Cirque de Culan

The circus is in town. I know this by the fact that an old Peugeot 206 with a speaker on the roof keeps driving up and down Grande Rue announcing the fact, while blaring out clown music.

This is particularly annoying when I am in the middle of recording a podcast interview for work. Further evidence of the circus’s presence is the sight of a camel and a lama grazing on common ground at the top of the old town.

The last time I saw a camel was when I lived and worked in Bahrain and came across a herd in the desert, which happened to belong to the Emir, so they got right of way.

I’m not sure what type of circus has come to our town, probably the type that has been outlawed in the UK since 2019 when legislation was passed in Parliament that prohibited the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

With the town still struggling from the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the chateau still closed, entertainment value is in short supply, with the one nightspot, Chez Dede, closing12 years ago.

Our television has also broken, not that we watch much television, but we do use it to stream Apple TV and Netflix etc. When we went to buy a new one for what we thought was a good price we were informed by the store assistant that we were required to pay an extra €130 tax, which made the cost of a gogglebox rather expensive so we passed for now and are limited to watching Netflix on laptops.

Thankfully the weather is behaving and we have seen nothing but blue skies and almost 40-celsius temperatures this week. Thalia has taken full advantage having discovered the nearby lake at Sidiailles, where she goes daily to read, swim, sunbathe and unwind after a stressful first year at university.

The French have yet to holiday en masse, so the lake is relatively peaceful, and under normal circumstances it also attracts lots of British tourists, but I don’t think they will be bothering us this year with the current Covid travel and Brexit restrictions in place.

Back to the circus. It was such a shock to see the wild animals captive in this kind of environment because I thought modern circuses were free of such practices.

However, it did bring back memories as a small boy of the day the circus came to York in the late sixties, when I witnessed a herd of elephants disembarking from a train and being marched down the middle of the road to the Knavesmire where a big top had been erected. I think, I went to see the show, I can’t really remember but I do recall the arrival of the elephants.

My junior school was located right next to York station, and in those days beside the station were the cattle docks, where livestock used to be brought in by train to market.

I can’t remember it being used as such, but it was used for the circus animals. The whole class went and watched as the animals came off the trucks and were herded into a line and then marched across Holgate bridge to the Knavesmire, about a mile away.

There must have been other animals, but I can’t remember what type — maybe they were lions and tigers?

The elephants I do remember, probably because they were so big and majestic, and to this day they are my favourite wild animal.

Camels? I can take or leave, they didn't impress me much in the Middle East, as they are quite aggressive beasts.

Still, in this day and age, they do not belong in a travelling circus, and I will be glad when this so-called form of entertainment leaves our towns and cities for good.

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On 1 January 2021, the UK left the EU. On 30 December 2020 I left the UK with my wife to start a new life in France … here’s what happened next …

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Tony Jemmett

Tony Jemmett

On 1 January 2021, the UK left the EU. On 30 December 2020 I left the UK with my wife to start a new life in France … here’s what happened next …

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