Crisis, what crisis?

Before you all run screaming for the hills, let me clarify that this post is not about politics; or at least to no greater extent than the living of any life impacts the polis and is thus political.  Far be it from me to note that many democracies have more in common with 5th century BCE Athens than is entirely healthy.  Voting for a present-day Alcibiades and the modern take on a bracing expedition to Sicily seem to remain all too tempting: if only someone had documented what happened next…

No, as always, this blog focuses the blunt scalpel of its attention on the author and, in this case, his slightly eccentric response to reaching a delicate time of life – one that occurs less near the temporal centre than its name might suggest.

As regular readers will be aware, I have for some time been preparing my body physically to run away to the circus – despite my advanced age, lack of any athletic ability and being in possession of a perfectly viable career (or at least job) which has very rarely required working within a marquee or much in the way of physical exertion.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have started to introduce some new threads into the rather abstract weave of my forthcoming acrobatic renaissance.

Recently, I came across the offer of a workshop on aerial circus skills at a local cultural venue which claimed to be suitable for beginners and so, in a fit of madness, booked myself a place.  Having put my affairs in order, the weekend before last I cycled off to Eastleigh to try my luck with hanging from the trapeze and silks.  The course was well attended, almost exclusively by young, female yoga teachers: so my age, height, gender and lack of flexibility did mean that I stood out somewhat from the crowd.  In fact, there were a lot more attendees than the organisers had been expecting, so my time in the air was more limited than I might have hoped and/or feared.

The writing of this post should indicate that I survived the experience (or have seriously buried the headline) and rather enjoyed myself.  Both the trapeze and silks were sited very close to the ground: at very much the right height for a female yoga teacher but not so much for me, so in inverted positions my head did have to force itself into the crash mat to make room for my torso.  I made a rather decent fist at the trapeze with my existing skills hanging upside down proving beneficial.  The only real issues were the sheer length of cord from which the trapeze was hanging, meaning that it did tend to rotate and sway rather more than I’m used to, and the more than usual height when standing atop the trapeze bar (I don’t often get to train in spaces with such high ceilings).  Still, I kept up rather well with my fellow students.

The silks were a completely unfamiliar medium but I did, eventually, manage to work out the basics of how to climb them – but sadly only as the session ended and so haven’t had a chance to consolidate this knowledge or rise more than a foot above the deck.  Most work on silks does require the player to gain some height first, so my skills will require a great deal more development in this area.  In this field, my limited ability was eclipsed by some of my fellow students who taught aerial yoga and were very familiar with using silks.  Nevertheless, the session was more than enough to whet my appetite and I rather fancy more time working on aerial circus: however, it does require somewhat specialist facilities and fairly tight supervision if I am to retain my neck in its preferred state (unbroken).

As a more widely usable alternative, the last couple of weeks have also seen me start new, more ground-based circus-related activities with the arcane art of hand balancing.  I should stress that I have not been raiding local undertakers for finger-heavy appendages no longer needed by their users for some charnel-house take on Jenga.  The only hands in use are my own and I am attempting to balance the rest of my body on them.  I’d already been doing a little of this with my attempts at the planche but I have now taken this to a whole new, and much more difficult, level.  There is quite a lot of my body to balance on my hands – of a decent size though they may be – and I often don’t know where my outskirts are or what they are doing.  The hard-won proprioception I have acquired thanks to my previous acrobatic endeavours does not always translate successfully to the world of hand balancing: apparently I can be upside-down in mutliple, confusingly different ways.

As an added element of difficulty, all my previous acrobatic work has had my body square-on to the action being attempted but I am now hazarding activities where I am side-on which creates new areas of difficulty.  It is also very exciting and yesterday I started on a movement which I have only previously seen in b-boying, capoeira and at the circus: it is going to be seriously cool when I can do it for more than a femtosecond without collapsing coated in sweat after a brief period of inept flailing.  I always felt I was meant to dance: perhaps break-dance will prove to be my Terpsichorean destiny!

The big advantage with hand balancing is that I can practice it anywhere – well, anywhere with nothing breakable within a six foot radius of my body.  It does involve a significant use of hollow body position, which I can manage in a lever but struggle to implement in other orientations.  I seem to have difficulty getting my glutes to engage: or so I thought, but given the extent to which they are bitching this morning they may have been more engaged than I realised (probably married against their will).  It is also quite hard work on the wrists: who’d have thought that as a single, middle-aged man my wrists would prove to be a weak point?

After yesterday’s session, my body was given an MOT or something analogous thereto: the inspection was limited to my body, so my horn and emissions went untested (just as well for all concerned!).  Unless you are very careful, you may find some images of this process smeared all over social media like a child’s jam-covered finger prints over a new 4K TV (not shared by me, who – as you know – largely eschews on-line sharing).  Unlike the car, my rear suspension passed with flying colours but a certainly lack of flexibility in my thoracic spine is going to need some work: it seems to need reminding that it is designed to move.  I also discovered (though should probably have suspected) that my shoulders are great in protraction (which has much less to do with measuring angles than my school maths lessons suggested) but very poor at retraction.  Overall, I seem to be in decent nick for a man of my advanced years and odd habits and there should be some mileage left in me yet.

I reckon all the minor issues identified in my MOT can be readily addressed, so I expect to soon start living life on my hands and give my poor abused feet a well-deserved rest!

Dad 321

It had to happen eventually (it didn’t), I have finally experienced the joys of fatherhood (true, but misleading).  And now I shall just leave matters there, in an attempt to build some dramatic tension…

I spent last week in Edinburgh, at the famous Fringe and its much smaller cousin, the International Festival.  As usual, I attempted to fit way too much culture into a week, but as last year I attempted to manage my addiction by refusing to attend any show starting after 22:00.  I may have been massively over-stimulated, but at least I was tucked up in bed before midnight!  Effectively my ego was acting as a rather laissez-faire parent to my id, but did at least impose some boundaries (okay, one boundary – but you have to start somewhere).

As I headed north for my annual cultural overload, the weather was set fair – or so the Met Office claimed, erroneously as it transpired.  So damp and totally unlike the forecast was the actual weather that a lesser man might suspect the Met Office to be in the pay of an unscrupulous cabal of Scots mackintosh and umbrella vendors, attempting to lure gullible Sassenachs north with insufficient wet-weather gear.  Fortunately, years of childhood holidays in Wales mean that I am not so easily fooled.

As is traditional, my Fringe had an underlying bedrock of comedy, but this made up the smallest proportion of my gigs yet. Before going I had left myself a note to see a chap called Tom Ballard, though I no longer had any idea why.  Trusting in the judgment of past-me I dutifully went to see the youth – and was surprised to find he was Australian.  Despite this handicap, I had a great time at his gig and current-me can thoroughly recommend the lad: however, I still have absolutely no idea why past-me had made a note of his name.  Does this suggest that my work in temporal mechanics will shortly bear fruit and that I use the breakthrough to provide gig recommendations to my past selves?

In a further nod to tradition, several mornings were spend at the Queens Hall soaking up some classical music.  Mark Padmore made a vastly better fist of An die ferne Geliebte than I ever have – and I was watching him (and listening) very closely for tips.   Despite this hawk-like observation, I still cannot say how he filled the whole venue while also singing piano and even pianissimo.  Other musical highlights were the Dunedin Consort playing Handel, accompanied by the stunning voice of Louise Alder (where required, she sat out the concerti grossi) and a concert of piano, viola and clarinet centred around György Kurtág.  This is a very fine grouping of instruments and the works by Mark Simpson, Marco Stroppa and Robert Schumann have opened a whole new area of music to me, though I may need a little more time to fully embrace Mr Kurtág himself.

Circus also played a big part in my week, once again demonstrating that I have a long way to go before running away to the big top is a viable career plan.  Most of the circus seemed to originate from Australia, perhaps indicating greater legal protection for French-Canadians (who, like elephants, can no longer be exploited to thrill an audience), and was very good.  My two avourites were A Simple Space and Elixir which both combined amazing skills with a lot of fun – and, in the case of the latter, the first time I have seen a man actually steam.   In fact, every circus I saw was good and introduced some new physical feat or new way of approaching an old idea which suggests that there is life in the form for some time to come: which is good new for my long term career planning.

For the first time in Edinburgh, I branched out into dance and saw an amazing piece called Smother.  This claimed to be hip-hop dance, though given my limited (okay, non-existent) knowledge of the genre I wouldn’t have guessed, and the 55 minutes flew past.  It would seem that hip-hop embraces rather more than a rap-based musical style: you live and learn!  I am now more keen then ever to extend my limited gymnastic skills into  b-boying – though was distressed to discover that even in this apparently free form of dance, one is still expected to keep in time with the beat (or at least the young performers clearly acted as though this were required).  Do evening classes still exist, or are we supposed to leaen everything from YouTube videos now? Music-wise I also went to see the Melbourne Ska Orchestra which was a great experience, though unlike much of the audience I did resist the urge to dance (too early in the day for my blood-alcohol levels to have reached the threshold required for dancing), but I’ll admit it was a close-run thing and had the seating been a little less cramped I might have “cut a rug” (as I believe the young people say).  My other favourite musical piece is harder to describe, it was a combination of fairly thin spoken autobiography, a music lesson and some virtuoso piano playing by Will Pickvance (a chap I had heard on The Verb, purveyor of many good things).  This, in a place where animals were once dissected, was a thing of total joy and a complete contrast to everything else I saw.  It somehow seemed to recharge my cultural batteries.

I also looked at some art and discovered that 10am is rather to early to face the full onslaught of surrealism.  It also became clear that Bridget Riley’s work is not ideal for the sufferer of astigmatism: though staring at some of her works does function as a suprisingly effective legal high!  I can fully recommend Inspiring Impressionism at the Scottish National Gallery which opened my eyes to the the role of Daubigny in so much of the impressionist art – and indeed beyond – I have seen over the years.  The exhibition ends with a wonderful, if heart-breaking and very late, painting by Vincent Van Gogh: it would seem I now cry at paintings too.

The final category of fun was theatrical.  My favourite piece came from Belgium and had the unpromising start time of 10am and subject matter of the terrorist massacre at the high school in Beslan.  Despite this unholy trinity of issues, Us/Them was an amazing piece of work and made the whole week in Edinbugh worthwhile on its own.  In fact, Summerhall was awash with interesting Belgian theatre (mostly Flemish) – of which I had time to see far too little – so I think I may have to spend some quality time in Brussels.

Right, I suppose I’ve kept you waiting long enough, I should explain my recent fatherhood and introduce my new son (who has a bushy beard and probably out-weighs his father).  My second favourite piece of theatre was Every Brilliant Thing, which I wanted to see last year but was sold-out and so this year I got myself organised (just a little bit, to quote that sage of life planning, Gina G).  It was worth the wait, though I did blub a little (well, I was more involved than usual in the plot) having made it through Us/Them with (almost) dry eyes.  The play stars one half of Jonny and the Baptists (I don’t think it would be too much of a spoiler to reveal it is not “the Baptists” and that one should never trust a swan) and, as it turns out, quite a lot of the audience.  Many people are handed a slip of paper to declaim at the appropriate moment: mine was numbered 321 (not, so far as I know, in tribute to the late Ted Rogers).  However, a few of us had larger roles and I had to play Jonny’s father (and to an extent Jonny).  This seemed a fairly modest obligation at first, safely discharged from my seat with only a minimum of speaking (just the one word, albeit delivered several times) or acting required (so very much pitched at my level of skill).  This contrasted with one member of the audience who had a lot more work to do while wearing only one shoe: and in my performance she was so good at her part I still wonder if she had been practising.  However, just when I thought it was safe to rest on my laurels (or cushion, no laurels were provided) I was dragged centre-stage and required to give an impromptu wedding speech as the father of the groom.  I’m sure my readers would not have been caught napping, but I had come woefully unprepared with not so much as a best man’s speech on me.  Luckily the discovery that Jonny (my son) was very much shorter than me provided an “in”(by way of reference to his tiny mother) and I managed to extremporise a small speech which went down suprisingly well.   It is rather nice being applauded by an entire theatre, if also a tad embarrassing, and I rather fear a monster has been created.  In future, I shall expect a round of applause for any impromptu declaration exceeding a couple of sentences.

Gosh, that was a long one – and such a range of references, if I were a better chap I’d provide footnotes.  Suffice to say, I had a splendid holiday but very little (if any) of a rest.

Twerpsichore

As Melvyn Bragg, or more accurately, his guests have relatively recently revealed, the exact number and nature of the muses varied over the course of the Classical era.  However, given any list of the occupants of Mount Helicon, it seems hard to argue with the thesis that I have been least touched by the influence of Terpsichore.  Then again, I have never shared any of my Love Poetry with you (or anyone else for that matter) – so I could always be lying.  I’ll leave that thought with you while I gently pluck at my cithara and await the arrival of Erato.

As has been noted in this very organ before, I am not a natural dancer.  My attempts at dance are about as unnatural, affected and artifical as could be imagined.  However, 2016 has seen me adding increasing volumes of dance into my cultural mix: though only as a voyeur (so far).  My younger self would be horrified as he found dance entirely without merit – well, except for the unintentional laughter it often brought him (and can still bring me).  Current me has, in many ways, reversed into his current interest in dance.  My gateway drug, as it were, has been circus: an art form which continues to obsess me.  This last week did see me first fully successful essay of the back level, suspended from gymnastic rings.  I will admit I can only hold it for a couple of seconds – I can’t actually breathe at the same time and holding the position does burn through the contents of my lungs at an alarming rate – but it was pretty good for an old codger.

Quite often the acrobatics in circus include elements of what I take to be contemporary dance. Both of the excellent shows by Barely Methodical TroupeBromance and Kin – have certainly included dance which clearly carries the narrative, even to a clod like me.  Emboldened by seeing dance and enjoying it, even if mostly in terms of the physical feats involved (and trying to work out if and when I might be able to replicate them), I have been branching out into more overtly dance-based events.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Salisbury International Arts Festival in the summer sunshine and all three events I attended contained dance.  Blocks was a circus/dance combination staged around a set of gigantic Jenga blocks and so was playing to my existing interests.  You and I Know, by Candoco Dance Company, I literally stumbled across by accident when seeking cake (I never found cake and am still struggling with the trauma: Salisbury was a major disappointment in this regard on a Sunday afternoon).  This was pure dance, though using two disabled performers – one in a wheelchair and the other with only 1.5 arms – and was incredible.  These appetizers were both free, but for my third encounter with dance I actually parted with real money – and moved indoors.  May Contain Food by Protein was dance-based but also involved operatic singing and a small amount of nourishment for the audience.  It was nominally set in a high-class restaurant with the audience as the diners and dancers and singers as the staff.  It was quite the strangest piece of culture I’ve ever seen, but very interesting and entertaining (and the food – eccentrically described and consumed – was appreciated).  It seemed to please both young and old in the audience, so some forms of weird could be the way to go when it comes to increasing cultural engagement.

As well as what we (OK, I) might call popular dance, I have also tried something a tad more classical.  Between Christmas and New Year, I accompanied my brother-in-law to provide  moral support for his first ever visit to the ballet.  This was to see Sleeping Beauty at Sadler’s Wells which I think was a fairly modern production: well, it invoved two conveyer belts and some puppetry and very little in the way of tutus.  I enjoyed it greatly and it was also a big hit with the accompanying ballet virgin: his fears proving groundless.  Inspired by this success, when I was in Cambridge recently I went to see Life by the BalletBoyz.  This was amazing, and at times very funny, and not a tutu in sight (just a lot of rabbits)  : though the Arts Theatre is a dreadful venue in which to watch dance as the sightlines are way too poor (something that has never been a problem with theatre which still works fine, but is almost fatal to dance).  If the circus won’t take me, I think maybe I’ll run away to join the ballet: it can’t all be cruel Russian matrons and bleeding feet (as the children’s TV of my youth suggested).  Realistically, this probably isn’t a great back-up plan for my retirement from the desk job: whilst the physical feats of ballet seem less extreme than at the circus, you do seem to be required to make them look entirely effortless and, worse for me, graceful.  The nearest I’ve come to grace in my life is thanking the Lord for the food I’m about to consume at a formal dinner, though I suspect a good word for the kitchen or waiting staff would probably have been more productive.

Still, I do fancy taking up some form of dance to take advantage of my improving flexibility.  Probably something not too dependent on rhythm or grace.  Do you think 50 is too late to take up break-dancing?

 

Overflow

Sadly, GofaDM is not making a brave new move into solving your plumbing issues, though, I do like to think of myself as a rather good theoretical plumber: I just draw the line at getting my hands dirty and actually engaging with the mundane reality of pipes, olives and washers.

I have a tendency to either try and fit far too much into my life or to while away many an hour without any apparent achievement.  Sometimes, I seem to manage to do both at once: which is simultaneously impressive, logically impossible and somewhat frustrating.

Last Saturday was definitely one of the ‘stuff-it-all-in’ kinds of day.  By the end of it, I was surprised that what remains of my grey matter wasn’t oozing out of my ears given the rather excessive amount of stimulation and input I had forced into it.

I first headed into town, as Southwest Trains were once again offering a £15 return to the capital, and Saturday was one of the very few days this quarter when journeying by train to London would not be viewed as rather a palaver by a polar explorer.  Network Rail seem determined to keep those of us lying south-west of Basingstoke away from the City: unless we are willing to devote many hours to the voyage, enjoy bus travel and don’t want to stay out late (or are willing to stay out until the following morning).  My primary objective was to visit a circus (so no great surprise there), but as it was a rare opportunity to access the heady delights of London I managed to crowbar in a couple of gallery visits first.

My first was looking at Painting the Modern Garden at The Royal Academy.  This was very good, if rather busy, but had almost too many paintings for my poor brain to take in.  I did discover that there seems to have been some degree of fashion in blooms – or at least the painting thereof – and that I much prefer the Impressionists’ take on the dahlia than I do that offered by modern gardeners.  Several of the gardens I would like to decamp to right now, but I think my favourite work was a painting of Gertrude Jekyll’s boots.  I remain ever the contrarian!

My second gallery was at the Barbican looking at the work of Charles and Ray Eames.  As you might imagine, there were a fair few chairs on offer – but their oeuvre was much wider than I’d realised.  The exhibition included a splendid film – of the type one used to see through the arched window in the Play School of my youth – showing the making of a fibreglass chair.   However, my favourite take-away was not the film, nor even the chair but one of the three colours in which it was first offered.  How have we forgotten greige?  Surely, the finest name for a colour ever created!  I want my flat repainted and carpeted in greige (which I am pronouncing to rhyme with beige) when next this is needed.  I am determined to restore it to the mainstream!  I want all GofaDM readers to start using it: force it into conversation, email or tweet if you must.

I was ostensibly at the Barbican to see the Australian circus company, Circa (the Eames were just an amuse bouche).  Their current work is called Il Ritorno and was of indescribable (by me at least) brilliance.  The physical work was, in many ways, of a nature and unshowy difficulty I’d never seen before and whilst not narrative delivered a very strong emotional heft.  Not only that, but they have comprehensively outdone me when it comes to juxtaposition.  The amazing and moving physical feats shared the stage with a harpsichord.  Not just a harpsichord, but a harp, cello and violin and their players further augmented by a tenor and a mezzo.  I literally did not know where to look much of the time: almost all my cultural interests on stage at once with circus, theatre and music seamlessly melded.  I fear I left rather shell-shocked and with the need to up my game on all fronts!

Even at that stage, the day was not yet empty of delights.  I returned to Southampton and spent the evening with three stunning guitarists at the Art House café.  I even learnt a little guitar technique from Clive Carroll: though by the time I’m ready to put it into use I fear the lesson may have been lost.

It was a great day, but frankly far more experience than my ageing brain can safely absorb in a twelve hour period.  Were I a computer, I think some sort of overflow error would have been in order.  Luckily, as a biological computer, at no stage did I need to dump my stack and so avoided embarrassment (well, any more than is usually occasioned by my excursions into the wider world).

Bread and circuses

Before we proceed with the main agenda of today’s post, I felt it was time to inject a little, much-needed structure into the madcap anarchy that usually typifies GofaDM.  So, let’s start with Matters Arising from the last post.

Having boasted of my skill and perspicacity in organising a rather successful trip to the Athens of the North, I feel I should perhaps give a little credit to mother nature (you really don’t want to end up on the wrong side of Gaia).  The weather in Edinburgh was unusually clement – so much so that I began to regret my failure to pack sunscreen (or a parasol).  According to the natives, this was not typical of summer 2015 as a whole and, in my brief visit, I estimate that I experienced more than 40% of the actual summer.  The sun is not always a friend to the Fringe-goer as the venues have a tendency to become rather toasty (and, indeed, sweaty) if the mercury rises by even a modest degree.  Here again, years of practice came to my aid and I chose to spend my whole Festival in shorts, thus gifting the general public with 360° views of my all-too-rarely exposed calves and shins (despite the potential provocation, swooning was, fortunately, kept to a minimum).  This additional exposed flesh seemed to work wonders for my body’s temperature regulation – well, either that or the Fringe have become better at venue cooling.  And now, that little piece of business out of the way, we can return to the main agenda.

Despite the title, I should prepare any lovers of the baker’s art for disappointment now.  Loaf-lovers will find little succour for their obsession here as I shall be concentrating on the expanse of title lying to the right of its conjunction.  At this year’s Fringe, I took in twenty-five shows over my six-and-a-half day visit – but this included four that might be considered to fall within the genre of circus.  This might not seem that many to you, but it exceeds in number all the circus-based entertainment I had attended in my adult life prior to that point.

When I say circus, you can keep your jugglers, fire-eaters, clowns and any animals whose participation remains morally viable: I’m really just interested in the gymnastic and/or acrobatic elements of the modern circus, basically, I’m looking for inspiration or tips.  The four shows were all very different, with a wide range of feats performed and a variety of approaches taken to link the physical feats together (and give the performers a brief opportunity to rest).  I could thoroughly recommend them all.

Something – a curious name for a show (does one go to the box office and ask for an hour of something?) – was the most approachable of the four shows, i.e. a few of the feats I can almost do and rather more I can imagine one day attempting.  It used the floor, tables and a ring or chain suspended from above.  The more physical elements were linked by slapstick and comedy and there were lots of costume changes – it definitely provided the most laughs of the four shows.

La Meute – used a lot of props, and in particular a lethal looking all-metal swing (constructed of something akin to scaffold poles).  This involved the cast being flung scarily into the air before summersaulting back down to a landing pad.  It also included some comedy (albeit of a slightly curious, French nature) and the male cast performed the whole show wearing only towels (which miraculously did not fall off – I can’t even keep a towel on whilst shaving).  I will not be attempting any of this in the near – or even distant – future: far too much need for split-second timing and risk of being smacked with extreme force somewhere painful (or worse) by a scaffold pole.  Irritatingly, most of the cast demonstrated that they could also sing or play a range of musical instruments as well as perform such extraordinary acts of physical derring-do.  I had thought that I was unique in trying to learn to sing and be a gymnast at the same time.

You – another oddly named show – had a single performer, ex of the Cirque du Soleil (which I know only via an episode of The Simpsons).  He used more limited equipment – a Swiss ball, some books and a frame with some long straps hanging down.  He maintained quite an odd monologue through most of the show – which given that I can barely speak having performed much more basic activities was rather impressive (even if the content revealed some substantial gaps in his understanding of nuclear physics and genetics).  He did do a few things which I might aim towards (and many far more impressive ones which may have to await my reincarnation into a more flexible form) – but he will not be invited to use my library given his treatment of his own books.  The show was good, but rather strange with a finale involving a lot of pudding rice and the audience being invited to throw it around on stage.

Limbo – was the last, and most expensive, of the shows I saw.  It also had the largest cast and set and included sword swallowing and fire-eating – which I will admit is quite impressive (and very hot) when you are seeing it from the second row.  It covered almost all the physical feats I have seen in previous circus acts, but generally added at least one little extra twist.  There was an extraordinary section where five of the cast were atop flexible poles swinging together and out into the audience which I have never seen before (and won’t be trying at home).  However, by far the most impressive element of the show was the most flexible man I have ever seen in my life.  I can only assume he must live a dairy-free life (an existence I am not willing to copy) and has no bones at all.  Not only flexible but incredibly strong in what seem impossible and unstable positions.  His acrobatics manoeuvres were the most impressive to me as they started without momentum – and I don’t feel the audience gave him the credit he deserved (showier colleagues gained the greater plaudits).

I rather fear that I am becoming obsessed by the circus: so many new feats to try (one day) or at least at which to take (very distant) aim.  If nothing else, I will be rather more diligent at working on my flexibility and stretching in the weeks to come.  I also found that the circus shows made an excellent counterpoint to the wordier fare which made up my other Fringe-going (and this very blog).  Should I be adding a more physical element to GofaDM, do you think?

Still a ways to go

After the last post – which turned out to be more serious, depressing and just plain long than intended – I decided to run away to the circus last night.  Still, it perhaps formed a useful counter-balance to my previous post with its brazen attempt to acquire work for the author as a foot model: work which has yet to materialise!

OK, that first sentence does raise a number of questions, so I shall just take a brief moment to answer them.  Yes, posts really do evolve as they are being written – some have more of a plan at the start than others, but all end up surprising the author (if no-one else).  The last post was originally going in a rather different direction, but that content will now have to find a new home – so don’t for a moment think you have escaped it.

OK, I’ll admit that I did not run away to the circus – I really don’t run unless absolutely necessary and often not even then – so I walked briskly away to the circus.

OK, I’ll further admit that I have since come back: I am not writing this using circus wifi whilst channelling Burt Lancaster in Trapeze.  As the title hints, I may not yet be quite ready for the circus life.

As is I believe obligatory, since it became de trop to use animals in the “ring”, the circus I walked briskly towards (Cirque Éloize) relied on the talents of French Canadians (or at least is based in their part of the world, it may recruit more broadly).  Apparently, the RSPCA has no objections to the exploitation of the Québécois for our entertainment (perhaps a continuing consequence of the sterling work by General Wolfe and his men back in the 18th century).

The modern circus, in addition to an amount of stage “business” and a relatively modest volume of juggling tends to rely on feats of physical skill by its performers.  Many of these feats fall within the broad scope of that which I am trying to achieve – and so I watched with considerable interest in the hope of picking up both some tips and some ideas for future endeavours.  I suspect I was the only member of the audience attempting to ascertain what “grip” was being used and how exactly one transitions from standing up to planche to hand-stand without apparent effort.  It seems clear that I need better mobility somewhere in both my midriff and wrists.  I have also decided I need a pole, though rather taller than is traditionally used by dead-eyed women to entertain morally-dead men, to try out some of the moves I saw.

Whilst I could recognise parts of some of the “moves” I watched last night and even perform tiny fragments of a few, it looks as though a lot more work will be needed before the circus might be willing to take me in.  Still, I do speak pretty bad French which will help me to fit in with the rest of the cast.  I am also a lot older than all, and a fair bit taller than most, of the cast, and very substantially less muscular than the chap showing what could be done with the planche.  Actually, I have never seen anyone as solidly built and yet, annoyingly, he was also significantly more flexible than me (though he would struggle to reach anything on an even moderately high shelf – so I win there!).

Still, my night at the circus was good fun and has made me even more obsessed with my future as a gymnast.  I started work on my planche progressions as soon as I arrived home.  Clearly, there is just so much cool stuff one can do: stuff that I had never even imagined before.  Maybe it is time to run (sorry, walk swiftly) away to circus school.