I've always had a bit of a problem with circuses. I, like many top celebrities, suffer from coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. Even the merest hint of their presence sends me into a spiralling panic that often ends in tragic violence. I once assaulted a gentleman who had simply come to deliver some balloons for my daughter's birthday party. He knocked on the door, his face obscured by a large bunch of helium-filled balloons and I jumped to the wrong conclusions. He was in hospital for a couple of weeks but he refused to have me visit him. I still feel guilty about the whole thing, but as I said, I am not alone in this tragic affliction. Other celebrity sufferers include P Diddy, Henry Kissinger and Jodie Marsh, so I'm in good company. If we all ever had a party we could easily provide entertainment, diplomacy and breasts so we would not go hungry.
Anyway, apart from the odd confusion at kids' parties and some trouble at McDonald's, I am rarely bothered by my phobia. All this changed last week when the circus came to town. I tried to hide the posters from my daughter but, inevitably, she spotted them. I have never been courageous enough to tell my wife about my condition and so she was straight off to buy us all tickets.
The evening arrived and we drove off to Lechlade where the big top had been erected. As we approached I could feel the familiar signs of panic creeping up on me. As we turned into the car park I tensed as I spotted a lady in suspenders on a horse. Fortunately, this was just a local exhibitionist and had nothing to do with the circus. I have seen this particular rider before, she makes the local fox hunt far more entertaining than it would normally be, but I digress.
I downed a couple of swift pints of the local cider to try to calm my nerves. It is a cloudy, orange substance that has a curious taste. Some locals don't touch it, claiming that it is made a little bit too near the chemical plant for their liking. It's never done me any harm. The doctor says that the growths on my head are cysts and could well just be stress related. It certainly did the trick anyway because I suddenly felt very courageous. I led the family through the hordes of fellow circus-goers and handed in the tickets at the entrance to the big top. A rather peculiar looking fellow with big hairy hands ushered us into the killing zone.
It was a proper circus with real sawdust and a bloke in coat-tails and a funky little live band. There were signs everywhere telling us that no animals were mistreated, in fact the only animals on show were a couple of enormous horses. And that, unfortunately, was where the trouble started. The first act came on. It was a woman riding side-saddle on an enormous cart-horse. I flashed back to two nights previous where I had been prostrate on my sofa watching some programme called "When Circuses Go Wrong". It had featured an incident in which a horse about this size had gone crazy and ploughed into the audience killing about 10 people. I lost control and started trying to explain to my wife why we had to get the children out of the tent. At this very moment the horse exited and on came the clown. Admittedly, he was a post-modern clown in minimal make-up and a burgundy suit, but he was still, clearly, a clown. I started sweating profusely and I could feel the red mist descending. Suddenly the clown was among us, in the audience. I prayed for him not to single me out, but like a moth to the flame, he fixed his maquillaged stare on me and advanced.
I have little memory of what happened. The next thing I can definitely remember is being in the police car and seeing my daughter out of the window, crying her eyes out. I tried to explain my medical condition to the police but they were having none of it. I spent an uncomfortable night in the local police station before being released on bail. The court case is in a month. I hope someone will believe me. I've subpoenaed Henry Kissinger to turn up as a fellow sufferer. He'd better not let me down.
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