I thought it an opportune moment to start an occassional series featuring some of the Dramatis Personae of this travelling "Circus of Dreams" and where better to start than our proud - if often perplexed owner - Algernon R. Pettigrew.
He took over the circus shortly after I arrived myself and is generally regarded as a decent sort, if a little child like and naive. He is certainly an improvement on the previous incumbent of whom it was said, "if he entered a revolving door behind you, he'd be waiting for you on the other side, ready to pick your pocket".
Algernon was born to a travelling rat catcher and a mother who was, well let us just say, "well travelled". Times were tough when little Algie arrived in the world but, as well as his rat catching work his father had just started a side line in organic sausages and, not to be outdone in the entrepreunerial stakes, his mother toured the dockside bars of their hometown singing bawdy songs and selling kisses to sailors who did not seem at all "put off" by her glass eye and missing front teeth. She was one of the few among us who could truly say (to paraphrase the song)that she'd seen what the boys in the back room would have - particularly as she was the one thatgave it to them. As long as they paid for it she didn't care!
Algernon was a fey, dreamy child and while his peers were playing games during the break, he could be seen staring up at the passing clouds. It was during these childish reveries that his dinner money was invariably stolen - so he was a fey, dreamy AND skinny child!
He left school with no qualifications other than a gold star for being in charge of Miss Winterbottom's Spring Bulbs in Primary 7.
A succession of jobs followed. He was briefly employed putting holes in doughnuts at a local bakers but he left after a couple of weeks complaining bitterly about it being an empty experience.
Being fey and dreamy and forgetful was not much help in his next chosen occupation for, after the third time of finding himself in the High Street without a stitch on because he had forgotten to put his clothes ON AGAIN, he was fired from his job as a life model at the local Art College.
It was third time lucky though. He answered an ad. placed by an Oriental Carpet Merchant who was holding an exhibition of his wares at a prestigious nearby Hotel and needed a Sandwich Board Man to tell the world about it.
Algernon's ability to walk up and down half a dozen streets over and over again, stand motionless at strategic street corners for half an hour at a time in the wind and rain and go for a very long time without needing to go to the toilet stood him in good stead.
Soon he was advertising everything from hats to holidays and carpets to car doors and he would have jogged along quite nicely too if some jobsworth on the local council had not decided that sandwich boards were an Elf and Safety ishoo. Overnight sandwich boards were banned from the town.
Algernon was distraught. He took to covering his old round and standing motionless on street corners with his arms held out to mimic his missing sandwich board.
No-one is exactly sure but it's reckoned that it was about this time that he came into contact with a representative of the Raggle Taggle Gypsies (you know, the ones that "laughed and sang as the Greenwoods rang") who suggested that a spell with them might help him to see the world afresh.
Well, young Algie saw a good many Greenwoods and did his fair share of laughing and singing in them in the next few weeks. The whole experience did him a power of good. It really took him out of himself. It was a real tonic and much better than expensive therapy. There was just one problem.
Algernon had a bad habit of getting distracted as he danced and skipped his way through the woods with his merry companions. It might be a flower he had never seen before, a squirrel, or a peace of bark that looked like someone's face - the result was always the same.
As the strains of "a hey and a ho and a hey nonny no" drifted off into the distance our hero would be staring like a hypnotised rabbit at whatever had taken his fancy this time.
A half hour would go by before his Gypsy host's would realise he was no longer among their number and then a great "hue and cry" would echo through the trees until he was safely back in the bosom of his adopted family.
After the umpteenth time this got to be rather wearing for the Gypsies. You can't really blame them. After all, it takes away from the joyous sponataneity of the "laughing and singing" bit if you have to break off to launch a full scale manhunt every so often.
One morning, thinking it the kindest thing for all concerned,the Gypsy Folk rose extra early and left him asleep under a tree on the edge of a wood near Edinburgh.
Rosie, the pretty young girl in charge of the tambourine had formed quite an attachment and she brushed away a tear as she looked upon the baby faced troubador for the last time.
She knelt down and gently placed a four leaved clover in the breast pocket of his jacket, blew him a kiss and then parted forever. It would be quite a while before the words "hey nonny no" passed her lips again.
When Algie awoke. He ran through a gamut of emotions: mystification, shock, panic, anger. One moment he had a family and the next he did not.He wondered what he had done wrong and knew in the bottom of his heart how much he would miss them all but he knew he would miss Rosie most of all. Never to hear the jingle of the little silver bells around the edge of her tambourine again was a terrible prospect.
Eventually, he realised he could not sit in the woods forever. They were damp with dew and he did not want a flare up of the old trouble again. He had enough to deal with as it was.
Reluctantly, he rose from his woodland bed, yawned and made his way into the fair city of Edinburgh.
THIS POSTING IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED TO THAT SWEET CLOWN OF THE EARLY CINEMA - HARRY LANGDON
Nuts, whole hazelnuts....
4 months ago