A sunny Saturday sees me, the laddo and his sister heading off to our local gala, a popular yearly event. I’m flying solo this weekend, the missus having wisely arranged for one of her friends to get married, so she can escape, and enjoy a weekend of wine and dancing, leaving me in charge of our terrible twosome.
As we head into the field, next to our local sports club where the gala is taking place, my son immediately spots the bouncy castle. ‘Want to go on the bouncy castle daddy’ he tells me. We approach it and this morphs into ‘Want to go on the bouncy slide daddy’, because right next to the castle there is indeed an inflatable slide. I pay the guy, two pounds for five minutes, and put the laddo in ‘the pen’ an area reserved for kids to wait in after they’ve coughed up the moolah, but before the previous set of kids’ five minutes of fun have elapsed.
I say fun but it looks like gladiator school from my perspective. Aren’t kids rough? There’s a dog-eat-dog mentality to them that really comes to the fore when fun rides are involved. So I watch as little Sally with the cute pigtails and freckles ruthlessly mows down the 2 year-old in front of her, who has had the audacity to dawdle slightly on her way to the top of the slide. But that’s nothing compared to the shenanigans on the slide itself. Kids hurtle down it with utter abandon for themselves or others, there are numerous near misses and at least one kid has a collision that may spell the end for his expensive looking specs. There’s a man with a 4×4 lurking nearby, I think he’s there so that he can help inflatable-slide guy make a quick getaway if the kids’ violence spills over into a full-blown riot.
I’m beginning to suspect that this was a bad move, but I’ve paid my two pounds, and I don’t think they give refunds. The current batch finish their tour of duty and then it’s my son’s turn. ‘I love you’ I whisper to him as he heads off into an uncertain future. But it’s all OK. I think the footage they’ve just witnessed has scared the newcomers into actually watching what they are doing, and so everything goes to plan. No kids were harmed during the operation of this slide, and all that.
Following a few more – blessedly sedate – rides, and after spending a small fortune on the tombola – yes! I always wanted a (no-longer-accurate) 1D Cat Cushion (We don’t have a cat), it’s onto the hook-a-duck stall.
This is where I notice something on the stall. Minions. Lots of them. In a variety of costumes, with different assortments of eyes, and, yes there’s even a purple one. Then I look around at the rest of the gala, they’re everywhere! On every stand, every ride, swinging from almost every kid’s hand are these freakishly-eyed, Tic-Tac-shaped, yellow monstrosities. There’s even a family-based contest here to round off the day at 4.30pm, and the prize? A Minion the size of a small elephant wearing, for some reason, a Biggles-era flying jacket.
This is the second week in a row that I’ve had to endure – sorry I mean enjoy – taking the kids to a gala, and it was the same then. The minions outnumbered the actual people in attendance by a ratio of approximately 4-1. A couple of London-wideboys were doing a brisk trade running a numbers game on one stall. Get 21 in three tickets to win a minion ‘He’s wahn anaver one ovah heeeah’ said cockney #1. ‘Anaver wahn?’ said cockney #2 ‘We mast be mahd, weah giving ‘em away’. I ponied up my two pounds (why is everything at a gala priced at £2?) and promptly scored 42. The disappointment in my son’s eyes haunted me for seconds.
So I’ve got this in mind as I attempt, again, to win one of these mass-produced boggle-eyed pieces of tat for my son. You can actually buy them outright I discover, so I dicker with the stall holder for a moment over the pricing structure. I don’t go beyond the ‘medium’ (roughly the size of a small baby’s hand) which is £5.
I ask my son if he will be happy with the default Minion-related prize if he (highly likely) doesn’t hook the duck with the best number on it. The default Minion prize is a (small child’s) thumb-sized cushion on a key-ring (why? Why would you need a cushion on a key-ring? In case The Borrowers run out of haberdashery?), he casts his eyes down, lowers his head and makes unhappy noises. I think this helps his chances as, after paying the standard £2 fare, we are shortly heading away with our very own – purple – Minion.
I get us out of there sharpish after that, keenly aware that my daughter is now looking, with some interest, at the other Minion-filled stalls. But mainly because the air-raid siren near the inflatable slide has gone off – someone’s thrown a Minion on the slide, and it’s turned nasty.