Friday, May 27, 2005

Dionysus On The Dodgems, With A Quiff

I don't envy the young. Youth is greatly over-rated.
If you're wise you only remember the good times and blank out everything else......
always being broke......the agony of unrequited love......the terrible hangovers..........the self-consciousness......the phase of hating your parents......feeling guilty because you hate your parents......feeling guilty because you don't feel guilty for hating your parents......

But the past few days when I've been blogging I've looked out the window and seen a small boy walk past with a radio-controlled car. The small car is ten yards in front of him and he walks behind with his remote control oblivious to the world.
And I envy him.
I envy the disproportionate pleasure that children derive from such small things.
And I think about scooters - the kind you stand on and propel yourself along with one foot. Is there anything more ridiculous than a scooter? Yet how I loved my first scooter.

Most of all I think of funfairs. Between the ages of ten and thirteen I couldn't get enough of them. Not the 'theme park' kind but the travelling fairs that came to a local field for a few days.
They used to pitch camp about two miles from our house. Sometimes I went with my best friend and sometimes alone. Hard to imagine ten year olds today being given such freedom.
I would often stay all day even though the rides were incredibly expensive. A single go on the dodgem cars was a whole week's pocket money. But I didn't particularly go for the rides. I loved the atmosphere, the sheer tacky, gaudy, exuberance of it all. The mingled smells of hot dogs, candyfloss and the oil from the whirring generators. The loudspeakers blaring out Frank Ifield - I Remember You - and Bobby Vee - The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.
It appealed to the Dionysian side of my nature and drew me like a moth to a flame.

When I'd spent my last shilling I would still wander around for hours drinking in every sight, sound and smell, like a drunk who becomes suddenly fascinated by the night sky.
I'd lean on the rail of the Dodgems and stare enviously at the fairground youths who worked on them, nimbly leaping from car to car as sparks flashed above their heads and young girls screamed above the clash of metal against metal. Lucky outsiders who lived their lives in this heavenly cacophony of noise and music and emotional release, oozing raw sexuality in their torn jeans and oil-stained T shirts.
Sometimes one of them would jump on the back of your dodgem car and reach over and steer it for you, their warm breath on your neck and their greasy hands brushing against yours on the sweaty steering wheel and you were pleased and proud that they'd hitched a ride on your car even if people thought you were unable to steer it properly.

Then you walked around looking for coins that people had dropped in the grass to get another three shillings for another go and this time you'd wedge your dodgem in a corner and pretend you couldn't steer and the boy with the Brylcreemed quiff would come swinging from the poles of adjoining cars, his tattooed arms would reach over your shoulders, his cigarette ash fall into your lap like stardust, the car's contact pole would sparkle and crackle with electricity and a scratchy Elvis would be singing 'Take my hand, take my whole life too, cause I can't help falling in love with you.'

But I was only ten years old. The testosterone hadn't yet kicked like a mule. And it wasn't yet 1963, the year that Philip Larkin said sexual intercourse was invented.
So, as dusk fell, I ambled slowly home to the everyday world of convention and respectability and my parents asked me if I'd had a good time.
"Yes", I said, "I won this goldfish."


At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Graham said...

Scooters,now theres a thing of the past.I used to love whizzing about on mine also.Do you remember the posh Scooters with the brakes?
My Grandand was a welder and he made my scooter,took the measurements of my mates scooter and a week later there it was.
indestructable it was.Still around now some 30 odd years later used by my cousin's kids.

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Thank you, Willie.

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I still occasionally see scooters around, even the old basic kind.
Then there were pogo sticks and hoola hoops and, of course, the home-made trolleys or bogies which I mentioned here months ago.

Thanks for your thanks, Peter.

At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

Another great place for those wonderful "big boys" was at the seaside, where I spent many a youthful hour gazing enrapt at them promenading past, often with a girl or even two on the arm. Some day I'll be like that, I thought, but never was.

Did once get chatted up by one of your waltzer boys, but was too young and naive to notice!

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Hmmm. No such word as enrapt. Enrapture, but not enrapt. Think I'll go into a sulk.

(I'm sharing this with your readers as a public information service, btw.) Even people who wear hoodies need an accurate vocabulary. To say nothing of Carlo.

I should get out more. Do you know, I've sat in the house all day long, with only two text messages for human contact. Plus the internet.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I think 'enraptured' is OK.
It could literally have been one of 'my' waltzer boys since these were travelling fairs.
I only ate my greens and grew up so I could wear one of those Teddy Boy shoes with tassels but by then Teddy Boys had been and gone.

You get out a lot more than me, unless your blog is entirely fiction. I did get a phone call last week but it was a wrong number. Still quite exciting though.
At least when curfews are extended to the elderly I shan't really notice the difference.

At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

I'm just sitting rapt at my tape of Middle Sex from Thursday on Ch4. Good stuff. Thailand has all the ladyboys because they were never Christianised.

No fiction on NB. Truth is stranger.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I should have watched that but was put off by trailers of scenes of surgical re-alignment. I'll catch it when it's repeated.

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

I hid behind the settee for that part. If it had been me, I'd have spent some money on my complexion first, to be honest. Quite spotty.


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