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Are you going to Marylebone Fayre?

The swanky parts of London are just getting swankier.

Time, once again, for the annual bacchanalia, that violent and sordid spectacle of excess and debauchery, the powder keg of social unrest and insurrection that is the Marylebone Summer Fayre. This is my fourth now since being exiled to this neck of the woods and I am becoming familiarised as to its ways. Bitter experience has taught me that one has to be prepared for this event and the best way, once one has dusted off the trusty stab vest, is to come with lots and lots of money.

Regular readers of this column will appreciate this is easier said than done. However, the other day, the good people at NatWest decided, in the teeth of a veritable gale of expert economic opinion, to give me a credit card with an unfeasibly high limit. I’ve managed to live without one for five years, which I’m actually quite proud of, but a perfect storm of underpayment and overspending has contrived to make the new MasterCard a necessity rather than a luxury. As for the final reckoning, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. It is this healthy and responsible attitude to finance that has made the neoliberal financial model the success story it is today. (Besides, if the world economy collapses, I’d be looking pretty stupid if I was in credit, wouldn’t I?)

That’s so street

Anyway, Marylebone Summer Fayre. I think that spelling of “fayre” says it all, no? For a start, anyone using “fayre” as a way of advertising, say, their pub’s food, should be sent to a particularly stern re-education camp. (There’s a pub off the A3 somewhere that used to have a sign that said “Great beer, lousy food”; its candour deserves some kind of award, I think.) “Fare” is bad enough but it, at least, is a word. Anyone using “fayre” when they mean “fair” deserves to be sent to a particularly stern re-education camp and then shot anyway, particularly if they are using the word to publicise an event whose roots go all the way back to 2004.

Still, as I said a couple of weeks ago, I love a street party and also like getting the kids away from their screens (as the wonderful film writer David Thomson has observed, the word “screen” is reverting to its original meaning: not so much something upon which something is displayed as something that hides) and, besides, it’s Father’s Day, so I get to drag them along without them moaning too much.

Now, the great thing about a street party is that it allows people to eat good street food at cheap prices. Sorry: I mean good street food at extortionate prices. Three beefburgers set me back the very best part of £15, the Pimm’s comes in at £6 a pop, the amount of Pimm’s within barely making the lemonade blush, and there is a stall selling oysters at £2.60 each. Even the normal weekend market, whose motto must be, like the Harry Enfield character’s catchphrase, “We saw you coming”, only has the brass neck to charge £1 for each shucked bivalve. And anything that is worth it – the seafood paella stands, for example – have queues that go halfway down the high street.

My favourite parts are the stalls that do not sell food but reflect the local concerns. So there is a stall that promises to tell you how to recharge your chi energy (I offer the daughter a fiver to ask them to recharge her phone but she assures me this will not be as amusing as I think), a Kabbalah tent (saints preserve us) and various right-on stalls advertising good intentions but with nothing for sale that anyone with eyesight would want to buy. (Things are not looking good, for instance, for the orphans in Peru, if the jumpers being displayed are anything to go by.)

Bad acoustics

As for the other knick-knacks available for purchase, the phrase that springs to mind is from Tamsin Greig’s Fran Katzenjammer in Black Books: “I don’t half-sell an awful lot of wank.” Then there is “a music stage featuring some of the most exciting up-and-coming acts in the country”, which always means an unaccountably unembarrassed singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar and nothing else you might want, like talent.

All of which would be hilarious. But the day before, I discovered that the framing and print shop down the road from me is closing down – the landlord has asked for a shocking rent rise, so the nice Italian guy who listens to Resonance FM and knows who the hell I am has got to
pack up and go. So the shittier parts of London get shittier and shittier and the swanky parts get swankier and swankier, but those who find themselves in the grip of spiritual crisis or enervated by these developments can seek solace with the Kabbalah or recharge their batteries
at the local chi centre.

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 June 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Europe’s most dangerous leader