Ok, so perhaps the title should really be ‘the time I ran away FROM the circus’ because, in fact, I joined them via the Job Centre and had a good couple of weeks to plan leaving, but that wouldn’t have so neatly tapped into the running away with the circus cliché. I was out of work in my early 20’s trying to come to terms with being a father, new girlfriend Cath on the arm and in search of direction. So when I saw a job working in promotions for a touring circus it was too tempting a chance to pass up.
The job itself was ok. We worked two weeks ahead of the show putting up posters and ‘ticketing’ – putting flyers through doors. The real hard work though was pack down. On the show’s last night in any given town we would join them in order to pack the show down and move it on. I joined up the night they packed down in Oswestry and it nearly broke me right there and then.
First there was the tiger cage. The tigers were on at the start of the show and as soon as they finished you removed the cage that surrounded the ring. You had to do it quickly so as not to interrupt the continuity of the show and they were big heavy sections of metal caging. Then there was an hour of peace whilst the show ran its course before packing away the seating structures and the big top itself. Heavy, hard, physical graft the likes of which I’ve not seen before or since followed by driving the whole lot on to the next site.
The plus side was that hour of peace. As part of the show I had ‘access all areas’ so I spent it talking to, and playing with both the adult tigers that had just been in the show and the lion & tiger cubs that were a part of Martin Lacy’s breeding programme. Obviously I didn’t get in the cages with them but the cubs would play high fives and nuzzle my face through the bars and the adults liked being stroked and petted just like any other cats!
These beautiful beasts were treated like royalty, far better than the humans involved, and despite the fun of being on the road which I loved, it was a short lived adventure. Ultimately, my colleague Brian with his three pet poisonous spiders, stealing electricity from lampposts and begging for showers at leisure centres all coupled with the aggression with which us non- show folk were treated, led me to do a moonlight flit in order to escape.
Whilst they were happy to treat you without kindness, they did value your contribution and needed you so leaving was not popular with them. Fortunately for me the show headed for familiar territory in Ruislip and a friend of the family came and rescued my personal belongings when the boss was off site. We only had enough cash for one ticket home so Cath shipped back to the shire and I hitched home a day or so later.
But yeah, I can smile and say “been there, done that” when the circus comes up in conversation 🙂
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