A family outing: we go to the circus. And high above the sawdust ring, beneath the stretched deep-blue dome of the big top, we take our seats and wait.
Wait for the magic to begin.
Laser lights play; music pounds; the tent quickly fills.
All around, in an eager sea of popcorn and candyfloss, children’s excited voices bubble with laughter.
Vendors work the aisles.
One row all buy glowing light sabres and happily carve the air: we opt for a spinning windmill of rainbow lights. Mesmerising. Hypnotic.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY ABOUT MARK’S DEBUT NOVEL
The tempo of the music quickens: becomes a thunderous driving beat.
Below us, the ring is raked and swept: every slow, getting-ready motion a teasing promise of what is to come.
Finally, to applause, to squeals of delight, the top-hatted red-coated ringmaster steps forwards, raises his microphone.
‘My lords, ladies and gentlemen …’ he booms.
And it begins.
Suddenly there are jugglers juggling; tumblers leaping, rolling: strongmen lifting, holding. There are big-footed, red-nosed, hair-flapping clowns playing trombones and tubas. There’s a rock-steady human pyramid caught in the spotlight.
A clown in a loud checked coat and a blue hat works a small dog around the ring; the dog weaves zigzags between his legs, rolls over, plays dead, springs to life, climbs on to his shoulders.
A contortionist performs a handstand, arches her back, fires an arrow – with her feet; a giant wheel spins, a man dances fast and dangerously above. Two high-stepping horses parade, pirouette: one is haughty and magnificent, one Shetland small. Little mimics large.
And through it all, Theo, eyes wider-than-ever-before, transfixed, you point.
Look! Look at that!
You laugh and clap.
And you learn a truth that will last a lifetime.
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That there’s nothing like being there, being part of it, feeling the tingle of anticipation, the joyous adrenaline rush of a crowd.
And later you’ll discover too that there’s nothing like being in a theatre as the audience gasps in shock or surprise; as it rocks with laughter; as it holds its breath and quickly wipes its tear-stained eyes before the curtain falls.
Nothing either like being at the Millennium Stadium as seventy thousand voices lift in exhortation, exultation; at Wembley as the crowd explodes to its feet as the net bulges; or at Lords as a ball races to the boundary and a bat is raised triumphantly high.
Nothing like being at a concert when the audience can’t keep to its seat, can’t stop dancing; when it roars its approval, hands aloft.
There is nothing like it.
All that magic, Theo. Still to come.