Hello readers. My historical crime novel will be set in Nottingham. This week my former home city hosts a calendar event reputedly about 800 years old.Goose Fair is one of the UK’s largest travelling fairs and always has been hugely popular. In October 1968 two 15 year olds from Carlton were travelling in by bus for the last day of the Fair – Saturday 5th October . Herewith my memories of that afternoon so long ago……
Steve Smith and I jumped off the bus on Parliament Street and made our way up Mansfield Road towards The Forest, site of the famous Goose Fair. As we climbed the long hill we began to notice a steady humming noise, which grew louder as we crested the rise. Walking past the cemetery on our left we could now identify individual sounds in the din – bells, sirens, klaxons, all the noises of a very busy fair. We walked down the long concrete ramp which took us slowly into the children’s rides. As we drew ever nearer we became aware of some of the many Goose Fair aromas, sickly sweet sugar smells of toffee apples and candy floss mixed with burgers,hot dogs, hot peas and mint sauce. The numerous large diesel generators powering the rides created their own smells and also a slight haze of fumes. We had a definite plan for our stay at the fair. We planned to head into the centre of the fair and go on the big rides, have a bite to eat then try out some sideshows before finally trying to win a prize to take home. We also had another agenda at this particular fair -we were there to try and “pull a bird” and no we weren’t talking turkey or goose!
Ignoring the little kid’s rides, we walked down the grassy slope into the section of fair holding the biggest, best and most exciting rides. Heading straight for the Waltzers, I noticed two pretty girls come running down the steps, laughing and giggling. I also noticed two boys about our age walking glumly behind them and as they passed us I distinctly heard one say “I’ve just spent all my money on ‘er”! I immediately lost my interest in birds and now girls were forgotten as we enjoyed being thrown violently up,down and all around on various favourites, including the Waltzer, Cylcone and Dodgems. On the Rotor we found ourselves stuck like flies to paper on a black revolving wall as the floor dropped away. We went on the steam yachts which weren’t popular with some as they were seen as old-fashioned. In truth they were easily the most dangerous ride at the fair. There were no seat belts in those days and you had to hang onto either a wooden seat or the rope netting at either end. They started off gently rocking back and forth but rapidly picked up speed and now you literally had to hang on for your life! Seated at the end we found ourselves alternately on our backs looking up at the sky above and then almost instantly hanging on and then looking right down at the ground below us. A collective sigh of relief greeted the slowing of the ride and as we got off we decided it was time for a hot dog, cost around one shilling. Next we went for some of the tamer yet still interesting rides and shows. The Ghost Train was always a favourite and we tried to pull down on the strings in the dark and try to reach out and touch the props and masks. The Wall of Death was well worth the entrance fee watching brave young bikers whirling around a wall horizontally. Now we decided to try a show we had never dared to enter before – The Roaring Twenties no less! Having failed to pull a bird we reasoned maybe we were due some entertainment from one. At the entrance a sign said clearly ADULTS ONLY. We ignored it, slammed down our shillings and strode boldly into the unknown. We found ourselves inside a tent, the grass of the Forest below our feet and a small stage in front of us with curtain drawn across. Aware that we were the youngest in the audience, we walked to the right side of the stage so as not to draw attention to ourselves. A dis-embodied voice boomed out over a loudspeaker – THE FEATHER DANCE and then some dancing music began and a lady appeared from the centre split of the curtain. She was holding two huge feather boas in front of her, one red and one black ( well almost but not quite both County and Forest colours ). The lady was not exactly young, had dark hair and certainly wasnt skinny. She was heavily made up with bright red lips but that was just about all we could see. She weaved and bobbed about the stage in time to the music, teasing us all with the large feathers yet never showing anything more than a leg or two. As the music slowed and stopped, she slowly turned and placed a large feather over her back. Had she been wearing anything? We never did find out. Next a voice announced . THE FIRE EATER. Onto the stage strode a middle aged, swarthy-looking man with dark hair, carrying two large rods covered in flames at both ends. He drew these several times over his arms and chest, repeated the actions then bent down to drink something out of a tumbler on the stage. He then stepped to the edge of the stage and spat out the contents of the tumbler ,instantly raising a fiery rod which ignited the liquid and created a long flame. He repeated this and then bowed and left the stage. A drunk next door to us was not amused. “Gerroff” he shouted, ” We want the stripper!” The voice came back now to announce – THE DANCE OF THE SEVEN VEILS. Some new music started up, slow and hypnotic and a young blonde woman appeared through through the curtain. She was covering her modesty with seven lace veils of various colours. As the music continued the clearly attractive young woman began dancing and weaving in time to the beat which was slowly increasing in intensity. Then she started taking the veils off. She pulled them away so slowly and seductively, whirled them around in the air, and then as the music hit a high note, threw the veils one by one over her shoulder with a flick of her right wrist. She was very quickly down to her last two veils and I realised the music was building to a crescendo. The penultimate veil was removed to reveal…. a bright pink pair of knickers! It was now the last veil, the largest and wrapped competely over her breasts. The music was getting louder and louder and more and more hypnotic.It was time to remove the final veil!! As the music reached the last few notes the woman slowly removed the last veil but then immediately covered her breasts with her left arm. With the final note she threw the last veil away and it drifted down slowly to the stage. The end of the music signalled the close of the show but Steve Smith and I were about to get an unexpected bonus. Standing on the right edge of the stage we watched transfixed as she smiled at the audience and slowly pirouetted away to her left, dropping her left arm teasingly to her side as she turned and walked back, disappearing through the curtain. My sharp little eyes had seen what few others had – her uncovered breasts, her nipples, clearly visible if only for a split second or two !! Steve had also clearly got an eye-full, he was still staring open-mouthed at the stage! We filed out slowly and decided we needed some hot peas and mint sauce to steady our nerves! As we enjoyed our bright green hot peas we shared thoughts of our recent experience and were in total agreement on one thing – that was the best shilling we ever spent at Goose Fair!!
If you go to Goose Fair have a great time. The Roaring Twenties are long gone as indeed are all the sideshows, I hope to upload a pic soon, in the meantime here is a pic of the Cyclone fairground ride from 1966 but note it has been re-badged as the TWIST AGAIN RIDE!!