Texas is dry. Not dry like in The Untouchables, but dry as in bush fires, bans on washing cars, and wild animals coming into the town in search of water. Dry like a desert bone. All kinds of records have tumbled since I moved to Hell’s armpit, most notably the “most days over 100F” one. It’s been hot. Hellish.
Perhaps it was heat stroke that influenced the belief that it would be fun, just once, to go to the fabled Renaissance Fair, about a 3-hour drive away from civilization and air conditioning. Or maybe I was just young and foolish. I was certainly younger.
I book a hotel because a six-hour round trip may be just a commute to most Texans, but it’s still a ride across a whole continent to me.
A week before, Albert, our local-news weather person, begins mumbling about rain. As the weekend approaches, it is guaranteed: it will rain.
Good, I think. We’ve been in a drought for too long. We need rain.
I make sure I have a rain coat. And then that I remember to pack it. Along with shoes with covered toes. Then, into the car and to Brenham, which is nice but dull, small, Texan.
Without drama, or even any kind of mental stimulation along the way, I make it safely to the corporate bosom of the chain-cookie-cutter hotel chosen by me. I like them – they’re predictable, clean, safe. I sleep, I have waffles for breakfast, I make nervous jokes about the battleship colour of the sky.
And then I head for the festival.
About half-an-hour away from the destination, the rain comes.
And comes and comes and comes. An old man with an enormous beard floats by on a large boat piloted by a giraffe.
It turns out that Texas had not, in fact, missed out on any rain that summer. It was being saved up in the Rain Bank. And this was the weekend we were going to get it back. With a generous amount of interest.
By the time I get to the site of the fair, the whole world was drenched. The car park was a field. A muddy, soggy field.
I put my raincoat on, my sensible shoes, and I heft my brolly. This is my first Ren Fair. I am diffused with Making the Best of a Bad Situation spirit.
And I head for the Renaissance Fair.
In a very large field, faux-Tudor buildings are constructed and then filled with olde worlde merchandise. Leather belts; paintings of fairies; jewelry; masks and masques; many different varieties of meats-on-a-stick. Soothsayers and mystics. Crossbow-shooting stalls. A petting zoo. In each corner, performers performing. Belly dancers, jousters, falconers, elephant rides. All staffed by young people dressed like extras in the first Blackadder series. Calling you “Lord” or “Lady” – the really committed throwing in a “verily” and a “forsooth”.
It’s more fun than it sounds. Unless the rain means that all the events are called off, the ground is a mud pit, and your clothes cling to your chilled skin like survivors clinging to a skin-covered lifeboat.
The shops – or shoppes – remain open, and I spend a couple of hours wandering around them. Fortunes are told, shiny crap is purchased, because there was nothing else to do. And I determinedly Had a Good Time. I’d “come all this way”, so I insisted that I had to “make the most of it”, as is traditional. My Dunkirk Spirit rises in the oddest circumstances.
Eventually, I have to admit that I was drenched, though, and that eventually took its toll. I return to the car, and should have left then. But there were things I hadn’t seen, so I change into less suitable wear, buy a $5 poncho, and head back into the fray. Mud pits are not enormous fun in waterproof boots; they are a million-times less so in flip-flops. But hey, now I know.
The next hour is grim and slippy, soggy and a blur of wet and more wet.
Finally, thankfully, the feeling of being bereft outweighs any other feeling, and I can head home in the knowledge that I Made the Best of a Bad Situation.
It is still pouring down. The car is a mass of wet clothes, damp clothes, muddied everything, and steaming, exhausted people.
So, that would be the time that the car develops tire trouble.
Prayers are said to the pagan gods of rubber, air is pumped into tubing at a gas station, fingers crossed that this would last the three hours it would take to get home, and I plough on. And live to tell the tale. Obviously.
Of the many adjectives that could apply to the day, I’m sticking with “memorable”. Personal casualty list: my boots, my flip-flops, my small point-and-click camera, my enthusiasm for medieval roleplay. Gone, but not forgotten.
Let’s take a moment in remembrance.