All the fun of the Fair


A couple of weekends ago, unfortunately on a rather grey day, one of my favourite annual events took place: Barnes Fair. The village green is filled with hundreds of stalls and displays from local craftspeople, charities, schools, artists, businesses and restaurants. It’s possible to find anything from fairy cakes made by the Brownies to beautifully glazed pottery, hand-crafted sweaters, bric-a-brac galore and pots of herbs.

The trick is to cast aside lengthy deliberations and guilt at treating oneself: the things seen there tend not to be seen again so are worth grabbing immediately. I once found an early Heal’s oak table and four matching chairs just as I was about to move into a new home with no furniture. However, I am still kicking myself for not buying a 1950 three-tiered red cake stand with white polka dots I saw one year. I know, I know, it’s a strange thing to hanker after but afternoon tea with treats on a cake stand… one of the best things ever.

There are certain traditions to be upheld, such as watching the procession of decorated school children pass by on floats and assorted animals (always a diversion in the middle of a city) and eating Thai noodles. This year I was particularly taken with the intricately carved vegetables next to the Thai noodle stall. I suddenly wanted to take a class in how to transform a turnip into translucent white lace. There may be a class, the woman told me, but not quite yet. I will be first in the queue. It looks like a very peaceful way to pass a few hours.

Thai vegetable carving. The lacey turnip is top centre, between the carrots and in front of the melons.

The sounds of the fair are always augmented by peculiarly actorly tannoy announcements which usually contain a gem or two. My favourite this year:

“For all those of you who are concerned about Ben, the shire horse that collapsed during the procession, don’t worry – it seems there was a horse whisperer in the crowd. He whispered to Ben who was able to get up and is now fine.”

Intriguing. Exactly how many random horse whisperers are there in London?

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