Thursday, December 09, 2004

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Traveling across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco on a frosty morning in blues and greys with the sharp contrast of marching towers of bright red cranes in a row, to build a new bridge, reminds one of Asian Art.

I headed toward the city to do a show. The decision to sell at a three-day Cow Palace antiques and collectibles show this past weekend was not one of my better decisions. It was the same venue, different promoter, and he had no idea of how to advertise to best advantage. Attendance was slim to almost non-existent.

On Saturday, after sales consisting of a thirty-five dollar pin, a five dollar book, and two decks of cards at five dollars for the pair, I decided I really needed a pick-me-up, or an escape from reality. Yes, a visit to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair being held in another building at the Cow Palace, should be just the “ticket”.

I had not been to a Dickens Christmas Fair, ever. My sisters attend one every year in Skaneateles, New York, and love it. I do believe the San Francisco Dickens Fair is different in that it is held inside a building, rather than on the streets of a village.

I was transported to Old London Town immediately upon entering the building. Actually, this location is considered to be six buildings, with a covered hallway between each set of three. This was the area where we exhibited at our previous antique shows, but it certainly didn’t resemble the drab buildings we had used in the past. The transformation was magical.

The streets of London were a delight, with wonderful buildings of Elizabethan England; shops, pubs, tearooms, dance halls and music halls. The decorations were so festive, the music was grand, in several locations, and the period clothing that was worn by hundreds was fabulous. People were dressed as the wealthy, or the common folk from all walks of life.

I immediately checked out Mr. Fezziwig’s Dance Party, held in his warehouse on a dance floor consisting of large wood parquet squares laid over the asphalt of the building. There were holiday streamers looping from the center of the ceiling, and a small orchestra seated at the side of the ballroom. Many revelers in costume, along with a few of the audience members, totally filled the ballroom floor for every dance. They would go through their steps, all the while circling the floor in the same manner that skaters use. At the beginning of each dance, a group of callers would loudly announce the type of dance that would follow. I had a hard time walking away from this activity, as I love watching dancing.

There were groups performing music in many locations, some in pubs, some in music halls, some on the streets. There was a fine group of sailors sitting on a dock, singing and playing instruments, with local men, women, and children in period dress joining in from time to time. Many talented people were involved in the sounds of Old London. The shops were a delight, and the food booths served everything imaginable. I chose batter-fried oysters for my supper, from a fish and chips shop. After visiting each location several times, I eventually wandered back to Mr. Fezziwig’s Party. It was my favorite place. I had been standing for a while near the dance floor, in all my finery, sweats, when I was approached by a younger man in costume. He was one of the better dancers in the group.

“Would you care to join me in this dance? If you can waltz, you can do the mazurka.”

“No, I am not able to dance at this time.”

“You had a look on your face like you were just longing to dance, and wished someone would ask you.”

“I am sorry, but I have a serious heart problem, and I don’t have the stamina to dance. Thank you so much for asking me, though. I really wish I could.”

We exchanged a few more pleasantries, then he proceeded to find another partner. I spent that dance wondering if I would have been able to accept his offer without getting horribly out of breath.

Almost immediately after that dance, another very good dancer approached me.

“Would you please accompany me in this dance? It is a slow one and will be easy to follow.”

“No, I am sorry, I am not dancing at this time. Thanks so much for asking.”

I don’t know about easy to follow. It seemed quite complicated at first. I suppose after one got started, it would be easier to go with the flow.

I was very sad that I could not join in the dancing and that I could not stay longer. This is a treat that should be enjoyed for several hours. I had only been at the Fair for two hours and it was time to leave. The only consolation was that the day was nearly ended in Old London Town, and all of the revelers would also go home to bed.


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