Tonight, the annual Sloe Fair

Tonight, the annual Sloe Fair is being held just up the road from me in Northgate car park, which used to be part of Oaklands Park. In 1107, Henry I gave the Bishop of Chichester the right to hold a yearly fair. The fair, now known as Sloe Fair, is still held on the 20th October every year, except when the 20th falls on a Sunday (as it did this year). If I have my facts right, I think the fairground stalholders have to pay a tithe of a shilling to the church for the right to take part, and the fair causes great annoyance to the district council because it takes over the second largest car park in the city for effectively four days, although the fair itself is only one day long.
I suspect that the fair now is nothing at all like the original. Today’s fair is a magnet for children, teenagers and bored parents. Invariably, a stroll around the ground reveals countless “yoofs”, smoking, drinking (if they can get it), and generally showing off in front of their mates. There are two groups that really enjoy it though: the twenty- and thirtysomethings, recapturing their lost youth before it escapes them entirely and they join the serried ranks of parents being dragged around by the other group that really enjoy the fair – the wide eyed children. In many ways, half the joy of going to the fair is to see the expressions on the faces of the youngest ones, wide eyed at all the noise, bustle and bright lights of the fair.
Even I have been known to go to the fair (though usually I have to be dragged there by someone). Sitting on top of my monitor is Roosevelt, a small orange bear that I rescued from the fair one year by winning him from a stall.