Thursday, June 21, 2007

A connected stream of thought, on circus's

This is how it works when you're stood in front of the mirror every morning shaving the face that you've been looking at for the last fifty years and a chain of previously unrelated thoughts spews forth from your brain leaving you chuckling at yourself like an imbecile.

Or at least it does for me.

It started earlier when a piece of journalism on Radio Leeds spaketh of Pablo Fanques, they were a bit late as I'd covered Mr Fanques and his connection to Leeds some weeks ago, so if the researcher who works on the Breakfast Show will put their hand up then I'll start giving them free previews.

A little later I'm stood in front of the shaving mirror and I'm remembering the story that my dad used to tell me when I was a kid about how every year when Billy Smarts Circus came to Leeds he had to visit them to set their time clock, yes even Billy Smarts employees had to "clock on".

On one occasion he was met at the gate by the man who looked after the elephants and per chance he just happened to have an elephant walking obediently behind him.

As my dad bent down to pick his toolbox up the man told him to leave it and instructed the elephant to pick it up, it did so with its trunk and my dad had a new apprentice, it followed him one pace behind swinging the heavy toolbox from one side to the other and then placing it ever so gently on the ground behind my dad when they reached the clock. While the toolbox was open the elephant amused itself by picking up various hammers and screwdrivers until it was time for my dad to leave and they bid a tearful farewell at the gate and I often wondered if the elephant repaired the clock from that point on.

And before that stream of thought had disappeared another one popped up - Charlie Carolli.

Everyone of a certain age will remember Charlie Carolli the blackpool clown who was never off the tv in the 1960's and 70's together with his tall, skinny, gormless fall guy who would simply stand there with a "not at home" open mouthed blank look on his face while Charlie poured wallpaper paste down inside his trousers, but it wasn't Charlie Carolli or his gormless fall guy who caused the memory sidetrack but the ring master.

It was always the same ringmaster in the Charlie Carolli TV shows and he was always struggling to stop Charlie from making a mess or getting him to finish the wallpapering job that he'd instructed him to carry out week after week, but when Charlie Carolli had left the ring the ring master brought out his star act - the performing budgies.

Yes we used to watch this crap every week.

And while my mind wandered off towards the performing budgies I recalled that the ring master had recently appeared on a tv chat show, aged about 105 and still working with his fekking performing budgies, thats one hell of a CV -

"What do you do then ?"
"I work with performing budgies"

And then in one final leap of memory flashbacks the budgies linked me to Billy Butlin.

Billy Butlin, the father of the British holiday camp, the man who rather obviously gave his name to "Butlins" started off his working life on a fairground hoop-la stall, but the 16 year old Billy Butlin soon realised that the other fairground folk were defrauding the public by making the hoops too small to go over the prize blocks so that no-one would ever win anything - the legend goes that Butlin made his blocks smaller so that folk could win and despite ostracise-ation from the fairground folk his stall, unsuprisingly, became ultra-popular.

A few months later after being evicted from the traveling fair for being fair, Butlin set up a hoop-la stall outside a circus tent giving away goldfish as prizes until one day his normal pet shop supplier of goldfish had run out - so he bought a load of budgies instead.

Its nothing of a story really but as I finished my morning ablutions I was left with this image of two or three hundred people sat in a circus tent all holding their arms at chest height, index finger extended, with a budgie sitting on each one, cursing the moment that they decided to have a go at the hoop-la while waiting to go into the circus, all it would take is a backfire from the clowns car to have two hundred budgies take to the air in fright inside the big top and the rest of the evening be spent in chaos as people clambered all over the back of the seating waving cuttlefish and millet in the air trying to get their particular budgie back, maybe eventually sending the tightrope walker up into the eaves to bring down the most scared of the small but colourful australian caged birds.

Ho-hum, I bet Tony Blair thinks of far more important things when he's shaving every morning.
Or maybe not.

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