Letters August 20: Out of the freak show and onto the high street

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From: G Wright,Fieldside Court. Tadcaster.

IN the North Of England, when I was a child in the 1930s and 40s, the nearest most people got to an annual holiday was a day trip to Blackpool. Apart from a paddle in cold, polluted sea water or a donkey ride, of the few additional sources of entertainment were a row of small marquees on the promenade containing what were popularly labelled, at that time, as freak shows.

One paid a few pennies to gawp at such rarities as “the dog with five legs” or “the goat with two heads”. My favourite was a visit to the tent in which resided “Jolly Alice”, an obese lady who caused one to surmise, even at an early age, how far the skin would stretch without bursting.

Nowadays, free of charge, one can view lots of people the size of “Jolly Alice”, or incipient versions along any high street. Unfortunately, many children are showing evidence of movement in the same direction. One of the excuses for this epidemic of obesity, as propounded by the professional apologists, is mental stress.

When I viewed the “fat lady”, there was a great deal of stress in the form of, for instance “where and when the next bomb might fall” or “how can we survive until the next ration coupons are valid”, but obesity was virtually non-existent in the general public.