The streets of the village, normally quiet by this time of evening, are crowded with streams of families with excited small children, clutching inflated plastic hammers and bags of blue, pink and white, whispy, sticky candy floss.
As we get closer to the parking lot behind the Red Lion pub, we hear the pounding, loud beat of music and the banging and grinding of the gears of the rides, mingled with the calls of the food vendors and games hawkers.
The delicous smell of fried onions at the hamburger, hotdog and sausage stands, carries me back to my childhood, when, just as it has tonight, this fair came to our village each October. Hand in hand with our mum, Rob and I would walk down to the village from our home on Bear Hill, full of excitement and in anticipation of going on the wildest ride we could find. The rides were nothing in comparison the the rides at the theme parks of today, but they took our breath away.
Just a few years ago I went on the Octopus with my young nephew Tim, who was 12 at the time, quite looking forward to reliving the thrill. But the moment the ride hoisted us into the air and began to spin us wildly around, he screamed loudly, "I'm scared!" and I spent the rest of the ride, whizzing through the air over Alvechurch, trying to hug him close against the centrifugal force, while shouting over his screams and the loud music, "It's okay, it's nearly over--we'll be down in a minute!"
But what is a "mop" you might well ask:
Centuries ago, Alvechurch had a hiring fair for farm hands every October where workers would parade before the landowners who were looking to take on workers for the year. After being hired, workers would spend the rest of the day at the fair as a holiday. A maid would carry a mop to show the sort of work she was after and the event was known as the 'Mop Fair'. ( www.alvechurchdata.co.uk )
"The Mop" that we were at tonight is a descendent of that annual event. But I left my mop at home! :)