Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Get Dizzy, Take a Plunge, Hook a Meerkat
Clapham Common Wristband Theme Park
While I was in the park at the weekend, I saw a poster attached to the railing, announcing the arrival of a theme park on Clapham Common. I see these kinds of posters frequently, but nine out of ten times, the fair has already ended by the time I do. This happened to be that one out of ten, because the fair had only just begun, and continues up until the 27th April.
According to Mr. Weatherman, Tuesday was meant to be a good day, and although a little windy, the sun was out as predicted, so off I went. Once you get to the entrance, there are three ticket options, and because the rides have height restrictions, prices are based on how tall you are, rather than your age. The fair is advertised as great value for money, but I beg to differ. Remember when you used to be able to enter places like this for free, and then just pay as you go? No more. Prices are as follows:
No Wristband - £2.50 - without a wristband you can't go on any of the rides, so you are basically paying to stand and watch other people have fun. It is pretty much a 'parent charge', making adults pay to wait for their kids to finish playing.
Under One Metre - £6.99 - since a majority of the rides require you to be over one metre tall, this is expensive.
Over One Metre - £8.99 - although this gives you access to all the rides, once you've reached a certain age, you won't want to go on half of them.
On the poster in big bold writing, it states that a wristband gives you free access to all of the attractions, but this is not true. When you read the small print at the bottom, you'll discover that the fair game stalls are individually priced. There are also two other attractions that are not covered by the wrist band.
The fair is open every day between 12pm-9pm, and your wristband is valid for a three-hour segment of 12pm-3pm, 3pm-6pm, or 6pm-9pm. I wouldn't worry about getting there on the hour though, as depending on how many times you want to go on a ride, it won't take you more than an hour to ninety minutes to do everything you want to do.
Fair Game Stalls
There are about five or six stalls in total, all with similar activities. When I was looking round, no one seemed to be running any of them, but that is actually because one person runs multiple stalls all at once, and they keep moving from one to another. You therefore have to look around for them to ask to play. At the first stall, you can have a go at hooking ducks floating on water, or hooking meerkats, while at another stall, you can hook goody bags. You get a prize every time, but it will only be a cheap plastic toy. If you are lucky, you'll hook a bag with a star, in which case you'll win a teddy bear.
The third stall, is a ring toss, which I would recommend staying away from, because although the prizes of £5-£10 notes might be appealing it is obvious even from a distance that the rings are far too small to fit over the pegs.
The other two stalls could get you big cuddly toys like tigers, teddies, and snakes - if you can knock down all the tin cans or shoot a crossbow. As long as you know you haven't got a chance in hell of winning anything worthwhile, you might enjoy the almost impossible challenge.
On the website it gives a list of all the rides, but there were many that on the day, were nowhere in sight. These include Teacups, Flying Dumbo, the Big Wheel, Ladybird Ride, Toy Set, Fun House, and others.
The first ride I cam across was the Ghost Train. Now maybe at eight o'clock, when it is dark, this might be slightly spooky, but on a bright spring day, with the sun beaming down, and the witches and skeletons being bashed about in the wind, scared I ain't. Young children, however, might enjoy the odd surprise as things jump out at you behind the scenes, and you can feel confident that they won't be upset or frightened once they come off.
Toddlers can also enjoy a myriad of round-a-bouts, featuring different vehicles, such as cars, buses, boats, and planes. There was also one with a Flintstones type car on it. The woman running the ride looked pretty miserable though. In fact, I went around the whole fair, and not one of the stall holders or ride owners had a smile on their face. All were frowning, and looked as if they really didn't want to be serving you.
The grown-up version of the round-a-bout, the good old carousel, was full of lights, and spinning round quite fast. All ages were enjoying a ride on this.
Opposite, stood the Astro-Liner X10; direct from America, it is the biggest travelling space simulator in the world. I didn't go on, but from outside, you can see it lifting up and slowly spinning round.
My favourite kinds of rides are ones that spin round, as opposed to roller coasters that go up and down. My favourite is the Waltz, which wasn't at Clapham Common, but they had something similar called Chairplanes. These are like baby swing seats that fly really fast in the air.
Another 'round and round' ride was the Trail Blazer. Like most of the rides it started off fairly slowly, and then got very fast near the end.
Another ride described as 'London's No. 1', begins life as a kind of claw, then lifts from the ground, spins round and round, and then opens up like a big wheel. This was probably the biggest adrenaline rush ride. A bit too vertical for me.
For a gentler experience, Peter Pan's Go Gator or the one I always liked, the Crazy Caterpillar, which is generally considered a roller coaster ride for younger kids, before they are old enough to go on the big kids rides. It is also for those who don't like big drops. Like me.
Other rides included a pendulum swinging Energy Storm, and The Booster. I don't know what this does, as no one was going on it.
Next door to the Ghost Train is the Mirror Maze, which is probably more scary. I've been in these things before, and you do feel a sense of panic, when you can't find a way out. There isn't really any reason to sorry though. The glass front means you can see out and parents can see in.
Next stop is the Inflatable slide, proudly hosted by Daffy Duck. This was one of my favourite things to go on at fairgrounds when I was little; soft, bouncy, fun to climb up, and fun to slide down.
If you prefer Disney to Looney Tunes, then enter the Mickey Mouse Club House; this giant bouncy castle features pictures of all your Disney pals, and there are lots of obstacles to clamber over. These bouncy castle can give you quite a work out.
You can't have a fun fair without dodgem cars. I'm hopeless on these. I know you meant to bump into stuff, but that is generally other drivers. I can't do anything other than drive into a wall. Fortunately I don't ever plan on getting a car.
Like I said earlier, there are two attractions not covered by the wrist band, both of which is £5 for five minutes. I don't know if you have to have five minutes, or if you can buy a go for a shorter period. First is the Bungee Trampoline, which I have seen many times before in Kingston's town centre. You get strapped into a harness that is attached to a bungee rope, and get to jump much higher than you would on a traditional trampoline.
Next to that are some giant water balls, which you climb inside, and try to walk across the paddling pool, a bit like a hamster. Most people spend more time on their bellies than they do standing up.
There is a picnic spot in the centre of the fairground, where you can eat from the numerous fast food stalls, sweet stands, and ice cream trucks. I was looking at them each time I went past, wondering whether or not to get anything.
I was browsing Hansel and Gretel's Magical House of Sweets, which appeared to be completely void of owner. A group of boys were also there wanting to buy something, and just as the picked up a bag of flying saucers to look at, a sharp voiced hollered at them. A cross looking woman marched up to the stand and told them to put it down. She told them not to touch anything, and if they wanted something to ask. So when they asked, she then contradicted herself, gave them a pick a mix bag, and then said 'get it yourself, weigh it, and then come and get me. Moments later she was walking off again.
I was eventually tempted by some colourful looking fudge, and for old times sake, scooped up a few fried eggs, and cola bottles. When I got to the counter, the woman wasn't there, but her son. When he said the bag was £3, I thought that was very cheap. Too cheap. I had misheard; he had said £15. I thought this as very expensive. Too expensive. I was expecting something in between. Still, I didn't feel comfortable putting things back, so paid up. Later I discovered that some of the fudge I had bough was an oddly coloured coconut ice (which I hate) in disguise, and the gummy sweets were awful. I don't know if they have changed since I was a child, or my tastes have just matured, but I was bitterly disappointed. Perhaps childhood memories are best left as that, so as not to ruin them.
Next to the sweet stand was a grill house, advertising exotic burgers such as ostrich, wild boar, buffalo, and springbok, but when I asked for a buffalo burger, she said all that was available was beef. The fair had only been open for an hour, and she hadn't had many customers, so she couldn't have possibly sold out. I doubt she had any of these to begin with, which annoys me, because it was clearly advertised. I think it is used to draw you in, and then get you to end up buying something else. Which I well ad truly fell four, by ordering doughnuts. These were much smaller than the picture suggested, and although they had a nice creamy inner texture, they were almost tasteless.
How much you enjoy the experience of Clapham Common Wristband Theme Park depends on how much you are willing to spend on fun fair rides, whether or not you mind junk food, and if you bring a friend. I went by myself, but I don't think that creates the same enjoyment as a shared experience.