Saturday, 26 April 2008

The Henley Royal Regatta Fair.


The Henley Royal Regatta Fair.

When you’re a youngster, the fair is a magical, mystical wonderland.
(At least it was for us in the 50’s and 60’s.)

The problem was though, that money was very scarce in most working-class
families back then. But the lure of the fair was SO powerful it just
couldn’t be resisted.

At the Royal Henley Regatta, in the 50’s and 60’s the fair used to be
almost directly behind the ‘Finish Line’ of the boat races, in the field
that they now use as the ‘hospitality’ area.

Between races the fair would get ‘swamped’ with the ‘Hooray’s’ who would
push, shove and bully their way onto the rides so that we mere mortals could
hardly get a look in.

Now….as a kid of 8 or 9 I was pretty resourceful. I would walk the three
mile to Henley so that I could be at the fair for early afternoon. The most
popular ride for the Hooray’s was the bumper cars (of course), they ran
amok every time each session stopped, hogging the cars for themselves
each time.

I could see the ‘respectable’ folk looking totally dismayed and frustrated
that they couldn’t get a look in.
Seeing this, I realised that being quite small, tough and hardy, I’d get to
at least One of the cars before the marauders. This I’d do, (most times).
Then I’d catch the eye of someone who’d missed out and beckon them over.
I’d get out letting them take the car, telling them I’d saved it especially
for them.
The look of gratitude on their faces said all I needed to know then.
While the ride ran it’s course, I’d stand on the edge making sure I’d make
eye contact now and again, with a little smile as they got ‘shunted’.

Now I’m not saying that I had a 100% conversion rate, but most of those I
saved a car for would come to me afterwards and thank me, saying they’d had
a great time etc. But more to the point. The people who visited the
Royal Henley Regatta then, were generally pretty well off. I would usually
get a couple of pennies, threepenny-joey, or a tanner handed to me for my consideration.

Occasionally I’d catch the eye of a single rider, and then more often than
not, they’d invite me along for the ride. (No cost of course). So my wily
little plan got me the best of both worlds, and due to the 'greed' and 'slovenliness' of the ‘Hooray’s’, I was able to repeat my little ruse
on other rides at the fair as well.

Did I used to enjoy Henley Royal Regatta week? You bet I did. For several
years on the trot, until they moved the fair OUT of the regatta grounds.

The Hooray’s and the well-off didn’t fancy the long trek to the fair, so it
was left to those with just enough for themselves.

Yep...US....The working class.

Ahhhh…..Those were the days…………


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Monday, 21 April 2008

The Royal Henley Regatta..Henley-On-thames.


Royal Henley Regatta..Henley-On-Thames.

I was laid in the bath today, thinking about the next
few months and what might be happening.
Then from out of nowhere, memories started flooding
back to my childhood visits to 'the most glorious'
event I could ever remember.

Yes, the 'Royal Henley Regatta' was viewed as 'the'
most important event in our small village of Wargrave's
calendar. Henley-on-Thames being just three miles
along a very hilly, windy road, it was right on our door-
step. Our village was 'almost' Royal for a couple of
weeks a year, thanks to the Royal Henley Regatta.

Now Wargrave was generally a sleepy little village
for most of the time, with nothing much happening at all.
Maybe the odd fete, the march on remembrance day,
and the odd sighting of a few of the very famous
residents we had smattered around the place. The
most familiar I suppose was Robert Morley, the rotund
actor of many a comedy and farce.

BUT!….Usually in May, the village would be descended
upon by several removal lorries filled with bedding,
beds, chairs, luggage, catering equipment of every
size and dimension, and a whole load of GIANTS!

Well, as kids, that’s what they looked like to us.
They were of course rowers, preparing for the annual
Royal Regatta. Not just any old rowers mind. These were
the boys from ‘The Thames Rowing Club’
(based in Putney as I remember).

OK you say, a memorable annual event for the entertainment-
starved population of Wargrave, but.....“what else”?

I’ll tell you what else…..’Money!’….Yep, sorry for lowering
the tone here, but the arrival of the ‘Thames Rowers’ meant
the family funds suddenly got a boost!

My Mum knew the ‘main-man’. The co-ordinator of the whole
military operation, on whose broad shoulders it fell to make
sure that these GIANTS had their every whim catered for.

They needed digs, they needed feeding, they needed cleaning
up after, and they needed errands run.
They were also pretty well financed, so guess who used to be
the second-in-command to ‘the main man’?

You guessed right. My Mum……..and her little private army of
deed-doers. Me and my brothers and sisters of course. We were
the cleaner-uppers, the tidy-uppers, and the message-runners
extreme. To top it all, we were very well paid for our few
weeks of hard graft. We got paid by ‘the main-man’. We also
got paid by the GIANTS, who all seemed to have too much money
for their own good anyway.

Does it still happen these days?
Remember….This was in the 1950’s….
When children were FREE human beings.
Allowed to get dirty, cut and bruised.
Who were allowed to use their own imagination and resources
to get by the best way they could, with VERY little in the way
of resources. (Except their wits).

These days, the parents would be hauled before the courts.
The children would be GIVEN their human rights, even though
they don’t want or need them.
The ‘main-man’ would likely be imprisoned for using child labour.

Is it TOO LATE to turn the tide?
This post continues with….
‘What happened at the Regatta Fair’ later.



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