It’s not fair

Follow Claire Smith's Mothering Heights on Twitter @MinistryOfMum

Follow Claire Smith's Mothering Heights on Twitter @MinistryOfMum - Credit: Archant

Last Saturday an amazing thing happened – I won £6 million on the National Lottery. Then promptly blew it all by taking three kids to the fair.

The funfair comes to our village once a year and they make sure every child knows about it by putting up brightly coloured posters so even those kids that can’t read yet are alerted to its arrival by dazzling pictures of dodgems. If a child just happens to miss those posters, the fair sets up residence in the local park so parents, like me, who think they’re being good by taking a trip to the swings, are suddenly sucked in by the caravans, stalls and rides that can’t be avoided on the way to the slide.

I don’t like the fair. Not only does it cost me several months of Starbucks school trip monies, it scares me too. Nothing reeks of potential death as much as the smell of candyfloss, the loud music and the screams.

I’ve had a fear of waltzers since somebody told me their appendix exploded on there. I’ve dreaded the mini rollercoaster since my daughter cried on it and they had to stop the entire ride to let her off. I’ve fretted over the Crazy Cottage since I got stuck in the human hamster wheel, aged 14.

It frightens me too because it’s a sure sign of getting old. I used to love the fair but now all I can think is “Turn the music down” and all I can see is DANGER.


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But nothing, nothing, can fill me with terror as much as one of my children winning a goldfish.

I have come to the conclusion that the major point of a fair is to not only extract all the money ever earned by parents, but to re-home every goldfish that has ever been born. Because, really, what kind of a parent are you if you refuse a kid a goldfish? (Answer: A sane one).

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The thing is, a child with a fair on their doorstep is worse than a dog with a bone and if you’re a parent who constantly feels guilty about whether you’re giving them a great childhood, you feel pressured into going.

The kids had been so good going back to school and we had been invited by several families to join them, so I finally agreed to go on the Saturday. I didn’t want to be the Grinch Who Stole Childhood. It had been raining all day, giving me a get-out clause, but come 6pm the sun broke through. After eating what was possibly The Last Supper, I walked the road to (my) perdition.

You see if you’re the kind of person who enjoys blowing £40 in a matter of minutes, then the fair is the place for you. Our funfair cleverly did cheap night the evening before school started but it was full price from then on.

The thing is, it wasn’t even a very good funfair. Although the posters had been of dodgems, there weren’t any. Dodgems I can handle because I just drive the way I normally drive, especially when doing the school run. Yet aside from two bouncy castles, a few stalls and the walzers, the only other ride was Planet Rock or Lobotomy or something, which is a giant sideways swing with the sole purpose of making everybody throw up.

I thought I was being savvy by agreeing that each child could have ten quid but of course that doesn’t go very far when it’s two pounds a ride, the ride lasts a minute and all your friends are (cleverly) running late.

I’d brought some backup money and I was feeling confident until two things happened:

1) I’d forgotten to tell my husband about the no-goldfish rule so as I was stuffing myself on candyfloss and chatting with my mate - whatdoyaknow the four year old has ‘won’ a goldfish by throwing a hoop in the opposite direction to the hoopla stall.

2) My daughter went on the waltzers for the first time and as I was stood there, full of anxiety, I noticed smoke coming out of the ride. Luckily, before I could dive on, hell bent on saving my little girl, my friend pointed out that it was, in fact, a smoke machine.

You see? Fairs and I are not a good match. This in itself is laughable because when we were deciding whether or not to have a third child, on my list of ‘Against’ was “Too many kids for Disneyland.” (I see now that this is actually a “For” – because it’s made that trip not practical and I like that).

Something good though has come out of the funfair. Since writing my column last week about getting a job I’ve decided to take a gap year so I can ‘find myself’, which is actual code for figuring out what I can do because I can’t do anything. However after watching the man in charge of the inflatable slide, I think I’m more than qualified to do that job. It involves taking a lot of money, ordering kids around and swigging from a beer bottle, whilst standing around talking to mates.

Or I can set up a stall where the child pays £2 to do something that is absolutely impossible and as a consolation prize they win a goldfish. That’ll get rid of the three that are currently occupying a space on my kitchen table.

Seems fair to me.

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