My friends and colleagues G and A and I climbed into the car yesterday afternoon and drove up and down Ou Kaapse Weg to the Sun Valley Shopping centre in Fishhoek. Why? To go and see Brian Boswell’s Circus. On the way we all shared nostalgic stories of the last time we went to a real circus. Mine was with my late father when I was about 8 or 9.
We were so disappointed, on our arrival, to discover that because of the high winds both the day’s shows were cancelled.
So we wandered around and absorbed some of that most weird and familiar circus energy. It is really strange. You know exactly where you are; the lawn on the border of the Sun Valley Centre parking lot, but you are entirely transported to a circus world that stands still in time, that smells of elephant pooh, where the primary colours of the bits of picket fence and iron railing are peeling and fading. The caravans stand in rows with bits of dirty netting in the windows. The circus hands rest in plastic chairs. The guy in the ticket booth, who is wearing glasses that make his eyes look enormous, explains over and over to families with wide eyed children that they will have to come back another day. The string of circus lights swings in the wind. One of the elephants stands with her back legs crossed, as if bored and waiting. The tiny ponies hang their heads low in their shelter. The lioness stares out of her cage with a look of sheer disdain. Around the back of the ticket seller’s booth a few faded clothes hang on a make-shift line. One caravan has bits of fence around it, making a temporary front yard, with dogs’ bowls lying in the dust.
Bruce Springsteen’s Wild Billy’s Circus Story starts playing in my head. The dust swirls. I hear a high pitched, “Mummy but why’s there no circus?” and we leave and go and have sophisticated capuchinos in Kalk Bay. Maybe we’ll try and go again another wind free day.