For Father’s Day last weekend, we decided to take the boys on a surprise ‘mystery trip’ to the circus, which happened to be in town for a few days.
In typical Isaac fashion, he insisted on going out dressed in a costume, and despite not having the first clue where we were headed until we got there (such is the beauty of one of Daddy’s mystery trips), his outfit of choice for the day was rather appropriately that of P.T. Barnum, from The Greatest Showman.
Obviously, this costume would not have been anywhere near as appropriate had we been going to somewhere like the cinema, or a fancy restaurant (not that we would risk taking our children to a fancy restaurant, mind); but therein lies the one good trait Isaac seems to possess among the dark abyss that is his charred soul – his innate ability to not give a flying fuck what anyone thinks.
As such, I feel sure that he would have still worn his Greatest Showman costume even if we had been attending the funeral of someone tragically killed in a trapeze accident (although, even by my standards, that would have been a shit mystery trip), because once he has set his heart on something, he is rarely dissuaded.
When we arrived, in the torrential rain of last Sunday, we were greeted at the entrance to the ‘Big Top’ – which would be more accurately described as a moderately sized marquee (although, in fairness, that doesn’t have the same (circus) ring to it) – by a man speaking with a strong Russian accent. How very circusy.
This immediately added to the excitement and intrigue for Isaac, who had never before heard such an exotic accent – although the image was ruined slightly, when the man spotted our online ticket voucher (which we apparently should have exchanged for actual tickets at the box office next door), and exclaimed ‘Now I must go in rain! I take umbrella!’ Still, at least Vlad (I have no idea what his actual name was, but I’m assuming it was something stereotypical, like Vlad, or Igor), didn’t make us go back out into storm Malcolm* ourselves.
*I have no idea what storm name we are currently up to, if Sunday’s weather was even classed as a storm in the first place, but – no offence to any Malcolms reading – British storms always seem to have shit, non-threatening names, like Storm Malcolm, or Storm Glenda, don’t they?
I digress. While the ticket situation was being resolved, the boys headed off into the stands to choose some seats, but once my wife and I were ready to join them, we noticed some ringside spaces were free to the left of the performance area, and since our tickets seemed to be unrestricted, we decided to move there instead.
This excited Isaac even more, as he was now right next to the action.
In contrast, I was immediately apprehensive, for two main reasons.
Firstly, on the basis Isaac’s only impression of a circus (until last weekend) was the glitz and glamour portrayed in The Greatest Showman, I felt sure this particular performance was going to be somewhat underwhelming for him. After all, the likelihood of Zendaya’s glorious bottom making an appearance was minimal, and while Sandbach does admittedly have some bearded ladies, very few can sing like Keala Settle.
Secondly, my only other experience of going to the circus, apart from when I was a young child myself, was almost exactly five years earlier, when Isaac was very poorly in hospital as a new-born, and I took Ollie to keep us both busy and distracted.
On that occasion, there had been a fair amount of audience participation, and if there is one thing I detest, it is being embarrassed in front of crowd of people – whether I am likely to ever see them again or not (yes, I am well aware of the irony that I frequently post embarrassing stories and pictures to my Facebook page, for nearly-1,500 followers to laugh at, but that’s somehow different).
Anyway, having been fleeced by Ollie for a £3 box of popcorn (although this was still preferable to the £5 my wife paid for a flashing-spinning-piece-of-shit for Isaac), we settled in for the show.
The first act was an acrobat (of sorts), although ‘scantily-clad pole dancer’ would be a more accurate description. Whilst her performance was certainly impressive, it obviously made for awkward viewing for most of the men in the tent, because as I looked around me, I noticed I wasn’t the only one keeping my hands away from my lap, and looking anywhere but at the stage. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t find the lady attractive in the slightest (she was heavily tattoed, and looked like she needed a good scrub, which isn’t really my thing), but I still wanted to make it perfectly clear that the only vertical pole at that point was the one she was currently wrapped around.
Next, came a man who balanced on a series of increasingly unstable cylindrical/spherical objects, assisted by a lady who, if she enjoyed her job, needed to tell her face. She could not have looked more unimpressed to be there, had her partner been balancing on the pole-dancer from moments earlier, but she supplied a variety of objects for him to balance on with relative competence, and he thankfully didn’t fall off his podium at any point (well, I say ‘thankfully’, but I might very well have pissed myself if he had).
The best part was, when they left the stage, the announcer asked everyone to applaud ‘Johnny and Sharon’, which, frankly, are names better suited to mediocre British storms than exotic circus performers, but never mind.
Then came the moment I had been dreading – the clown. I say this not because of my (entirely rational) fear of clowns, because this one didn’t resemble your typical Stephen King-esque jester, but because he immediately started picking on people in the audience.
It transpired that I wasn’t the only one who detested audience participation, either, as most of the victims he selected seemed less than impressed at being chosen, and I could feel myself shrinking into my chair in an attempt to be as inconspicuous as possible (which, at 6’3”, is never easy).
Then, just before leaving the stage, ‘Pompeo’ (now there’s a circus name, Johnny) produced a water pistol, and began spraying audience members with it, primarily those in the front row. As he ran around, approaching where we were sat, he noticed Isaac dive to the floor to take cover, pretended to go elsewhere, then jumped out when Isaac got back up and sprayed him directly in the face. This amused almost all of the audience, apart from one little boy dressed like P.T. Barnum, who immediately started sobbing. Thanks for that, Pompeo, you fucking prick.
Next up, was ‘Molly’, who – the announcer gleefully informed us – was ‘all the way from the UK’ (I suspect this announcement goes down better abroad), and Molly performed some further acrobatics with long strands of silk hanging from the ceiling. Again, I’m sure this was all very impressive, but I was once more acutely aware that Molly’s costume did not entirely conceal her bottom (her costume was skimpy, rather than her bottom being vast), so I returned my attention to everyone else in the audience instead.
During the interval, by which point Isaac had just stopped crying, Pompeo came back out from behind the curtain and headed to our seats. Then, God love him, he produced a box of popcorn, to say sorry for scaring our ‘little girl’ (sigh).
This cheered Isaac up no end, because it not only meant he had got both the flashing-light-tat and a box of popcorn (we had said he could have one or the other), but it gave him the opportunity to grab a handful of popcorn and throw it directly into Pompeo’s face by way of revenge.
Naturally, Isaac found this hilarious (Pompeo less so), but my wife and I were very embarrassed, and I nearly bought another box to give to Pompeo, to say sorry myself. Although, knowing my luck, he would only have then thrown some popcorn back at me, and we would have ended up caught in an eternal popcorn-apology-popcorn cycle.
During the remainder of the interval, children were allowed to have their photograph taken with ‘Boris the Dancing Polar Bear’ (I shit you not), and whilst Isaac would ordinarily have been too scared to go up, he had newly-discovered confidence from having just defeated a clown, so off he went.
The second half of the show involved more acrobatics from Molly, further japes courtesy of Pompeo, and a rather bizarre display of simultaneous juggling and drumming, performed by Bored Sharon from the first half (who re-appeared dressed as a radioactive condom), but the less said about any of that, the better.
The main thing was, the boys had fun (even if Sharon hadn’t), I got to see some pole dancing (from the corner of my eye), and – because he had made my son cry – Pompeo left me the fuck alone.
Plus, for one pint-sized P.T. Barnum, the circus was everything he dreamed it would be.
All in all, a successful Father’s Day mystery trip.
Thanks for reading x