10 September 2008

Roll up, roll up!

Roll up, roll up! The circus is in town. A circus has suddenly appeared on a piece of waste ground near our home. They must have come silently in the night, pitched the big top and corralled their caravans in a cosy circle, facing inwards, complete with white wooden fencing and a set of plastic tables and chairs in the centre, ready for al fresco morning coffee.

By lunchtime the next day, an impromptu paddock had appeared in full view of the main road and two not very healthy looking and not very white horses were scraping around for tufts of green grass. Why were the horses not housed within the enclave together with the rest of menagerie (one camel and some miniature ponies)? The answer soon became abundantly clear. The horses were the doing the job of sales promotion, advertising; they were bait. The plot of land is conveniently situated near a school and children returning home with parents would inevitably stop to gawp. Predictably, the next step was for children to plead with parents to take them to see a performance. How could they refuse? This tactic is somewhat on a par with the practice of displaying sweets at the checkout just at the right level for little fingers. But I digress. The children gaping at the horses brings to mind Louisa and Tom Gradgrind doing exactly the same thing in Hard Times, the only difference being that they had to do it surreptitiously and not holding father’s hands. The little Gradgrinds were brought up to endure a life bereft of Fancy, a life dedicated only to Fact, with tragic consequences for both of them. Sissy Jupe, however, proves more resilient to attempts to have all the Fancy choked out of her by Gradgrind’s schooling. She survives intact to the novel’s end and is the only one who the novel foresees as having children of her own in the future. Her father was after all a horse rider in the circus, much to Gradgrind’s disgust. Too much Fancy is just as damaging as too much Fact. What is called for is a degree of moderation – a visit to a circus would not harm anyone, so long as it is coupled with a modicum of Fact.

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Squeaky Door by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.