An excellent documentary on BBC 4, "All the fun of the fair," reminded me how much I used to love going to the fair when I was a teen.
I was thrilled to find websites for both the fairs I remembered - Anderton & Rowland's, and Whitelegg's. These were the famous fairs in Plymouth where I grew up. Anderton and Rowland's has been in business since 1854, and Whitelegg's since the 1920s.
Once or twice a year part of these fairs would visit what we called the cattle market, a tarmac'd area next to a playing field in Plympton. Word would sweep round school like wildfire, and we would all head to the fair in the evening. It usually had 2 rides - the dodgems and the octopus, (pictured), and a few refreshment and "win a soft toy" type sideshows. In those days we didn't have the big theme parks so a ride like the octopus was considered quite daring. I loved the screeching sound that signalled the start of a ride.
Meanwhile on the dodgems, you could go round any way you pleased and crash into people head-on, which you can't do now. The "fairground barkers" as my mum called them would thrillingly leap from car to car, taking money during the ride.
The fair in its entirety would also visit Plymouth Hoe in the summer. I loved what we called "the switchbacks" and the waltzers, particularly if you had some big strong boys giving them an extra spin.
The only ride I couldn't bear was the big wheel. I went on it once and couldn't bear it. Even now, I found the London Eye too spooky and sat in the middle of the pod, afraid to get too near to the edge.
I've since been on rollercoasters and other rides at places like Disneyland and Chessington, but for all the terror and excitement, nothing comes close to the simple pleasure of the last ride of the evening on the octopus, or risking your teeth on a maggotty toffee apple.