Tag Archives: Giffords Circus

Gifford’s Circus

On saturday we went to the circus. Gifford’s Circus, with their War and Peace show at Gloucester Llanthony Priory. (I’m going to maybe talk about the show a bit so if you don’t want any spoilers skip this post)

We were all ludicrously excited. Ida had a new dress and I was wearing my curtain skirt in honour of the occasion. We know how to celebrate here I tell you.

Ah, my beautiful mum and dad – the patrons of the day!

They’re pretty excited too, they’re trying to be the grown ups but they can’t deny it. As we walked round to the entrance a car pulled up to ask if we were on the way to the circus and which way they should go. I catch the man eyeing up my skirt and Ida’s dress and I frown slightly. Turning round I see Zeph smirking. Before we left the house he’d mentioned his worries about people thinking Ida was with the clowns.

It’s the small things that please me! I love this sign. Ida and the armadillo are impatient to get into the tent. It’s not hugely busy as it’s 11 am on a Saturday morning – it has to be one of their quieter shows. We came to the same one last year and I’m pretty confident it doesn’t affect the magic. I think it’s because it’s all so beautifully intimate anyway. I’d like to come in the evening but this was the only show my parents could make.  Oh to live in a social whirl!

I didn’t take loads of pictures – because I was too busy sitting on the edge of my seat oooohing. I couldn’t resist a few of Ida – I’d like to assure everyone she’s loving it. The small frown is her concentrating-very-hard face. It’s tricky explaining to people when they give her presents that the sudden intent scowl means she loves it. It tickled me that when I looked down she was holding up armadillo so he could see too.

Here’s Tweedy bringing out the big book. Zeph is banging my shoulder insisting I put that he is the funniest man in the world.I have obliged.

War and Peace is a big concept for a small circus but I thought it worked really well.

The band in their sumptuous russian dress. The original score and live music is one of the things that makes Gifford’s so memorable.

THere is a lady, flying in the air, on a silver curtain. Ida is wide-eyed, she dropped armadillo at this point, forgotten in the excitement. The most alarming bit here is as she cuddled up to me just afterwards she murmured speculatively , “Ida has curtains…”

Tweedy – literally the funniest man in the world.

My dad bought Z a Gifford’s circus t-shirt which he insisted on changing into there in the field. He’s cross questioned me on my ability to wash it carefully enough.

(actually he’s right as I only ever use one programme. I kind of figure if the clothes don’t survive it they weren’t meant to be ours)

Ice cream was had and heartily enjoyed.  Ida carefully sampled all flavours. Just to make sure.

Goodbye, goodbye beautiful circus.

Afterward Zeph pressed me to declare my favourite show and I can’t pick. I just can’t. If I close my eyes there are moments seared into my heart that I know I’ll never forget. A women on a horse raising her hand for the falcon to alight on.  A women in a delicate rose petal costume picked out by a spotlight on a trapeze, her voice soaring into the dark wrapping us in its spell. Two be-ribboned, ruffled papier-mache pigs pointing their toes delicately. Horses, oh the horses, nostrils flared, manes tossing. The smooth glide of muscle under gleaming hide. The jingle of the harness, the muffled thud of their hooves on the sawdust.

I remember Zeph’s incredulous delighted face when he realised the act had children in it, tossed into the air by their parents feet.

This time I take away the tightly composed comet slipping through her hoop with practised ease. The burning torches tossed  nonchalantly into the air. Ida putting her hand up in wonder to the falling snow. Her snuggling into my side as the shot rings out, “it’s sad.” Seeing her wriggling and thrilled with the cracking whip of the cossack magnificently aside two horses.

The most enduring pleasure is watching the machinery of the circus, the moving of the people setting up and changing of the equipment. Like a beautifully balanced clock interior. The cogs and gears smoothly changing and switching, each piece a gleaming thing of buffed beauty. The pleasure to be had in the complicated dance. Appreciating the sweat and effort that has honed it to simplicity.  Emerging back to the world afterwards, glad of heart.

Bloody astounding and breathtaking. The most jewel-like, genuine, soul mending Beautiful Thing.

Thank you Universe, and Gifford’s (obviously!)

I vant to be alone

Steve took Ida out for the morning today.

Oh what a perceptive man, or indeed, one able to read the desperate notes I’ve been leaving around the house along the lines of;

Someone help me..

please please please please please please can we arrange some time for me to be alone?

would it be wrong to put her in a cupboard…


and, ta da – he spied the way the wind was blowing. He offered me a choice of going out or him taking Ida out and I snatched the second.

I had breakfast alone. Scrambled egg, made the way I like it and coffee eaten blissfully slowly whilst reading. Then I spent the morning sorting through my fabric stash, making piles, dissecting fancy buttons and trimmings off old clothes, rolling up ribbon. As I sorted I cut out patches of cotton for this dress at the fantastic inditutes blog.

The minute I saw this whilst browsing I wanted to make it. Her tutes are beyond brilliant and neatly bypass my pattern phobia. I’ve been turning it over in my head and spent a painful evening calculating how many squares I needed. At the moment I’m zigzagging around the edge of each square as I don’t have a serger (and wouldn’t know what to do with one if I had one…) Only one hundred plus to go.

They arrived home triumphant with some chips to share and lots of things to tell me. Best of all they’d gone to the docks and had seen Gifford’s Circus set up at llanthony priory. My Mum and Dad are taking us on saturday and it’s a toss-up who’s more excited,me or the kids.

I feel like I’ve been away for the weekend, just four hours solitude has set me up. N is watching Ida for me on Wednesday so I can swim for an hour and I can’t wait. I feel annoyed at myself for not organising stuff before. It’s kind of my responsibility to ask for the stuff I need and I keep forgetting. Who knows, I may have the strength of will after wednesday to ring the child tax people (doubtful.)

Best BT’s today include the rainbow hat S trekked to a further out supermarket to get for Ida. My mum bought her one a few weeks ago and I left it at slimbridge the next day. I just couldn’t bear to tell her and have been very shifty about it to her…so pleased to have another and so is Ida who insisted on wearing it during tea.

Zeph’s joyful recounting of his school swimming lesson triumphs – he also got to wear pj’s in this evenings lesson, they’re starting basic life saving stuff. It was brilliant seeing twelve kids lined up all jigging with excitement at wearing clothes in the pool.. Good golly miss molly.

The last clump of irises are flowering in the garden. They are the most beautiful clear sky blue.

Is it too late to run away with the circus?

I meant to write about this yesterday but got sidetracked by soap boxes and sticky notes and the like.

This came yesterday in the post:

 One of Giffords magical mailouts about this years show. They are always gorgeous intriguing gifts in their own right which are opened and stroked by the kids and I and ritually oohed over. My favourite was the year it was a packet of pansy seeds, but I love them all.

Giffords Circus. If you’ve got a sad picture in your head of miserable animals and terrifying gangs of Technicolor clowns cast it away and think again. Giffords literally is a piece of dreaming magic, brought to life and wheeled around the Cotswold yearly in tents.

I’ve always daydreamed about the circus – any books I got my paws on as a child were read and reread until truly battered but my one circus trip as a child courtesy of my Dad’s work was a shattering disappointment. One where I had to hold back my tears as my lovely parents had scrimped to afford the tickets so I had to nod and clap and laugh as though my beautiful spun circus sugar dreams weren’t crushed underfoot by the enormous soulless tent and the miserable shabby animals and the bad-tempered, distant clowns.

When I started at the bookshop Nell Stroud had just published Josser which I read a proof of and then recommended and hand sold as though my life depended on it. I flirted aloud with the idea of taking up bareback riding in a dress fashioned from rose petals, maybe a shirehorse could take my weight and my friends alternately teased and collected pictures of ladies on trapezes for me.

In 2001, I bullied persuaded Steve and everyone at work to buy tickets for a jolly to Cheltenham to see Giffords. I was pregnant, excited but prepared to be disappointed. We left after the show, running across the fields for the bus home with me in a daze. “Are you okay?” Steve asked, relatively anxiously as silence isn’t  a natural state for me. At which I burst into tears. Looking back I like to blame the hormones but I was just so excited and moved. It felt as though my circus dreams had been scooped gently from my head, mixed around with star-dust and whimsy then paraded in a whirl around me in a tiny, vividly embroidered and decorated tent. Horses, clowns, acrobats, a pair of lavishly costumed lions tap dancing to Putting on the Ritz had woven a spell of belief, beauty and wonder around me and I was earth shatteringly grateful.

We’ve tried not to miss a show since. Each time I’m sick to the stomach before each show in case the magic has gone but I’m never let down. One of the greatest pleasures of my parenting journey has been taking the kids and seeing their faces alight with joy at the spectacle of it. I’m torn between raving about it and spreading the word and not wanting it to get big and polished and priced completely beyond my reach. I think I have to trust it won’t.

If it’s near you or you ever get the chance – go. The tickets are not cheap but comparable to going to the theatre and that’s exactly what you’ve going to see, a fantastic, fabulous work of reality defying art that will satisfy all your senses and remind you about wonder.

I’d like to reassure you that no-one is paying me and I’m not linked to Gifford’s in any way. I bloody wish! In fact I always have an odd feeling sitting on the benches that the whole thing means SO much to me and they have no idea – why should they? I hope they know as performers how valued they are.

Hmm off to see if there’s anything hanging around I could sell before May… One of the kids maybe.