Jun 8 2014

Appleby Horse Fair 2014

An elderly female volunteer looks out of the window of the charity shop and her eyes fall on a Traveller girl wearing approximately eight inches of platform wedge and six inches of neon nylon.

‘ Aww, she looks likes she’s dressed for a night out’, she beams in delight.

It is 11am at Appleby Horse Fair and I am in a slight state of shock and awe.

And annoyingly fear.


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I am on my own as deciding the three year old bolter was probably not suited to a place featuring fast moving horses, I have left him and his dad at Kirkby Stephen to wholesomely look at trains.



The train from Kirkby Stephen to Appleby is surely the best ever way to spend four pounds (return fare) Fifteen minutes of mountains, packhorse bridges and fields slide past in a happy glow. The man sitting opposite me with the Sunday Times and a real ale ( it is not yet 11am at the point) is probably in even more of a happy glow.


Then suddenly Appleby, a small quaint town normally sitting in a homemade snug smug nest  of pastel bunting and Very Nice Cake.



I am suddenly the only person on my own. People seems to be travelling in herds, laughing, swearing and joking. I go to cross the road then seeing the horses and traps whizz past, wonder if it is viable to just stay on the same side of the road all day.


I feel pale and old compared to the vibrant throng around me, the Spectre at the feast. The feast I can’t eat as the smell of meat permeates the air. There seem to be no other pale mid- thirties single vegetarian Goths here. I don’t normally define myself as a Goth but compared to everyone else’s skin tones, I appear to have been recently exhumed.


It is of course utterly brilliant. I have heard about the fair, seen the horses and bowtops traverse through Lancaster, romantic and timeless (‘unless you’re stuck behind one’, I hear an angry voice from the Daily Mail shout)

Now I am bedazzled by primary coloured throngs, snatches of equally colourful banter and the horses, the only staid placid things in this merry carnival. Until you try to cross the road.


Oh and just as an aside to the imaginary Daily Mail reader shouting at the back, they are all in fantastic condition. Glossy eyed and haired, well kept coats and no signs of neglect. And today I learn the Fairy Liquid is the best horse shampoo ever. You would be an idiot to mistreat an animal here anyway as the RSPCA, the police and Blue Cross are out in force.

In fact I am probably the only thing in Appleby without glossy eyes and a thick mane of hair.


Snatches of conversation drift past (‘sure they may be beautiful girls but..’) intangible and alien accents when trying to decipher through a cloud of whinneys, splashes, shouts and car stereo bass.


Some Traveller girls step out of a cafe into the path of  a mobility scooter plowing through the crowds. They apologise. She stares at them angrily and silently before continuing her constantly thwarted quest along the pavements of Appleby.

I’m still hungry but the pubs and cafes are rammed and either there has been a massive VAT rise since I last came to Appleby several months ago or cafes are cashing in Glastonbury style- a fiver for a bowl of bloody soup from a distinctly average slightly sticky cafe? i decide to just not eat. That’ll show them.

I queue in a smart polite line for the cash machine. You don’t see that sort of thing on ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.’ Then someone throws a bottle out of a 4×4 whilst laughing. Bugger. I hope no-one from the Daily Mail notices. But  a thousand telescopic lenses flash around me in a cacophony of glee and spite. Possibly.


Dyspraxia means I walk around the town three times looking for the market until someone tells me the actual directions and I realise I don’t have time to go. Or indeed to look at the rows of ancient gypsy caravans which was my original intention.

I have just spent three hours trying to cross the road to be cross about the price of soup and envying teenagers thighs instead.


For fucks sake.

Next year will be very different.