Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Feria de Conil 2017

Summer holiday seasons end on the same note as they begin in Conil, with a big bang. In the first week of June, the season kicks of with a funfair in nearby El Colorado. As the holidaymakers head home, summer is brought to a close with the celebration “Feria y Fiestas en Honor de Nuestra Señora de las Virtudes” in the first week of September. The main attaction being another funfair in Conil itself.

Having been moved from their traditional position by the beach some years ago, the thrills and spills are now to be enjoyed near the cemetery on the fringes of the pueblo. I note there hasn’t a been ghost ride since the move. Perhaps it isn’t considered necessary, and could even tempt fate. The circus stopped turning up not long after. Maybe the clowns couldn’t see the funny side of custard pies and coffins.

This year the festivities began on Thursday with lots of soapy froth as a water slide was rolled out through the centre of the pueblo. That was followed Children’s Day at the fairground on Friday afternoon. Whoopees all round with rides at half price! Hang on, there’s always a catch somwhere. Half a whopping rip-off is still a rip-off, if not quite such a whopping one. But it’s an ill wind, so you’ll be pleased to know the fair folk benefit hugely. Did I just call them fair? These snake oil salesmen know exactly what they’re doing. Reality check needed. They’re little more than drug dealers. Having created a market of toddlers and tweenagers desperate for adrenaline fixes in just one night, prices are doubled for the next. The taste of bright flashing lights, deafening music with a whiff of imminent danger has the kids hooked. They’re begging for more. Time for some brisk hand-rubbing in the caravans parked by the cemetery.

Next morning, the stamping of truculent children’s feet can be heard throughout the pueblo. Enough torrents of tears roll down cheek to make a small desert bloom. School starts next week and Pedro and Juanita’s Mum and Dad are taking them, so why can’t we go? It takes parents with far more resilience than the average Andalucian Mum and Dad not to fold. They, too, have been mesmerised by the promise of more glitter and sparkle at the electric wonderland next to the graveyard.

Despite the sound of the previous evening’s fun still ringing in eardrums bombarded by the latest in Spanish pap-pop, they’re almost as eager to go as their offspring. The promise of another session of twinkling coloured lights and the deafeningly monotonous thump of disco has them also straining at the bit. They long to pump the kids up with sugary drinks, candy floss, and other chemically-coloured delights, in full realisation help is at hand should they grow weary. A couple of rows of large marquees with bars have been erected for the dispensation of strong refreshments. At a price, of course. Here Mum and Dad can anaesthetize away their worries with alcohol. Like Chines opium dens, no tomorrows exist in these paradisiacal retreats. Dismal futures of unpaid bills and debt fade into mist, as the final stages of the wallet and purse transfusion are painlessly administered.

The great advantage to the nomadic hawkers of ephemeral happiness is that most locals have pockets bursting with cash for the taking, having worked themselves to the bone all summer helping their bosses milk the tourists. So it’s a merry-go-ground for the rich and a helter skelter ride back to a long winter of precarious survival for the rest of the pueblo. And while the townsfolk wake up to hangovers and empty pockets, the caravan of plastic pleasure purveyors has departed overnight to wind its way in search of fresh pastures to graze. After wandering about with my camera for a couple of hours, like the miserable, old spoilsport I’ve morphed into, I think I’d rather have red-hot needles poked into my eyes than join in.



One comment on “Feria de Conil 2017

  1. rangewriter
    September 10, 2017

    Conil’s “funfair” doesn’t sound a whole lot different than typical American County or State Fairs which also come on the cusp between the end of summer vacation (though not necessarily the end of summer heat) and the beginning of school. The County Fair where I grew up was based on a summer of agricultural activity and provided an opportunity for FHA and 4-H youngsters to show off their projects. There were conformation and performance competitions for the animals, a youth rodeo, and an on-the-hoof livestock auction. Secondary to all the hard work, was a small traveling carnival, which if you were lucky and had the money and had all your chores done and your pigs in a row, you might be able to explore with friends.

    The more urban area I live in now focuses a whole lot more on the traveling huckster/carnival show and a lot less on the animal projects. It’s a noisy affair and, as with everything American, loaded with the most obscene concoctions of fair food. If the food itself doesn’t turn your stomach inside out, the hurling and twirling carnival rides will do the trick for you. Our carnival, too, is populated by those poor little tweeners who are trying so hard to look grown up and sophisticated as the girls link arms and gawk at the boys who stand around smoking and pretending to be cooler than Antarctica, but are in reality little hotrods, ready to explode. I often wonder how many little unplanned babies result from the “fair/carnival.”

    All the lights and action make it a photographers playground. And trust me, the food at yours looks far more appealing than what parades as food at ours.

    Liked by 1 person

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