11/25/2006

Visiting the Tring Christmas Festival (formerly the Victorian Tring Fiesta)

The English will do just about anything in a cold, driving rain. The High Street in Tring was closed to traffic this evening for the Christmas Festival. That is when the lights are turned on, and a carnival breaks out. Henry and I left Pippa's flat at precisely 6:30, when the Festival was to begin. At the time, it wasn't raining, so I decided against taking the umbrella. I also did not put socks on Henry's hands as Pippa had requested, though I did put him in two pairs of socks as well as a wooly hat to go under his jacket's hoodie.

All day, Henry was incredibly excited. “I'm so excited,” he shook, as we passed by the library parking lot, where they were setting up the roundabouts and a carousel. He was so giddy, and all day he's been asking when he would get to go to the fair. I even used not-going as a threat when he refused to pick up his toys at about 4:30.

Even now as I sit down to write this, I can hear the sounds of the festival. You usually can't hear anything from this flat, which is on the Western Road, just before the roundabout (the traffic kind) which leads into town. The sounds are incredibly muffled, but I know something is going on out there. Henry and I had a good time, despite the rain which started as soon as we got to the other end of the High Street, where the second set of Tea Cups had been set-up.

During our first pass, the street was already filled with people, people who live here and belong here. Of course, now that I spend about two weeks a year here, I feel I sort of belong here as well. I did not feel any loneliness. After all, I had Henry's hand in mine, and that's something I can't say for at least 49 weeks out of the year.

The High Street sort of dips down until the middle, where Dolphin Square is. That's where a huge row of charity stalls were. Most of them seemed to offer nothing but useless tat, so we didn't bother stopping. Well, I didn't bother stopping. Henry was sort of overwhelmed by it all. Being just three, the world is still brand new to him, and he just wanted to take it all in. On the first pass down the street, he did not want to go on any of the rides. He would just shake his head quietly, and on the third time of me asking, he would let out a three syllable no.

Opposite the Rose and Crown was the stage, which was still being set up at 3:30 when we walked back from Tesco's. When we walked past three hours later, just before the rain began, a youth jazz ensemble was playing a selection of Christmas songs. Henry was mesmerized. I crouched down, and he sat on my knee. We listened to the band play for a few songs, as people pushed past us. Children smaller then Henry were moving around without their parents, so I told him he could go and play with them if he wanted. But, he held my hand tighter and decided to stick close to me.

I really can't tell if he knows me or wants me to be here or if he really knows me as Daddy. Part of that is my inability to believe that anyone really likes me. But, a lot of it is that I've not seen him for seven months until this trip. When I picked him up at nursery with Pippa, he beamed at me, and came right over and gave me a strong hug. He had grown so much. At three, he's already three-foot-six. He will dwarf me when he is an adult.

And, he will grow up in a culture so very different than the one I grew up in. There is no equivalent to what I experienced tonight in Virginia. Christmas parades in Virginia are likely the closest thing, but there's really no life to those. Parades are static things that you sit and watch. This was more of a surprise carnival, that just appears over night. In Charlottesville, Court Square has some sort of Victorian Night, which I'm sure stems from the tradition of these Christmas festivals. But, that wasn't quite the same as tonight's festival in Tring, which was absolutely manic. Rain would also have canceled an event like this, because who wants to go out in the rain?

Tonight in Tring the rain kept absolutely no one away. I remember six years ago, before Pippa and I had even gotten married, we went to the that Abba tribute band concert somewhere east of London, and it poured the entire time, and the crowds never let up. Sure, people complained, but that was only to make conversation. Everything operated as it would have. And, during both times, it was a cold, soaking rain. Not at all pleasant, but yet, people stick through it, they manage, it is their lives.

Eventually, I was able to coax him to go home, but not until he had won a toy lorry in the Hook a Duck contest. Made in China, it reads "Coa Cola" on the side.

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