- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Friday, 26 April 2013
I do love a circus.
Over the years, both before and after having children, I have always made an effort to see as wide a variety of them as I possibly can.
Although, having said that, I have never been to one of those Albert Hall hyper stylish one, as they aren't what I consider to be a truly proper circus.
No, I like those old fashioned ones, with sawdust on the floor and a slightly debauched David Lynch Blue Velvet air too them.
In all probability, this stems from the fact that I saw The Greatest Show on Earth when I was a kid, and I was so intrigued by the character of the mysterious clown called Buttons played by James Stewart, that I was hooked. Buttons the clown never removes his make-up, not even in between shows. Who is he, and what is he trying to hide by concealing his true identity from the rest of the troupe?
And why has he left Bedford Falls and what has he done with Harvey?
Turns out that Buttons the clown is hiding something. Yes folks, he certainly is. He hasn't just run away with the circus because he likes to make people laugh or because he has run out of make-up removing cream. No, the truth is that he simply has a past that is cleverly concealed by a think layer of pancake and a red nose.
Personally I disagree with people who spoil the plots and story lines of films, so I am not going to ruin the movie by telling you what it is, or indeed, what is
Nope, you'll just have to find out for yourself.
And maybe Buttons' duplicitous behaviour is much more to blame for an inherent fear of clowns, than Stephen King is. Or maybe, it was those nasty evil drunk clowns in Dumbo. My money's on the latter. Disney was evil, full stop, and so were those clowns. You would have to be a nasty piece of work, to slip an abandoned minor a Mickey Finn just for your own amusement.
But the fact that there were seemingly real personalities behind all of the make-up and glitter, with real stories, housed within the spectacle of the circus façade simply intrigued me. The circus had it all going on, and had it all going down, or so it would seem.
To the onlooker a circus may appear to be all sparkle with illusions created to enthral and excite its audience, and nothing more. But what The Greatest show on Earth revealed, was the concept that behind all of the smoke and mirrors, lurked an array of dark socially fragmented characters.
So thanks to Cecil B. DeMille's masterpiece, I was smitten.
And there is of course more to the film than the question of who or what Buttons the clown is hiding. It also features an array of interwoven stories between all of the circus folk and is a succulent feast of brightly coloured costumes, tricks, tears, love, betrayal and of course their public performances.
And as well as staring the incomparable James Stewart, it also features in inimitable Gloria Grahame.
Around about the same time, I also saw Trapeze, another circus based movie that features Tony Yondah lies da castle of my foddah Curtis as part of a trapeze act set on defeating the odds by completing a triple somersault, way up high in the air on the trapeze, at all costs without the aid of a net to catch them if they should fall.
I sat on the edge of my seat holding my breath, as the scene approached in which they attempted this death defying act.
It was quite thrilling to watch.
The tangle of bare torsos, sequins and spandex all just added to the tension.
But once again, no, I am not telling.
And so it was, thereafter, forever and beyond, after having seen these filmatic portrayals of all the dramas afoot in the circus and between their folk, that my love for it, was well and truly embedded in my psyche forever.
In real life, I was fortunate one late summer's evening in the mid eighties to have witnessed, the raw spectacle of the French circus Archaos in the open air on Clapham Common.
Their take on what circus should be, had more in common with Mad Max than DeMilles's The Greatest Show on Earth, as it consisted of performers on motorbikes driving through rings of fire, a highly misappropriated use of chainsaws, and a fearsome butcher with a meat clever, whose behaviour even Sweeney Todd would have found shocking.
It was just breathtakingly incredible to watch and I have never seen anything like it since.
I watched it with my eyes as wide as saucers in childlike disbelief. It was like circus crack to me, and I wanted to explore more aspects of this genre.
Thereafter however, I downscaled some and attended a more traditional circus in a tent, in a field in Ireland. In comparison to the Archaos performance, it was the complete polar opposite, but nevertheless, it was full of charm and retained all of the composites one would expect to see; A ringmaster, clowns, acrobats and a smidging of animal participation in the form of horses.
Back in London and during some lean financial times whilst in my second year at university, I was working two jobs in between lectures so that Child One and I had enough to live on, when I saw that the circus was coming to town.
I saved some money and bought two tickets.
On the night in question we sat entranced ringside while the circus weaved its magic. It was just extraordinary to watch and a blessed few hours of much need escapism for us both.
Afterwards we were both high on post circus bliss as we sat by the river eating our burger and chips chatting, when Child One pipes up “That was the best night of my life. Than you Mum.”
Many years later, I invested the same for Child Two and he loved it just as much.
As I grow older, I find I am just incredibly fond of the circus and all of its attributes. I am still intrigued by the performers and what motivated them to join the circus, and, just like Buttons, as I watch them perform, I wonder if they are harbouring a secret or two.
I hope that they are.
And the circus is just like a family, with the Ringmaster as the soul overriding parent, while the Acrobats are the well behavioured children, whilst the Clowns are not.
And just like real life, the circus features ordinary people performing extraordinary acts.
And that's way I love the circus so much.
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
I miss my cat Jones.
He was the most majestic and glorious of creatures, that came to live with us for seventeen years, until he became quite poorly and sadly left.
He was one of a pair, as initially we were lucky enough to be able to home him and his sister Reece
But she, unfortunately met with a dreadful untimely end, and as such, I always felt so guilty about having taken her as well.
And here is why.
On the day that Child One and I went to visit our friend's house to decide which one of the litter we would like, Jones, chose me. He made a bee line for my lap and that was it. We were engaged from that moment on, and later married.
She, on the other hand, did not chose me. She was a timid little thing right from the start, and in retrospect, I should really have let her make her own choice as too whom she wanted to spend her life with, instead of rather greedily taking her home with us as well.
She was an exquisite silver tabby, and just like him, she had the Mark of Mohamed above her eyes.
For as long as I can remember we always had a cat or two that made up the make-up of my family.
Our Islington cats were Cromwell and Midgy, followed thereafter by Jiggle Bells whom lived with us in Holloway Road.
In Fulham our cat in residence was Sam. He used to come on holiday with us and he later moved with us to Chiswick. And then we had so many various cats, that at one point we had nine.
Emma was a tortoiseshell, with a purr as loud as a black taxi. Arthur was a ginger and white cat and one of Emma's kittens who had been born on my bed, who often thought I was his mother. Charlie Parker, also one of Emma's kittens, was a charming black and white cat who was very, very chatty. Alas, he never played a saxophone, but nevertheless was too cool for school. And then there was Fluff, a high maintenance grey cat, who was a picky eater. They were the last of the Mohican cats, in an end of days of my family's historical feline frenzy.
When I left home however, I promptly carried on this tradition by finding a ginger cat called Clarence. He was a bit snooty to be honest, and we didn't get on so well.
But then, much much later, after Child One was born, and whilst we were of no fixed abode, we couldn't even entertain the idea of having a cat. It was a feline famine of the worst kind.
Once we had finally put down some roots, and had room to house a couple of moggies, we did just that, and that was when we when Jones and Reece arrived.
Jones was the most beautiful ginger marmalade tabby. Fact.
He was a big ball of ginger sunshine. Fact.
And, he was his own cat, and you couldn't argue with either him or that. If he didn't want to do something, he wouldn't, and that was all. No room for discussion or debate on the matter.
He lived his life as and how he wanted too.
He had his own agenda, and timetable and could always be found positioned on the other pillow next to mine, on my bed in the early morning, trying wake me up with a gentle tap of his paw on my cheek, followed by a mipping sound.
He could be most insistent. And if I didn't get up to feed him straight away, he would simply apply more strength to his action, and the occasionally claw or two if I failed to respond.
And on days when I wasn't feeling well, and would take to my bed, he would always follow me up the stairs and climb into bed with me and curl up into a comforting little ball next to me.
He adored Child One, and allowed her to get away with all sorts of mischief at his expense. One morning she declared that she had cut his whiskers off. To be fair it was more of a trim, but he had sat there in his trusting way, and had allowed her to do it.
Once I had got over the horror of my child having found the scissors and her attempt to give him a short, back and sides.
I explain to her that without his whiskers, and until they grew back, he would be unable to gage his ability to access gaps and spaces, as they dictated his height and width.
Safe to say, she learnt a lesson that day, as did he. Eventually his whiskers grew back and he survived the ordeal with great aplomb, and I, of course hid the scissors in a safer place.
When he felt like it, he did a few tricks as well. You could throw a ball of paper for him, and he would fetch it and bring it back to you. This was a good game, until he grew tired of its repetition, and would simple stop and stare at you as if to say "I am bored with this now, so I am not playing any more."
When Child Two was born, he was very upset and demonstrated this by leaving a suitable gift in his Moses basket one evening.
His nose was well and truly out of joint, as he felt that his ranking within the family had changed.
He used to come and sit on the edge of the bath with me while I was bathing to keep me company. I made sure we had a few extra us moments like these, and he seemed to default to his factory settings and re-established in his own mind, his rightful place.
He liked to lay in pools of sunlight and snooze for a hour or two.
And he loved a cuddle.
But his greatest love was to chase a feather or two.
He liked that very much.
I would often catch him vocalisation a warning Rahhing sound to the birds as they attempted to land on the balcony of our little home. And just like in one of those Warner Brother's cartoon, there would often been a pile of discarded feathers floating above his head when I went to see what he was up to.
On catching him in this post terrorist mode, he would just look very guiltily in my direction, and then smile at me and blink his eyes to placate my angry tone.
It always work.
It is seven years since he died.
It was the most God awful decision I have ever had to make, calling that. I am not God, but he wasn't well, and the choices were nil.
I can't recall crying as much about anything else in my entire life with such fervent emotion as I did that day.
It was just horrible.
After he was gone, I could still feel his paws on my lap, and I could hear his footsteps padding around the place when the house was still.
I miss him dreadfully.
I haven't replaced him, because I can't.
But one day, when I am ready, and when I have a garden, another cat will come to stay.
Monday, 8 April 2013
For my brother Tim, the big know all.
My very talented writer friend Christopher Karallis.
For Jemma Evans an all round lovely person.
I haven't been able to write a blinking thing of late.
I have no idea why.
I have simply had no ideas.
Usually, I get my ideas or inspiration for pieces from everything and anything. They may derive from a minor exchange during a conversation, or from something I have seen or read. Or, the seed may be sown as the result of a social event or interaction that I have taken part in.
Now, I have been doing all of those things, but nothing, nothing, would evolve in my mind. There was no spark, no interesting head scratching frown germ of an idea. There was instead, just a great big listless excruciatingly painful dull void.
After a while, I started to panic. I started to think oh dear, I have lost my thread of ingenuity. Has that muse, the one that has kept me company simply got bored with all of the endless cold and snow, now left me and decided to hibernate? Has it frozen solid, lost forever and unable to return?
Maybe, I had begun to think like Peggy Lee, is that all there is? And that there simply isn't any more?
And then it got worse and I just felt devoid of everything. EVERYTHING.
I'll be honest with you, it wasn't a particularly nice feeling, feeling like that.
To put it into context, it is a bit like going to the supermarket and wistfully happily going about your business and filling your trolley with all of those items that you have run out of at home. Feeling all warm and safe in the knowledge, that as you head towards the checkout, you will soon be home and that all of your cupboards will once again be full, only to discover, as the cashier tells you the total, that you have left your purse at home.
By the time you realise this, you have packed all of your shopping away in the bags that you have brought with, in that organised fashion that you do (fresh food in this one, cold and frozen foods in that one).
Sweat starts to break out on your brow. You search your bag again again, and again, in the hope that you didn't search it thoroughly enough the previous ten times.
But, alas, it is true. Your purse isn't there and you are going to have to confess this to not only the check out person, but also to yourself.
You bow your head in shame and drag your feet as you exit the supermarket in search of the rest of the disenfranchised who have abandoned all hope.
What a looser.
You ride home on the bus. You pass a tattoo parlour. You think to yourself I don't have a tattoo, but if I did, it would be that L shape that people make with their hand whilst holding it to their forehead and mouthing the word Looser at you.
You return home. It is cold. Your cupboards are empty, and so is your mind and your heart.
You try to read. But all the books that you start, you find no enjoyment in at all. They offer none of the much needed escapism that you need. Their words mock your own inability to write anything yourself.
As you read, you think, I could have written this. Then your inner daemon places its hand on its forehead and mouths Looser.
You stoically agree and close the book and toss it on the floor by the side of your bed. It joins several other books as it lands with a muffled thud.
You think like Scarlet O’Hara and tell yourself that tomorrow is another day. But the next day and the day after that, and the day after that, the void just continues to expand at an alarming rate.
You loose your sense of humour.
Your writer friend tells you not to worry and to stop thinking about it so much.
But the void follows you everywhere that you go. It is like an additional shadow, you can't shake it.
You think to yourself, if I can't write, I am fecked. Who am I without writing something, anything? You concluded your worse fears that without writing you are nothing.
I am nobody.
I am a looser.
You have a backlog of ideas for a series of Children's books. It is what you fondly refer to as your own personal till roll of creativity.
You sit down to review what you have written so far, but nothing will come, there is no flow of ideas.
You are blocked.
There is just a great big solid brick wall in front of you, on which someone has spray painted the word Looser.
Then, just when you think it cannot possibly get any worse, something happens.
Your brother suggests that you write about not being able to write.
You mull this over in your head as it hits your pillow.
And then a germ of an idea starts to form.
You think about the void and then you think about Joe Simpson's story Touching The Void.
Tick, tick, tick goes your mind.
And then the rusty cogs finally start to turn.
If you haven't read the book Touching The Void, or seen the movie based upon the book, I would urge you too do so.
It is the most incredible story about two men called Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who decided to climb a mountain called Siula Grande in a remote area of Peru in 1985.
Their ascent, although marred by bad weather and freakish snowfall, was successful.
However, during their descent, things started to go wrong when Joe brakes his leg.
In the middle of nowhere, thousands of feet up a mountain, they were, for all intent and purposes, buggered.
But then Simon came up with a workable plan of action as to how to get Joe down from the mountain.
He would simply lower Joe down with a climbing rope 150 feet at a time, until they finally reach a safe place, from where help will be easier to access.
However, as he was lowering Joe, Simon is unaware that Joe had slipped over a ridge and is hanging in the air, at the end of the rope with a massive drop below.
Simon waited for Joe to give him the agreed signal, but when it never came, he had to make a decision; to precariously proceed down the mountain at his own detriment to discover Joe's location, or to cut the rope and save himself.
He cuts the rope and saves himself.
Joe, on the other hand, fell and landed in a deep crevasse far below.
Simon makes it down the mountain, but with the albatross of knowledge hanging around his shoulders, that Joe is probably dead.
But Joe wasn't dead and had miraculously survived the fall. He then managed to get himself out of the crevasse, and to make his own way back to base camp with a hideous bone shattering leg injury.
It is quite an incredible feat.
If Simon hadn't cut that rope, in all probability, they both would have died, or maybe not. We will have to agree to agree that we shall never know the answer to that alternative sliding doors interpretation, as it wasn't the one that was written.
But, the one we know and are familiar with is.
And so, I thought about Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, as I closed my eyes, with my head resting there on my pillow.
And I thought about that mountain.
And I thought about that void.
And I thought about how mad they were to even attempt such a crazy insecure venture as that.
What were they thinking?
Shall I tell you?
They looked at something that most folk would consider as impossible thing to do. They considered their options, they made their plans, they packed all of the necessary equipment that they needed, and they wore all the right clothes.
But even though they took all of these precautions, things that they had no control over, like the weather and that darn snow, effected the outcome of their adventure.
But what an adventure they had, and what a story that had to tell because of it.
Well, do you know what?
Writing is a lot like that.
And I have just climbed a new mountain by delivering this piece.
My flag has been well and truly planted on it's summit.
And that, my friends, is good enough for me.
Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every highway,
Every path you know.