Every year I tell myself that I will get organised for The CLA Game Fair. And every year I find myself scrabbling to make arrangements at the last moment. This year I invited myself to stay with a friend, Martin, who lives just 24 miles away from the site at Blenheim.
I drove down from west Northumberland on the Thursday evening. The traffic on the M6 south of Manchester was horrendous and the drive took six hours. A certain amount of beer was drunk later that evening.
The next morning, slightly bleary-eyed, I set off at 6.35am. At the Cherwell junction on the M40 I went round two roundabouts several times, because the yellow signs for the Game Fair didn?t make sense. Perhaps they had been sabotaged.
Car park confusion
I eventually arrived in the general vicinity of Blenheim at about 7.20am. I was directed straight into a car park. I had brought a picnic lunch with me, fondly imagining that I would be able to get back to the vehicle whenever I chose. But as I walked a quarter of a mile across to a corner of the car park where people seemed to be congregating, I realised that my plans were already going awry. We were shepherded on to a bus. There were no signs to indicate where we were, so I asked and was told that this was called the airport car park.
Spirit of the Blitz
We all sat on the bus for a bit, then it set off. After about 10 minutes and perhaps half a mile in heavy traffic, the bus stopped in a side street in the village of Bladon. We all looked at each other and shrugged. Then we got off, and milled about. Somebody tapped on the bus driver?s door and asked where the Game Fair was. The driver pointed. We set off and soon intermingled with traffic on the road. After another 15 minutes, we ended up at Entrance A. A sort of Blitz spirit had built up, and everybody was cheerful. This is despite the fact that the Friday entry fee was an eye-watering £29.
Once inside the Game Fair, I managed to scrounge some breakfast a the NGO stand. Later, my friend Gerry bought me a buffalo burger, which was excellent. I noticed that Gerry had gone rather quiet. I surmised that my burger had cost an amount not dissimilar to the Greek national debt.
On the way out, at about 7.15pm, there was gridlock inside the site as stallholders tried to leave in their cars. And then it began to rain. I walked out the way I had come, and found the bus parked in the side street. It was just about full. I got on and sat there for 10 minutes, before I realised that it was waiting for a specific departure time. So I got off and walked back to the airport car park. Later that night, yet more beer was drunk.
The next morning, I arrived at the airport car park at about 10.30am. There was no problem with traffic. This time I didn?t bother with the bus routine, but instead yomped all the way to Entrance A. On this day, the entry fee was slightly more bearable. But on the other hand, there was also a 35-minute queue for tickets.
A great day out, despite everything
Once inside, the crush of people was overwhelming. I noticed huge queues of women waiting for the loos. There were also lengthy lines waiting for food or refreshments. At about 2pm I had had enough. I trudged back to the airport car park.
The drive home should have taken less than six hours, but I had to stop for a nap, so it took seven. I don?t want to tot up what the trip cost in terms of entry fees, fuel, food and beer. (I wonder how much a single day at the Game Fair might have cost a family of four?) But I have to say that I enjoyed myself nonetheless.
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