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Rant #515
(published December 2, 2010)
Sirkus Andromeda
by Jane Røken
I discovered it behind a rubbish heap on the fringe of Brookmill Fair, a seedy little fairground in a clearing in a wood, not very far from the road, actually; but in order to find it, you will more or less have to know where to look for it. The Brookmill Fair went bankrupt only a couple of years ago; a wonder it lasted that long, it was never easy to find. Rather like those enchanted places in fairytales: you never know where it is until you have arrived.

You're driving on the narrow road through the wood and keep a lookout for a little bridge. When you've crossed the bridge, it's the 2nd turn to the right, but sometimes it’s the 3rd or 4th turn; you have to look closely to find the one track that's slightly more rutted than the others. Then, after a while you may see cars parked here and there among the trees, and know you're getting closer. When you have found a suitable place for your car, make sure to note exactly where it is, for the surroundings may have changed mysteriously when you return to it.

The first thing you hear is the near-unidentifiable tin can music from loudspeakers in which some vital parts have come helplessly loose. I don't know why, but this particular feature seems to be an essential prerequisite in the sound systems at such places.

The first thing you see is a green with a lovely, gaudy flea market. Flanked by stalls where you will be tempted by the usual knickknacks—-plus some merchandise whose purposes you could never even begin to guess at—-you cross the green and approach the carousels and food-and-drink stalls.

The first things you smell will be popcorn, deep-fry fat and stale beer; and later, as you venture deeper into fairyland, an unholy medley of piss and cheap aftershave.

I don't come here for the beer, nor to ride the carousels. I prowl. I exchange suspicious glances with the beer-drinkers and the carousel cavalry, and receive dazzling smiles from the woman in charge of the kiddies' ferris wheel, who, eyeing my hefty SLR camera and sensible shoes, is left no choice but to believe I am The Press. Thrice blessed are the deluded, for they have already seen the fulfillment of their expectations. Happily light-headed with the spicy atmosphere I return her smiles and take pictures of her ferris wheel from all angles. None of them turn out any good, but that's no concern or fault of hers, nor will she ever know, bless her mission in life.

The really interesting parts of fairgrounds are their shadowy margins, their borderlands. Usually they're not accessible at all, or when they are, have nothing to offer but tumuli of garbage, miles of rusty wire, and endless clotheslines. Lucky strikes are few and far between, but they happen. I scrambled past a scrap pile, a chicken-run with two peacocks in it, a hiccuppy fountain, a tethered donkey, and there it was: Sirkus Andromeda. Still, nothing more than an old truck, the name, and a few scattered relics.

Sirkus Andromeda was Finnish. The origins and fates of the ringmaster, octogenarian and still handsome, with the Siamese cat on his shoulder, the fat blue clown and his spotted dog, the fire-juggler, the knife-thrower and his ruby-haired assistant, the two husky Polish lads dressed up as bears, the lovely lady with her three black and three white Arab horses, and all the rest, is anybody's guess.

Alas, the circus doesn't even exist any more; its last season was in 1993. What it was doing there behind Brookmill Fairground in Denmark, many years later, is nobody's guess.

Jane Røken lives in Denmark. She likes coloured lanterns, angels, old tractors, and stuff that will transmogrify into something else.

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