I love my job: the variation, the excitement, meeting interesting people… the free food at events. This was a week that fell into the ‘varied’ category. I spent a night in a hotel in Manchester where my room had a hole in the ceiling, a 1970s electric heater delivered by a grinning orderly – this was necessary due to the broken window through which the cold night air whispered and the songs/physical confrontations of drunken Manchester United fans celebrating their title parade, screamed. I also chatted to girl band Stooshe about their new single, the infectiously catchy Slip, and was lucky enough to take a ride aboard the ‘Stooshe Bus’ around the West End complete with screaming fans and gawping onlookers. Highlight of the week would normally have been interviewing my childhood idol Noel Gallagher at the prestigious Ivor Novello Awards where he mouthed off about One Direction but it wasn’t, it was my trip to the circus.
On Wednesday I was sent to cover Limbo, a dark and mesmerising take on traditional circus shows at the fantastic London Wonderground festival on London’s Southbank. I spent the afternoon watching incredible displays of acrobatics, fire-breathing, sword-swallowing and more. I was then shown some tap-dancing moves by Hilton Denis, a man who has the laidback demeanour of a friendly Caribbean ice cream salesman and the soul of Fred Astaire; I hoisted acrobat and handstand-specialist Danik Abishev above me as I lay prostrate and terrified on the ground; was made to bend further than my skin-tight jeans would allow by chuckling contortionist Jonathan Nosan and then was dumbstruck as sword-swallower and fire-breather Heather Holliday delicately slid two swords, both in excess of 12 inches in length, down her throat to the handle and removed them again with a flourish. Upon seeing my rapidly greying complexion Heather had to ask whether I was going to be ok. Not much of a testament to my manliness.
Heather was the most intriguing of all the characters I met that day. Standing around 5 foot 2 inches I reckon, glamorous and angelic with a voice you would expect of a kids’ TV presenter, not a cutting-edge (aye!) circus performer. When we weren’t filming, Heather (dressed in a dragon onesie due to the cold), Hilton, Jonathan, Danik and the rest of the gang were milling about chatting, gossiping and doing what people who work at insurance firms do around the water cooler. Up until that point I’d been thinking how lucky I was to have such a varied job and then it struck me, this was their job. I spend a lot of time marauding around having a great deal of fun (complaining nonetheless because I’m an ungrateful little turd) but these people pursued the ultimate career of transience, variety and excitement. They totally dismissed any sort of convention society had prescribed them. Jonathan (the contortionist) for example was pursuing a career in academia before having an epiphany while in Japan and deciding on a career as a performer whose main skills are superhuman feats of flexibility and athleticism – the study of which he assured me her approached with scholarly precision.
While I’m aware my job isn’t exactly being a UN Peacekeeper in a delicate and combustible warzone, there are setbacks, moments of doubt and plenty of ‘Shall I just pack it all in and go and be an estate agent?’ But it’s worth it in the end and I always knew that if I had to work for the next forty years it was bloody well going to be doing something I enjoyed and in the last year or so, that’s begun to pay off. However, the charming, funny and fascinating characters I met at Limbo took a risk on a career so fragile and difficult, ‘running away to join the circus’ has become shorthand for doing something unimaginably off the wall but you know what? I’ve never walked into an office and seen a bunch of people as happy as that lot. The point is, if you want to do something, in the words of the Greek goddess of Victory, ‘Just Do It.’
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