The greatest show on earth…

The circ-lus, as my three-year-old calls it, is truly the greatest show on earth.

You can keep your operas and ballets and Shakespeare plays. Circus is where it’s at for me. The smell of horse dung, dry ice, popcorn and saw dust. Powder pink wafts of candyfloss and ladies in spangled leotards. Human ability at its magical limits – a glittering goddess sweeping majestically thirty foot above your head, dangling from her neck from a silver rope. Mustachioed men standing on each others shoulders, five men up. No hands! Daring, bravery, beauty, courage, balance, strength, consummate skill and showmanship. Each man and woman playing many parts – acrobat, ticket sales person and fence erector in the space of half an hour.

For me circus is a metaphor for life. We see the archetypes of humanity – the clown, the beauty, the ring master, the construction worker, the high wire walker, the juggler who drops his balls and carries on, the aging animal tamer… all the roles we get to play in life contained in a big tent. I go, I sit on the edge of my seat. I thrill with amazement, and fear on the approach of the clowns. I laugh and cheer.  I always come out full of the potential of human ability. And aware that there is a darker dangerous side – the long hours, the unsavoury living conditions, the rootless moving from place to place, the morals of keeping animals in cages their whole lives, the use of low paid immigrant labour…

I have to admit that I have always wanted to join the circus. But instead I go to every one I can to enjoy the fantasy of make believe. Oh, the freedom of soaring above an open mouthed audience. The thrill of juggling fire. The team work of eight acrobats skipping on their hands…

I loved it as a child. As a young adult I went alone. And now I get to share my passion with my children, sharing each others delight in the magical world of circus. A soft haired child snuggling into me, cowering from the clowns and loving the elegance of the dancing horses and the beautiful woman on the trapeze.


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