A nostalgic Will Millner longs for some old-fashioned fun
Looking back, I find it hard to believe I was ever really excited by a Beautiful Tea Towel competition.
I wouldn’t claim to have lost sleep in anticipation of this spectacle – it’s not like it was my birthday or the Cup Final – but I distinctly remember looking forward to seeing the event.
What mystical beauty would these tea towels contain? Perhaps they would be weaved from gold. Or maybe embroidered with the finest silk, and the tapestry would tell the tales of drying pots in days of yore.
It hardly needs to be said that in the end, they were a disappointment. The winner of the competition was a regular tartan tea towel with a Ghostbusters badge glued on one side and the ‘designer’ was given a pot of home-made jam for all their esteemed ‘efforts’.
A similar prize would certainly have been presented to the winner of the biggest egg and chicken, best novelty knitted item and prettiest quiche competitions – all also held at my local village festival.
Witnessing these events, and dozens like them, is how I remember spending most of my childhood. Growing up in rural England, life was a seemingly endless procession of agricultural shows, fetes and markets.
One festival I went to as a boy consisted of sheep, goats and various livestock being herded around a circular track in a non-stop parade for an entire day. They did nothing but walk laps of the circuit and my family watched for about five hours before packing up our picnic boxes and going home to watch the news.
Despite the almost complete lack of incident, excitement or stimulus of any kind on these days out, I still remember them fondly. It’s probably the nostalgia talking, but there is a lot to be said for standing in a muddy field in a rain storm watching an old lady sell home-made biscuits.
These are experiences my children are missing out on in Dubai. Yes, a small car journey can take them to see shark-infested water slides, or hurtling along the world’s fastest rollercoaster before making sand castles on the beach, going skiing and visiting a 3D IMAX cinema, but can they say they’ve seen Little Smeaton’s tallest fruit cake? No they cannot.
So to the investors, promoters and entrepreneurs looking to bring new entertainments to Dubai, I ask you to not look to the nightclubs, restaurants and hotels of New York and Paris – we’ve already got all that. What I want to see in the city is a good old-fashioned country fair.
I can’t be the only person missing the taste of plum jam and boredom.