Dear Egremont Crab Fair 2015,
When I first heard about you, I did a mini fist pump in my own company. I celebrated the fact that in a world full of chaos and despair, there was still a little English market town that shamelessly held annual Gurning World Championships. And clearly didn’t give a shit what anyone thought.
Maybe I loved the idea of it because it’s a bit weird like me. Gosh, I didn’t care that your website hadn’t been updated since 2008, or that this year you didn’t even bother to update the schedule. I didn’t even care that everyone I spoke to in surrounding areas either looked at me like I was a birdbrain when I mentioned you, or hadn’t ever actually heard of you.
It was tough getting anyone to join me on my four and half hour journey from London to see you, Egremont Crab Fair. The promise of wheelbarrow races, egg throwing and wrestling didn’t seem to float my friends’ boats the same way it did mine. Eventually my sibling, brother Liam, agreed to come with me – which was big for him because you held yourself on the opening weekend of Rugby World Cup 2015, you silly duffer. He did have a condition though… I had to enter the gurning competition.
To be fair, you already had my heart at gurning. Because I try to do things outside my comfort zone and by Jove this was a few kilometres out. I was terrified of messing it up though, so I practiced very hard. I was practicing in front of friends, family and colleagues, and the muscles in my face became stronger in the weeks leading up to your competition. Everyone continued to assure me that my face was monstrous…
Egremont Crab Fair, I was coming to make you proud.
We spent the Saturday seeing your daytime highlights; the parade of the apple cart, dog judging, drunk teenagers… Everything was so backwards, it almost went forwards. When the night fell upon us we made our way to the Market Hall, which I could have mistaken for a school disco from 1999. Your tacky decorations, terrible PA system and foldout tables made me feel warm inside.
The evening was warmed up with awkwardly funny things happening on the stage, like horn blowing and hunting songs, and the junior gurning which was very inspiring.
So when registration for the women’s gurning opened my brother pushed me forward to the desk to sign up. And this, Egremont Crab Fair, this is where you let me down.
Your entry form asked for my name, number and address, which I didn’t think much of as I jotted down my London address; the address where I have my mail and trophies sent… as this is where I dwell.
Had your form asked where I was from, of course I would have specified Mudgee, NSW, Australia. A small town of similar size to Egremont, known for its own awesome things like wine making and Peter Brooks.
I waited anxiously for my heat to start. I couldn’t stand still. I was literally shaking with nerves and reluctant excitement. I was looking forward to becoming part of you Egremont Crab Fair, I really was.
Eventually it started and to my horror I was called up to the stage second. But when your announcer called me, he called “Jessica O’Reilly, from London!” To which the word ‘London’ struck a nerve in the crowd.
Your people booed me, Egremont Crab Fair.
I felt shame as I walked up to the stage. Shame that I had been wrongly accused of being from London, and shame on behalf of your people for not being supportive of a first time gurner from out of town. I had but one family member in the crowd, his silent support like a mouse in a sea of unimpressed elephants.
Brother Liam’s cameraman skills sadly aren’t the strongest
I got to the stage and held my head high though. That was until it was forced down by your man who stuck that big chunky horse belt around my neck and bent me down like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. He was great though. He wrapped his arm around me and talked me through every step of the way. Obviously I couldn’t see a bloody thing because I was gurning my little heart out up there.
Dragged across the stage like an animal, I paraded my face to your tough crowd of locals who thought I was from London. All stabby eyes on me until it was over when I left the stage and walked back to the comfort of brother Liam, who was in hysterics.
After my big moment we watched on in big support of the other gurners, most of whose gurns might I add, would struggle to break a mirror. My brother told me he really thought I was in with a good chance, and seeing the ladies on stage, I really thought I was too. Sure they received louder cheers of support because they had more friends around… but Egremont Crab Fair, we must remember, this was not a popularity contest, this was the Gurning World Championships.
Needless to say your judges treated it like a popularity contest anyway, and I felt severe disappointment when you placed second and third to undeserving lady gurners with very poor gurning skills.
The winner, to be fair, was a strong gurner. She deserved to win. But at the risk of sounding like a bitter arrogant gurner, I deserved to be up there with her in second or third place. Basking proudly in my gurning glory.
The first place women’s winner 2015
Egremont Crab Fair, you anti-climaxed all over me. You lived up to every idea of backwards, small town, quirkiness and eccentricity I had about you up until the moment you cheated me out of a title in your gurning competition. I didn’t stand a chance.
Hashtag not a popularity contest. Hashtag gurners’ rights.