Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Butterfly and The Circus

Here I am, at my first ever circus. There are many reasons, too numerous to list, why it’s my first at nearly 40 years of age. Between moral objections and no desire whatsoever ...

But I’m not in 1980s Dublin, like the book I’m reading You by Nuala Ní Chonchuír, I’m here in Northern Spain, where there’s been three days of rain and everything is green, nearly as green as Ireland.

But today the sun is blazing.


There’s been talk, this last week, of the circus coming to town. Except this is a village which has swelled with tourists and returned emigrants to a the size of a small town. Everyone is going, including the village gossips. Tickets are 5 euro for kids and 10 for adults. Bargain, I am told, repeatedly. Our tickets are laminated cards which say "5" or "10" in the centre of a red circle, like the one inside the tent.

It’s a French circus, I believe judging by the number of French flags flying – flags about one and a half times larger than the Spanish. And it’s tiny, a round red tent which makes me feel like I’m in some strange Italian film out of the ‘50s.

And I’m sitting like a man, legs sprawled, listening to Amy Winehouse (God Rest Her Soul) on a wooden bench barely big enough for my 7 year old who sits in front of me, her first ever circus, too.

There’s a girl in a midnight blue glittering costume selling plastic transparent sticks filled with more glitter, sand and some sort of flashing light. I watch her lips move to Winehouse’s “Rebhab” and think she can’t be more than ten at the very most.

They’re selling popcorn from a pretty old looking machine, a circle of lollipops chocolate coconuts minerals and water. The popcorn is particularly attractive to this mixed crowd which includes babies in their Sunday best and the village gossip, a tiny woman with particularly beady eyes, seated proudly centre stage.

First on comes the lovely Alice (pronounced A-leese) on a tightrope. She makes an appearance later in a gold lame bikini on a circular contraption which comes down from the ceiling.

Along with the lovely Alice there is Pepino the clown, a boy of about 11 who dances to benny hill music. There is an anouncement that the girl who keeps about 20 different coloured hoola hoops in motion is only 8 years of age and I recognise her as the girl who sang along to Amy Whinehouse songs.

There are various small animals: goats, ponies and then snakes. Three different snakes and when the compare announces that we can touch them there is near hysteria because everyone wants to touch them.

“Toca, no pasa nada,” the comper repeats over and over. Touch, nothing will happen.

It is the idea of touch, touching the cold animal that reminds me of the butterflies Annemiek created.

Most of the holidays were spent chasing them – mainly white ones – across sloping grasses which led to the sand.

“Mariposa,” the children shouted. Butterfly!

And I watch them ahead of me, thinking of the butterflies of the bowl, in their absence free, free, free.

And I decide that no matter how many people from the village are going to the circus, no matter how much my children beg, beg, beg me to bring them, that next time the part of the wooden benches where we sat will be vacant.


  1. Another wonderful read! I love the way you bring things together and in perspective.

  2. Thanks, A. I must apologise for the long gap -but it is all part of it - I've been thinking so often about those butterflies but it was there, sitting with the children, sensing it was all mad, when I thought *yes*....I'm working on some more and will post them shortly.