Mitcham Fair

May I have a shilling to spend at Mitcham Fair?
It’s been held for centuries and I want to see what’s there.
I’ve heard of pony riding, steam roundabouts and swings,
and peddlers and gypsies selling pretty things.

I want to see the circus and the booths for dancing,
peepshows, dioramas, test your strength and boxing.
I know that there are marionettes, rifle range and waltzer,
cake walk, ghost train, chair-o-planes and helter-skelter.

I can almost taste the jellied eels, vinegary fish and chips,
and glutinous, pink candy floss, sugary on my lips.
I can hear the Mitcham Whisper, the coconut shy man’s call,
‘Roll, bowl or pitch!’ as he hands out the balls.

I want to breathe in Naptha and marvel at the bright
illuminations that ignite on the rides at twilight.
I want to spend my shilling on a special goal:
to throw some hoops and win myself a goldfish in a bowl.

Kim M. Russell, 2017

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Poetics – Amuse me! Take me for a ride!

Today, Lillian has opened the bar and is ready to serve up some fun! She tells us that, when she was young, she was taken on an annual summer outing to Riverview Park in Chicago, Illinois, a 74 acre amusement park, crowded with families, thrill seekers, young couples and scout troops. Some of her favourite rides were The Bobs, a wooden rollercoaster on which her dad broke a rib; The Tunnel of Love; Shoot the Chutes; The Pair-O-Chutes; and Aladdin’s Castle, a classic fun house that included a collapsing stairway, door mazes, a turning barrel, and air chutes on the outside walkways that blew up ladies’ dresses to the delight of gawkers outside. She says that amusement parks like Disney World have become more sophisticated but there is still the occasional small carnival in a mall parking lot and the Iowa State Fair.

 Lillian has asked us to dig back in our memories and think about amusement parks, carnivals, rides, cotton candy, state fairs. Did we ever ride a ferris wheel or a carousel?  Maybe we can evoke the madcap feeling of a place like this or use the idea as an extended metaphor. In any case, she wants us to amuse her, take her on a ride, use our imaginations and have fun with this!  

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41 thoughts on “Mitcham Fair

  1. Love the rhythm of reading this aloud. Love the immediate international placement (for me) with the name and shilling in the first line. And the different types of food from the fairs of old that I went to in Illinois and Iowa. My favorite treat as a little girl was cotton candy — fresh spun. Now they sell it prepackaged which, I think takes away the mystery of this treat and it’s magical sense. Jessie’s eels? Surely you mean like gummy bears only eels?
    I am right there with you enjoying the scene and digging out my shilling!

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  2. A terrific & nostalgic romp for sure–makes me wonder how young people can take their eyes off their phones long enough to see & enjoy an old fashioned fair. Bless their short attention spans, they have ruined going to movies for me.

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  3. I haven’t see jellied eels, but I do remember things called “elephant ears”–a large flat bunch of fried dough covered with some fruit-like jelly and whipped cream. It has been so long ago, it might be more a fantasy than a reality today.

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  4. Think, I’ll pass on the jellied eels, thank you, very much. At the X, every year, you can get Tiny Tom’s Doughnuts, a tray of 6 freshly fried mini-doughnuts, with powder sugar, on them. They’re an institution, that everyone has tried, least once, when going there.

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  5. I still remember winning a goldfish at a fair once, it lived longer than any of my other goldfish and those were ones we sourced from actual pet stores.
    This is a fantastic poem, it had me thinking of those painting of the fairs that were held when the Thames froze over.

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    1. I took my daughter, Ellen, to Mitcham Fair and she won a goldfish but he jumped out of his bowl. Ellen was about five and was horrified when she found him on the floor the next morning. The story goes that Elizabeth I visited Mitcham Fair.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bjorn. The fair actually goes back to before Elizabethan times. It changed over time, of course, and in later years the rides were exciting. People used to come from all over south London and beyond.

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  6. I love the innocence and fun in this poem. I always eagerly await our small county fair every year for the same reason – and yes, many of all ages do not pull out their cell phones. It is that much fun, just like this wonderful fair in your poem.

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    1. Thank you, Toni! I haven’t been to a fair in years, not since we went to The Prater in Vienna. I’m sure there are fairs in Norfolk – there are all-round fair rides at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach but it’s very crowded and expensive there. I’ll have to keep my eyes open.

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