The Stratford Mop
12.x.04

I stand corrected. You'd think that I would get used to it after a while. The Mop Fair, by the name of which I was so deeply amused that I showed you a picture of the poster advertising it, was actually pretty good fun. As it happens, it isn't just a bunch of floor-cleaning product salesmen showing off their wares. In fact, and somewhat surprsingly for me, the whole of Stratford town centre has been shut down and the streets are full of funfair. This means hook-a-duck stalls, bumper cars, pork roast stands and candyfloss vendors now fill the place previously occupied by, well, cars and pedestrians. The only cause for concern is the bungy rocket (two-seater cage with bungy cords hooked to the tops of two poles) which is clearly in danger of taking the top off the local chippy on the rebound. Access to most shops is almost impossible and for some extraordinary reason, the pedestrian area around Shakespeare's Birthplace has not been used at all. The full gen on Mop Fairs, and their origins, is on stratford-upon-avon.co.uk.

I took quite a few photos. Sadly I have not inherited my grandfather's ability to hand-hold slow exposures (although I'm not sure quite how slow some of them were) but instead I am thrilled by the fantastic quality of the little Minolta, which is small and cheap enough that it is possible to smuggle it onto a ride and not be too worried about it flying off into the ether. Not that I managed to hand-hold a single decent shot while riding "Chaos!", or (see video) keep my fingers out of shot when taking video clips. But anyway. The enthusiastic young man trying not to look too scared is my new flatmate Mark, with whom I have moved in across town after James took exception to my incessant crap jokes and threw me out. Mark, unlike James, has Gran Turismo 3 and a Playstation. No further comment necessary.

As I said, the Mop was great fun. There were a few odd moments - the hoopla stall with twenty Regal attached to one of the alcoholic prizes was doubtless illegal on many different levels - but the glorious, probably original merry-go-round made it all worthwhile. I included two photos; one is framed better but the other has a face in it, which was astonishingly lucky, really. I was struck by how unusual this sort of thing is, and how despite its inherently commercial bent it was the very embodiment of the spirit in which Reclaim the Streets operate. Normally the teenagers sulk outside McDonald's until it closes, then queue up to be turned down at the off licence. Last night the street was rigid with them - the demographic was so heavily skewed to the 12 to 18 range that it was constantly striking - hugging, throwing candy floss, getting bolted into terrifyingly vast machines and having their internal organs temporarily rearranged, eating overflowing meat rolls and then looking a little peaky. I didn't spot anybody drinking, just young kids nervously doing their shoes up tightly and zipping loose change into their pockets. I didn't see any fighting, just young lads in jackets showing off to model-perfect girls with miniature handbags and heels they had to take off to go on the rides. It was uplifting to see this space, this public space, full of life and excitement and noise when normally on a chill evening there is nothing but the drone of an endless procession of cars. The heat of all the cooking and the bodies was trapped in the streets and it was so brightly lit, so warm, so close and friendly, it was really bizarre to find road paint underfoot, to find yourself leaning on a bollard, to notice a traffic light poking out above a sausage van.

I'm probably reading too much into what was just a bunch of people having a giggle, but it was fun.

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