has drunk 9 cans of Stella
2. The possibility that the kid in the car in front of you will do a shit

Certainly, the ride itself isn’t scary. In fact, Ghost Trains are more scared of you than you are of them. Take, for example, the Ghost Train we encountered last year. It was so scared of us that the minute it saw us coming it broke down. that’s how much it didn’t want us to ride it.

6. Limbo Dancer

limbo dancer

Limbo Dancers are good because they tend to be festooned with terrible paintings of celebrities you may or may not have heard of (see above). They’re also good because, occasionally, you get to watch an old lady that’s been tricked into going on one by her grandsons. This old lady will invariably be wearing a loose fitting, flowery skirt, which will blow over her head and flash her knickers at people every time the ride drops down. Ok, I only saw this once, but I live in hope that it will happen again.

I don’t go on Limbo Dancers, because I don’t like that feeling of ‘leaving your stomach behind’. I don’t like drop towers for the same reason, but I do like hills on rollercoasters, because at least then you get to be on a rollercoaster, and that’s cool.

Chavs like Limbo Dancers, as do 10 year old girls. These riders are stupid, because one day the ride will malfunction. Instead of stopping a foot from the ground and going back the other way, the seats will just thud into the ground, causing all the riders’ arses to be pushed up into their mouths.

7. Scrambler


I’m still not convinced that this is the proper name for this ride; for years I’ve just referred to it as “You know, that side to side one (makes mental, dangerous gestures with arms). Stop pretending you don’t know what I mean.” But this is what Google says, although I didn’t have much luck with the search term “What’s that ride called”.

Consistently one of my favourite rides, because it doesn’t go up high, unless it malfunctions. Speaking of which, never go on this with a morbidly obese person. You will die.

8. Burger van

burger van

Always my favourite part of the fair, because I am a big fat pig. Normally run by a man called Les and his pissed off looking wife Pam. They must serve you with extremely bad grace and throw your change at your head, otherwise it doesn’t count.

When I was a kid, the burger van would always be my first port of call, because I was a greedy little shit. As soon as my chocolate smeared hands were free of whatever KitKat or Wagon Wheel I’d been eating on the way to the fair, I would grab my parent and drag them to meet Les and Pam, and to buy me all the food in the world.

The food from the burger van is some of the most delicious food known to man, especially when the hamburgers are those weird flat hamburgers that might be out of a tin.

Other brilliant food that must be purchased from the van includes:

– a hot dog that is three inches of dog inside six inches of bun
– a huge ‘dummy’ made from sugar and E-numbers
– a lukewarm can of Tizer
– a bag of candy floss that you’re not allowed to open until you get home, by which time you’ve been sick so you don’t bother opening it, and then it goes all hard
– for the parents – a polystyrene cup of tea, containing liquid that actually burns your tongue out of your mouth if you even look at it

And there we have it – everything you could possibly need for a super fun time at the fair. If you’ve done the fair correctly, you will leave with your arms full of illegal soft toys and your jumper full of sick. You will only go to sleep that night after an hour of begging your parents to take you back for one last go on the Hook a Duck, despite the fact that the fair closed three hours ago.

Of course, now I am approaching middle age, my evenings have stopped being filled with candyfloss and sick, and are now filled with Ovaltine and regret.

Cartoons, haunted tapes and The Lovers’ Guide: Video shop memories

Cartoons, haunted tapes and The Lovers’ Guide: Video shop memories

I’ve wanted to write about the video shop for ages, but my flea-bitten memory has refused to sick up the appropriate facts, until now. Thanks to conversations with my parents and sisters, I realise what a brilliant experience the video shop was for me. For my parents and sisters, not so much.

Here are a load of my dredged up memories about the video shop. You’ve read this far, you might as well carry on.

The first thing to do in order to get a trip to the video shop is to be good all week. This consists of not doing the following:

– Calling your sister a “bastard”, a “bustard”, or telling her to “huh off”

– Nipping

– Writing a list of all the swear words you can think of, then accidentally leaving it in a place where your dad will find it

– Using all your mum’s VO5 Hot Oil to make a “magic potion” while playing She-Ra.

Continue reading “Cartoons, haunted tapes and The Lovers’ Guide: Video shop memories”

A Chris Kamara action figure and other wonders

A Chris Kamara action figure and other wonders

Whenever I go visit my dad in North Wales, we always make a special journey to Bargains Galore in Holyhead. I’ve written about this magnificent shop here, but if you don’t have time to read the link – it’s the greatest shop known to man.


Inside the unassuming exterior lies a treasure trove of 80s and 90s tat. Despite not having any room in my flat, I keep buying stuff from this shop. Some of it is in the loft, some is in a box in my bedroom, and some I’ve given to other people. I think I just have a problem with buying stuff. If anyone’s a psychiatrist, or has seen an episode of Dr Phil, give me a bell.

Anyway, on my last visit I was very good, and managed not to buy the Tampax from 1994, or the Spice Girls paper plates. What I did buy, however, needs to be shown off, otherwise I’ll have to admit I do have a problem with buying stuff just because it says ‘Free cassette!’ Continue reading “A Chris Kamara action figure and other wonders”

Stuff from the 1994 Argos catalogue

Stuff from the 1994 Argos catalogue

The other week I spent actual money on old Argos catalogues from Ebay. I do not regret this. I also don’t regret doing a really bad fart that time, pouring the leftover vodka into that day old glass of wine to make a ‘cocktail’, and eating that Hula Hoop I found under the settee.

Now then…

1. Brooches

p 72 brooches

Brooches don’t seem to be a thing any more, unless you also like £10 cups of ‘coffee style chicory drink’ and ‘street typing’. But back in the day, brooches were a serious way to show off the fact that you had a lapel, jumper or any other item of clothing. Continue reading “Stuff from the 1994 Argos catalogue”

The weird world of Gladiators merchandise

The weird world of Gladiators merchandise

Gladiators is one of my favourite shows, but it’s never really occurred to me to have a look at the various cash-in tat on offer. This is because I’ve been too busy Ebaying Kwik Save carrier bags with the handles missing.

My god, where have I been? I should have known that a show about men in bras kicking each other in the bollocks would have spawned a wide and fascinating array of merchandise. And even better, some of it manages to not be about Jet.

Customer ready? 3… 2… 1…

3D glasses, for seeing in 3D

1995-Frosties-3D-Gladiator-glasses Continue reading “The weird world of Gladiators merchandise”

Tampons and stealing: 12 upcoming charity months

Personally, I love being told what to do every single fucking month. I find myself enjoying Veganuary so much I forget to look forward to Stoptober.

I’ve compiled a list of all the upcoming rhyming charity shit for next year, so you can live through this hell with me. Mark these in your diary.


pretty young lady riding a horse on the beach in early morning

Everyone has to wear white and ride a horse. Other than that, no idea what you do. Something to do with women’s shit presumably. Continue reading “Tampons and stealing: 12 upcoming charity months”

9 sayings that are complete balls when you think about them

More so than ever, the world is just a bunch of people going around saying things without giving a second thought to what they mean. My dislike of words is widely documented across the world wide internet. Googling my name and the word “words” yields endless results, all of which are me ranting like a drunk racist at a darts match.

(editor’s note: darts is ace. Slag off darts again and I’ll cut you)

It’s true that the internet is made up of people knowing they’re talking shite but doing so regardless. Alas, these people are not my issue. Truth be told, I only really use the internet for two things and both of them involve pornography. Online shit-posting has never bothered me because its sole purpose is to wind somebody up; however, the phrases mentioned here are supposed to be well-meaning advice. When someone compares you to Hitler because you haven’t completed the new Batman game, they’re just trying to sand your ass crack. When someone tells you to “follow your passion”, they’re making assumptions about your life, your responsibilities and your happiness.

I often find it difficult to keep my mouth shut when someone says something stupid (call me old fashioned). And while this goes a long way to help explain why I’m unemployed and have no friends, I believe such outbursts are necessary in order to facilitate a better world. Good intentions are all well and good, but at some point good intentions turned into ridiculous out-of-context fairytale phrases which, for some reason, people often still take as gospel.

For example:

1. Age is just a number


Age is just a number? No shit, dickhead – so is the speed limit. So is the legal age of drinking. Do you know why there’s an age limit on drinking? Because giving whiskey to three year olds would probably kill them. There is nothing on this earth which is “just a number”, because things are numbered for a reason. Saying that age is just a number means you are perfectly happy for a four year old to operate power tools. Sure, it says ages 18+ on the packaging but if age is just a number, who cares? Continue reading “9 sayings that are complete balls when you think about them”