Say that to a resident (of a certain age) living within a 5 miles radius of Glastonbury and they’ll know exactly what you mean, in fact even the kids, if they are from a local family will know as well, because it is an expression everyone will have heard uttered by their Gran & Grandad since the cradle.
I had the dubious pleasure of unlocking this week (a chore shared equally by us key holders – 1 week in six) – I hate it.
Anyway, as I turned out at 6.30am on Tuesday morning, it was as if the previous days Bank Holiday had declared the last day of summer, there was a chill in the air, an earthy dampness that has it’s own very special aroma, cold dewy but briskly exciting with hints of the new season, it was the heralding the ripening of blackberries, apples, filberts, and the changing of the leaves etc.
Ian (virtually always the first to arrive) and I trudged up the stairs and in unison said “Tor Fair Weather – soon be Christmas” those 6 words make it sound like a local “saying” BUT IT ISN’T, it isn’t like saying “Red sky at night – shepherds delight”.
Tor Fair Weather” can only be uttered accurately for a very short window every year, it’s usage dictated by both the weather conditions as described above (FYI- you cannot get TFW on a rainy morning) and the time line – Tor Fair Day, historically occurs on the 2nd Monday of September and no self-respecting local would use the phrase after the event.
In the past the arrival of Tor Fair was a hugely anticipated event, a gathering, a market place, a time to meet your potential first boyfriend, to experience the thrill and exhilaration of being flung around on the waltzers, to scream if you wanted go faster, the stately glide of the Golden Chariots, hot dogs, candy floss these were all once a year occurrences. Fondly remembered and relished a new when you saw Peter the plaintiff goldfish circling his bowl, wistfully contemplating whether Hook a Duck was an infringement of his civil liberties – but we didn’t care.
Always the business person, I also remember the anticipation of the “fair people” coming to town, and praying that they “had a good one”. Towards the end of their stint here, they would arrive at the factory shop with fistfuls of cash looking to buy sheepskin and leather coats, hats & gloves – There was a status within the folk of wanting to look affluent to their peers, winters were much harder, it was a cold hard life and a brand new “Del Boy” sheepskin or a shiny black leather batwing jacket with huge shoulder pads was the epitome of success and who were we to discourage them – what the VAT man didn’t know, he didn’t worry about –aaahh, those were the years before computer records (and imported tat).
For those interested in history, Tor Fair is the oldest fair in the UK it dates back to Saxon times, and was given the first official charter by Henry 1st in 1127 BC. Originally held three times a year: - In Spring to celebrate Easter and St Dunstan’s day, then September; Tor Fair and Michaelmas Fair.
Only Tor Fair survived into the 21st Century, but even that was called into question in Victorian times when Blondin the famous tightrope walker performed at the 1861 Tor Fair (the year after he had crossed Niagara Falls) – the erection of his contraptions and performance were declared “Too profane a spectacle within the precincts of the Abbey” !! - Fortunately Tor Fair survived such scandal.
It’s a shame that the young people who will be leant up against the Dodgem barrier next Monday week won’t appreciate the heritage they are experiencing – I s’pose you have to become an old fart before these things become fascinating !!