Kage Baker often observed, as do all who do a Fair for more than one day at a time, that once one is over the jitters and hysteria of Opening Day, one settles into any given Fair as though one had been there forever. The days are no longer entirely separate, and one takes up the pattern of the season as if all years were one.
This is true, too. Despite all the excitement yesterday – possessed costumes, new water pipes that developed leaks over night, missing passes, missing socks, missing actors – today we had suddenly been doing this forever, and it all fitted together. Even the entire booth that was delivered to the street in front of the Green Man before opening fit in perfectly as soon as it was deposited: as delicately as ice forming on still water, by a fork lift driver with the expertise of a surgeon. It turned out to sell glass ornaments, coloured like gems and butterflies.
Suddenly all the parades are on time and the plays hit every mark. The Pantomime has children laughing uproariously, whether on the stage or wandering loose in the street (I myself had a charming conversation with a White Rabbit this afternoon). The French Postcards Posing Show has a similar effect on their parents later in the day … though those performers are seldom allowed out in the public thoroughfares.
At Fezziwig’s, the dancers whirl constantly, tirelessly, through waltzes, polkas, gallopes, and that quintessential Dickens dance, Sir Roger de Coverly. Every one of them draws a customer into the dance with them, too; it’s why they are there. Some people never get further into the Fair than Fezziwig’s, captivated by the unending Christmas party there.
Today, no food booth was out of food or drink. No merchant had missing goods; nothing was sold out or missing or not yet unpacked. The glories of Christmas and London were on display in endless variety and plenty. A lace-trimmed day cap in woven wheat? A glass of champagne, of port, of whiskey, or of good amber ale? A meat pie, a bowl of onion soup, bangers and mash, fish and chips? Dolmas or Turkish coffee or roasted chestnuts? All to be had, just as they were the last time you were there – which couldn’t really have been a year ago, could it?
There is no time here. It is perpetually 5 PM on Christmas Eve in London, with Queen Victoria still happy and married to her Prince and all of Mr. Dickens’ characters alive at once and in one place. They walk the streets and share the theatre seats with you and stand beside you in line for a truffle or a hot buttered rum. You may be excoriated by Ebeneezer Scrooge, and regaled with good cheer by the Pickwick Club; you might meet a Cratchit or a Nickelby or a Crummel. You may sit in the Parlour of my own Green Man Inn and listen to Charles Dickens himself read A Christmas Carol out loud.
And if you catch a glimpse of a red-haired lady in a respectable black housekeeper’s gown sitting by the fireplace there, just give her a nod. There is no time in this London, and nothing changes or goes away or dies.