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Happy Hampstead

August Bank Holiday* would not be a real holiday for tens of thousands of Londoners without the Fair on Hampstead Heath!

* (See p, 7.)

Those who know London will know where to find the Heath- that vast stretch of open woodland which sprawls across two hills, bounded by Golders Green* and Highgate** to the west and east, and by Hampstead itself and Ken Wood to the south and north.

* (Golders Green - a London suburb; Golders Hill Park is the north-west extension of Hampstead Heath.)

** (Highgate - a suburb of north London.)

The site of the fair ground is near to Hampstead Heath station. From that station to the ground runs a broad road which is blocked with a solid, almost immovable mass of humanity on those days when the fair is open. The walk is not more than a quarter of a mile, but it takes an average of half-an-hour to cover it when the crowd is at its thickest.

But being on that road is comfortable compared with what it is like inside the fair ground itself. Here there are hundreds of stalls arranged in broad avenues inside a huge square bounded by the caravans of the show people and the lorries containing the generating plants which provide the stalls with their electricity.

The noise is deafening. Mechanical bands and the cries of the "barkers" (the showmen who stand outside the booths and by the stalls shouting to the crowds to come and try their luck) are equalled by the laughter of the visitors and the din of machinery.

The visitors themselves are looking for fun, and they find it in full measure. There are fortune-tellers and rifle-ranges and "bumping cars";* there are bowling alleys** and dart boards*** and coconut shies. There is something for everybody.

* ("bumping cars" - a game onfair-groundsand in amusement parks, in which the participants try to hit or knock each other with their cars.)

** (bowling alley - a level area of wood, used for skittles, ninepins and tenpins.)

*** (dart boards - a dart board is the target at which darts are thrown in the game of darts, now the most popular pub game; they are of different kinds and are made of various materials (wood, compressed paper, etc.))

And for the lucky ones, or for those with more skill than most, there are prizes - table lamps and clocks and a hundred and one other things of value.

A visit to the fair at Happy Hampstead is something not easily forgotten. It is noisy, it is exhausting - but it is as exhilarating an experience as any in the world.

(English Life and Language)

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