In these depressing days of Aleppo and Mosul and Donald, there is help at hand: the distraction of the fall fair.
Living in the Geneva countryside, you can choose your fair. There is, for example, the big Geneva Fall Fair (Les Automnales) coming up next month. Hundreds of stands will be set up inside Palexpo and you will be able to buy a house, a car, a dog, furniture and a swimming pool. You will be able to sign up for a kick-boxing and/or dancing classes and get a massage.
I have bought many lovely and useful things at this fair—an inlaid cow with a secret drawer, a camel blanket from Morocco, and a bracelet and headscarf from Palestine. It is an ideal place to do your Christmas shopping.
For the more rustic, there are the fall fairs over the border in France. The entry is free and after the danger and excitement of parallel parking on the mountainside main road you join the cider-drinking crowds. You buy roasted chestnuts and listen to the brass band playing on the town hall steps. They are dressed as clowns and one is proud to note that political humour is alive and well in France.
You closely examine the exhibitors’ stands. There are a couple of vans up from Aosta, Italy, selling copper pans and dried meat, but otherwise it is the local people selling what looks like their well-used personal belongings.
This year, among the wheel hubs, old clothes and shoes, piles of cheeses, and the priceless candy man, we particularly admired some mounted deer heads and a green frog water pitcher. We bought a house-full of porcelain plates for next to nothing as there seems to be a glut of old china on the market as it is not suitable for modern times as it loses its gold trim in the dishwasher.
Complete strangers brag of their extraordinary bargains. There is an overwhelming atmosphere of correct (cheap) consumerism. The collective mind harks back to the excitement of being a little kid with a couple of bucks in your pocket and endless potential purchasing possibilities.
And, of course, this is the beauty of the fall fair. It takes you back to the old days: the carnies putting up their rickety rides on the old fairgrounds; maple sugar candy, toffee apples, and bags of fudge; the prize-winning pies and butter tarts looking a bit worse for wear after a few days in the sun.
My sister tells me that nowadays in Canada most of this has been replaced with the spare-rib trucks, the skewered deep-fried potato slices, the lottery tickets, and the acrobatic girls dressed as bees showing off the vintage cars.
We agreed, though, that there is still that occasional whiff of cotton candy and cigar smoke in the crisp autumn air that shoots you, straight as an arrow, back to a gold-trimmed past.