Mr Cosmo is coming... Mr Cosmo is coming...
As a child one of my favourite books was Allen Ahlberg's 'Mr Cosmo the Conjuror', which describes the excitement felt by the inhabitants of a town as mysterious posters appear advertising the imminent arrival of the eponymous conjuror. I always wished for just such an experience - magic, performing animals, mysterious vehicles - but never felt anything that came close.
That anticipation is felt by those in the know each year as summer rolls around and a chance to catch Giffords Circus is within reach. Giffords is a traditional touring circus on a small scale, making its way from market town to market town in the Cotswolds and around the south west. Family run, they focus on the core circus skills - dancing, horse riding, trapeze and juggling. The only animals used are horses (all impeccably groomed and beautifully healthy), a dog, doves, a goose and a not-very-convincing costumed bear.
This year's show is titled The Saturday Book - the glamour of all things unusual - and encompasses a tap-dancing twosome, a tightrope walker in the vein of Bert from Mary Poppins, Tweedy the clown (bright red hair instead of nose) and my personal favourite, Nancy Trotter whose act involved the taming of five doves. The kids were utterly spellbound - I've never seen T sit for such a long stretch of time with a look of total happiness on his face. In fact we were all captivated. I wanted to stay, to dine with the cast (you can!), to buy every tea towel and t-shirt in the house. That's how much I love Giffords.
The finale was a spectacular dance routine, ending with all the children in the audience entering the ring to shake their tail feathers. My boys thought it was the best day of their lives. It was pretty much perfect. Driving through sunny country lanes, cow parsley mop-heads as big as my hand and the beautiful August light shining on the hedgerows and the picturesque village of Frampton on Severn. This is England at its most glorious - countryside beauty and cultural eccentricity.
When we came home from India, everything in the UK seemed unbearably dreary and grey. Life after Giffords is similar. Roll on summer 2013 and roll up Giffords. An annual summer tradition has now been set.
Here's a taster of this year's show:
And here's a film by Ellen von Unwerth made at Giffords for Lula Magazine last year:
The glamour! Could it be any more perfect?