I am filled with excitement as I approach the fluorescent lights and music bombarding me from all angles, all of the brightly painted stalls lined in two rows either side of the street. The road looks like an artist’s pallet, with clusters of colour dotted all over the place. As I pass through the stalls one ride catches my eye: the Waltzers! I carefully weave in and out of the groups of people, trying to find my way to the end of the queue. As I stroll down the street a myriad of scents greet me. The intoxicating aroma of candy floss abounds: half sickly-sweet, half rancid and burnt – my favourite.
With every step I take I am more and more overwhelmed with feelings of both excitement and nerves. What I am about to do is going to be a whole new experience. I’ve always secretly wanted to have a go on the Waltzers, but I’d never quite plucked up the courage to do it on my own. But, today was different, I wasn’t alone: I had my best friend with me, cheering me on, telling me from experience that it was nothing to worry about, and that once I’d gone on them once, I’d love it, and go on them again and again. But I wasn’t so sure…
I reach the end of the queue and wait anxiously for the ride to stop so I can get on. My best friend, Sophie, who talked my hamster down from the window ledge when he was on the brink of ending his own life, stands beside me waiting, encouraging me to face my fear and go on the ride. I trust her implicitly – we have shared so much and cried so much. Finally the ride comes to a halt and everyone in the queue rushes forwards, trying to claim a cart for themselves. I almost trip up the steps as I am literally being carried along by the mob of people. I quickly run towards the cart round the other side of the operating box and swing open the bar, so I can clamber into the cocoon of horror.
Eventually all of the spinning bowls are full and the disappointed people, who are not quite fast enough to get themselves one, slowly back away to wait for the end of yet another turn and try to get a go on the fair ride. The ride begins to move and a tall man, moving over the floor like an amateur dancer dressed in work clothes, cautiously approaches the carts, collecting money from all the customers. I hand over the money to a middle-aged looking man who clumsily rams it into his money pouch and slams down the bar to keep us in this circular prison, so we have no chance of escaping. The music rises and pulses and I begin to feel the beat become part of the overwhelming excitement.
At first it’s fine, gently spinning and going up and down the uneven slopes, but I am yet to realise that we haven’t actually reached full speed. We rapidly pick up pace and begin to whirl out of control. Sliding from side to side, I keep bashing my arms on the bar securing me in place and scream at the top of my voice at such a high pitch that I can barely hear myself. There are three men walking around spinning the carts in front of us so fast that the people in them are screaming at the top of their voices. I can’t yet tell if they are screaming out of horror or joy. Suddenly he is behind me and I feel the Waltzers take away a quiet, peaceful morning with my best friend, Sophie, and turn it into a whirlwind of horror and disaster.
As we begin to slow down again, I catch my breath. But in a matter of seconds we are once again whirling round and round, being tossed right and left into the empty spaces, squeaking on the old leathery seats. I grip on so tightly to the bar that my knuckles turn white and begin to hurt. As we spin faster and faster I start to scream at the top of my voice as the whole world around looks just like someone has wiped a cloth across it and smudged it into one big puddle of colour. I know my parents are standing there somewhere watching me, as I slowly turn green. But I can no longer tell where they are as I begin to feel nauseous. Wave after wave of sickness overwhelms me as I struggle to keep it down. I pick a point to focus on, trying to calm the continuous washing machine, churning in my stomach.
We continue to spin around and around. I close my eyes trying to imagine I’m not in the terrifying witch’s cauldron as she cackles and stirs me round and round, mixing up a horrible spell. Her voice is a scream distorted against the music of the ride. We slowly begin to stop spinning, at long last, and I open my eyes to see that I am gradually starting to be able to make out the outside world.
We come to a sudden halt and I can’t wait to climb out of the pot of doom that I have been trapped in for far too long. When the bar is finally lifted up, I sprint away from the Waltzers, my feet unsteady as I move over the still undulating floor, trying to get as far away as possible. As I clamber back down the steps, my head is pounding and I begin to see double. I clumsily walk over to my parents, stumbling and disorientated. I gradually begin to regain my ability to walk in a straight line, and start to stagger back through the fair.
The long-awaited moment in which I grew up. A child no more, adulthood beckons with all its horror and excitement in equal measure. I had now learnt my first life lesson. Never again on the Waltzers!