Tuesday, 25 May 2010

running away with the circus

I've just got home from a lovely few days in Brighton. The Clown was there on work, performing in a free outdoor show for NoFit State circus called Parklife. The show was fantastic - the audience was possibly as large as 7000 people. It helped that the weather was glorious: proper summer heat and cloudless blue skies.

The Clown was working quite hard, but I was just looking for an excuse to do nothing, without feeling guilty about doing nothing. It was my first experience of running away with the circus; our camp, in a park in the middle of Brighton called The Level, was behind the performance area and was filled with children, babies and small dogs. I wandered around town by myself - losing myself in the antique and flea market in the North Lanes, admiring the Pavillion from its beautiful gardens, mostly steering clear of the beach crammed with people all turning various shades of shiny red - or I sat in the open doors of our pink starry campervan and read The Cloudspotter's Guide, under a clear blue sky (it's a state of mind).

After the show, people hung out in the park late into the night. The darkness around our camp was dotted with bonfires and fire-spinners dancing to music beating from portable speakers. The Clown and I wandered out to join one of the groups, a raggedy circle collected around a group of dreadlocked fire-spinners and girls playing with hula-hoops in fluid dancing swirls. The fire-staff and poi were mesmerising; was it the light and sparks in the darkness, or was it that these kids were tireless, determined to continue until they ran out of fuel, playing for the sheer joy of the game?

On our last night in Brighton, after the crew and performers had spent a hot day breaking down the set, and I had spent an easier day as a camp follower sorting out the campervan, we strolled down to the seafront and walked out to the end of the pier. It was another perfect evening. We wandered amongst the casino games and tacky souvenir shops and rides, and leaned over the edge of the pier to watch large fish darting at the surface below. Is Brighton Pier a poor man's cruise ship? I was fascinated by it. I always see an edge of menace in a fun fair, an undercurrent of the grotesque, and to have a fun fair on a pier over the ocean is sublime.

There's just something about seaside towns. I'm not sure that Cardiff is one, really, as we are sadly lacking in a beach. It's not a holiday town in the same way as Brighton, certainly.

I'm going to live in a town by the sea one day.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The advert the Financial Times refused to publish.

Check out the Protect the Human blog for more information on this campaign.

And more on the FT's decision here.

Monday, 17 May 2010

a heart tale in the telling

(based on true events)

You left your heart in my fridge.

That didn't seem right,
and I thought, hey,
you might want it back,
so I cycled round to yours
with your heart in a plastic bag
in that old black milk crate
on the back of my bike.

At first you were glad to see it.
But then you forgot about it,
don't know why -
you might've been busy.
And your heart started to go off
and it started to smell
and it didn't look right
and even the neighbourhood cats
wouldn't touch it
when you left it in the backyard.

And your heart was a sorry sight.
Sitting in the dirt,
covered in flies.

I thought that maybe I should've kept it.
That maybe I'd have made better use of it
than you.

This story ends like no other:
(I can't make this shit up)
you pulled the car over
you kept the engine running
while I threw your heart
into a bin
outside the co-op on Splott Rd.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

twelve steps to skinny-dipping.

(soundtrack: Frank Sinatra, "New York, New York")

1. pick a good beach, broad and long and golden-sanded. Rhossili Bay in the Gower is an excellent choice.

2. go early. you'll only share the beach with the occasional surfer or dog-walker. if you've picked the right beach, there'll be enough of a gap between their comings-and-goings to allow for a leisurely stroll to the water, in just your skin.

3. bring with you in a bag the following: long underwear, a fluffy towel, a blanket, a ground sheet. A flask of hot tea wouldn't go amiss, if you have one to hand.

4. lay your ground sheet high up the beach on dry sand.

5. wait for a suitable window of opportunity, then take off your clothes.

6. stroll down the beach, relishing the wind and sun on your skin. hum along with Sinatra as you do so. bring your towel with you as close to the water as you dare (you'll want it when you get out).

7. enter the water. if it is early in the year (the beginning of May perhaps), note first the bone-chilling pain that will shoot up your legs from your suddenly unresponsive feet. repeat to yourself the mantra: "pain means I am alive, pain means I am alive".

8. continue into the water. total immersion is your goal. if it is early in the year, note how each wave that hits you knocks the breath out of you with an icy sweep.

9. duck down, allow the water to touch the top of your head in a chill blessing. your hair must be wet to carry this away with you.

10. if you have made it this far, you can now make your way out of the water. you may start to feel warm. this is deceptive. you are not warm. you are entering a state of hypothermia.

11. embrace your towel as you embrace dry land. you may feel like laughing. do so, unreservedly. you are standing naked on a beach in broad daylight and you are alive.

12. dry yourself thoroughly and put on all your clothing. do not neglect the long underwear. wrap yourself in your blanket. sit on your groundsheet. look at the ocean. try to stop shaking. this may take a while, but pay it no heed: the water is worth it.