One evening last week our younger boy asked 'Dad, what do people do at a circus?' I tried to answer.
On my way home from the church on Monday lunchtime, walking through the village, I saw a big poster in Pete Morgan the barber's, advertising 'Zippo's Circus', in Hitchin on Monday and Tuesday evenings. I conferred quickly with Hilary and bought four tickets for the 5.00 show.
Ringside seats, the smell of the sawdust, young men dressed up like 'Buttons' in smart jackets selling popcorn, a clown or two warming up the audience, and Norman Barrett MBE in immaculate red tail coat and top hat checking everything out and having a friendly chat with a few of the crowd.
Then we were off. Clowns (a young couple called the Delbosqs), then a girl juggling amazing things on her feet, then a palomino and a Shetland pony, Norman Barrett and his performing budgies, a clown or two on a trampoline, a girl on a high rope, amazing acrobatics from the 'The Kenyan Boys', a trapeze artist, four palominos with Yasmine Smart, more juggling and fire-eating, more clowns, and an incredible finale with three Brazilians on motorbikes whizzing around inside a cage ball which looked about 12 feet in diameter; then two went around with a girl standing in the middle. Oh yes, there as an interval. The whole thing lasted not far short of two hours.
The boys loved it. So did we. It was not as sophisticated as what one sees on telly, but it was real, it was live, three dimensional, and we were three feet away from it. What is more, there were no hyped-up people whooping and hollering or judges to make rude remarks. One could just enjoy, get lost in it, maybe a fading world, which we thought the boys will be unlikely to have many opportunities of seeing again.
There were only about 100 - 120 people there. It was probably a bad time - no doubt at weekends or later in the evening there would be more. But what impressed me was the way the performers gave their all; there were no half measures and no cynicism about the small audience; all the bowing and swaggering and playing to the crowd was there. True professionalism. Made me think a bit about ever letting my preaching be affected by a small congregation!
Thank you Zippo's - a great evening to remember for all of us.