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Thursday, 01 March 2018

The Show Must Go On: Working on the Australian Circus Circuit

Written by Sal Bolton
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My eyes snapped open as I laid still on my back staring forwards, listening attentively to the bellowing voices in the dark which have disturbed my slumber. At first alarmed, I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized it was Marcus shouting to a group of people laughing loudly into the night somewhere within the showground, disrupting his sleep and demanding they shut the 'bloody hell up' - a word I found Australian's like to use as part of their vocabulary to just about describe or address anything. Even if you look on the back of a beer bottle you will find yourself blinking twice in bewilderment to read 'Bloody cold' under the 'serving suggestion'. I was feeling exactly that as I rolled over fidgeting uncomfortably cocooned in my rolled out canvas mattress sleeping bag; my 'swag' as the Aussie's would call it, but frankly sounds more like something you'd say to someone to insult them. I found my left arm and released it out to sluggishly check my watch for what hour it could possibly be.


Two am. The dead of night. The now serene silence allowed you to anticipate hearing a pin drop. No wonder Marcus was furious, he always had a big day running the circus ahead of him and for a very laid back Aussie, he didn't like his sleep disrupted. I heard him come back muttering in annoyance and settle back down to continue his rest as the world grew silent again.


I turned back and sighed, staring ahead, my heavy misty eyes examining the shape of the light bulbs at the apex; the red and white stripes and the metal frame work like a skeleton, distinguished in the darkness of the biggest tent I've ever slept in - the circus big top. I rolled over on the stage - my bed where I was 'roughing it' during my stint working for a traveling petting zoo on the Australian carnival circuit and laid motionless blinking my bleary eyes, surveying the spectator stands which by day burst with extravagant color and flamboyant energy and by night stood lonely and empty wallowing in rejection.


It gave the big top such a ghostly atmosphere, making me shudder in my swag. I hate paranormal stuff, really gives me the creeps. But I began to convince myself of the big tops' warmth and homely feel and the fact I was seriously spoilt for space as a 'pommie backpacker' (a term Aussie's like to affectionately call us English) and should appreciate this eerie silence that would come to an untimely end as yet another dawning of a brand new day rose on the carnival scene.


I imagined the roar of the crowd, the laughter, the adrenaline of suspense from their gasps and giggles and the overwhelming sweet smell of popcorn and candyfloss. The scent of cheerful fun and novelty lingered and would yet again soon come alive in several hours time as it did everyday. I had become encapsulated in the showman world of Australia, by accident really and thinking of everyday as a new episode, a new adventure of surprises. I drifted back into a dreamy haze whilst the repetitive tune of circus music that blared from the speakers every night danced along in my head. Never going away.

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The next morning, still dressed in my pajamas, I unfolded a chair outside the big top and sat myself down, when I heard the creaking of a caravan door swinging open. Looking up, out stumbled a red haired tubby man dressed in denim jeans, blue shirt and a black baseball cap, gingerly rubbing the morning sleet out of his eyes.


'Ahhh G'day Sal, howzit goin?' my boss John murmured, trailing off into a huge bellowing yawn. I nodded to him in acknowledgement as he slammed its screen door, which pointlessly just bounced back open again, grabbing his luxury black fold up chair and unfolded next to me, sighing with contentment as he pulled the handles to recline it. Closing his eyes, John relished in another moments peace for himself amongst the hectic craziness of his world devoted to the animal zoo.


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Last modified on Thursday, 01 March 2018

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