“And so it’s true, lo and behold I was the only one with a camera, the day Jesus was laid in his tomb.” Lottie holds the photo hardware up for the gallery crowd to scrutinise. A retro model, but containing more computerised technology packed into it, than available to the entire global effort for outer space travel, c.1954 – 1986. “So that’s my story and now I am ready to take some questions. You there, with the clown make-up, what would you like to ask?”
The beige-coloured painted walls of the gallery space, specially commissioned for the one-person, one-piece exhibition, has created a relaxed atmosphere. The critics from the press have been polite throughout Lottie’s monologue account, despite the only beverage available being tap water.
Joseph of Arimathea cries out: “Who, has left Our Lord’s mortal vessel slumped on the chair like this?”
Within the tomb, an elderly turbaned man emerges from out of the shadows. Dressed in an embroidered stola, a walking-stick decorated by intergrown knots helps bear the load of sombreness he carries as he shuffles into a space of light.
“I am Nicodemus of Judea,” his voice is hoarse, dry and pitched upwards, “High Priest of Sanhedrin and I swear to Almighty God, that it was not I. Perhaps, instead…” a stubby index finger extends outwards to form an accusatory pointing device, “it was him, over there!”
From a comfortable viewing distance, I watch as two extraordinary people wait at a grimy San Francisco tram stop. I notice their eyes level with each other several times. During the passing seconds of this connected gazing, their engaged brains collect and process the combined equivalent of a 1969 moon-landing sized, four kilobytes worth of RAM. Information, some of which is relevant to this story, some much less so.
“Hi there! Okay, this maybe a bit of an odd thing to say, but, well, you know, I love your naturally blue hair. Are you English. by-any-chance?”
“I am. I am also curious as to how you guessed that. From your accent, I would say that you’re English too? But, I wouldn’t have known just by looking. I mean, clowns they just look like other clowns, right?”
“Well…” Clown is deflated. “There is some variety. Look… we’ve got twenty minutes to kill before the next tram arrives, if it’s on time. There’s a café over there.” His tone of voice and frowning expression suggests something between an appeal and a demand.
Today, with approximately ten clowns still active in London offering themselves for parties, delivering office-bound doughnuts, as models for drawing classes, and much sought-after escort services satisfying closet coulrophiliacs, you might think that in a city populated by ten million souls, the days of clowning are rapidly becoming numbered.
However, a little known clown fact reveals: Usually, on average and at any given time, there aren’t more than ten officially registered working clowns per city, across the entire globe. Obviously, this statistic excludes and remains unaffected by visiting clowns or events such as hallowe’en at the end of October, or the Feast of Fools every New Year’s Day.
Travel back in time to 2,400 BCE to a location approximately 51.1789° N, 1.8262° W, and you will meet with the first clowns. Yes, unsurprisingly, they were English, or to place into more accurate ancient historical terms: Celtic-English.
“… and now,” the newsreader concludes “with the time fast approaching ten thirty and a-hem… acting in full compliance with the newly elected government’s single issue election manifesto promise…” the middle-aged man pushes himself up and out of his chair, “I will disrobe, taking off all my actual clothing.”
“In this special, extended edition of the news,” the newsreader tugs at his tie and begins unbuttoning his shirt, “the Nudist Party’s MP for Dulwich and recently appointed Minister for the Department of Domestic Affairs, Ms Brighton Hope… is here with us to explain the Nudity Act, which was rushed through the Commons today and became a part of British Law, just a few seconds ago.”
An odd moment for the viewing public: the camera recording the scene swings in different directions, seemingly out of control. Aspects of the studio not normally seen are revealed. Lighting, cables and members of the crew holding e-clipboards are caught motionless in the shadows.
A bonus! The distraction has spared viewers the sight of a saggy backside flopping out over the elasticated waistband of a pair of rather grim-looking underpants, descending two flagpole legs. The next stabilised image frames the newsreader re-seated on his caster wheel chair behind the studio desk, with his modesty mostly in check.
Stood outside my front door, basking in the late afternoon sunshine, I deployed a swift reflexive manoeuvre, relieving an itch on the side of my nostril. As it turned out, an awkward itch, the sort that splits into two under the pressure of a finger.
Mid-relief, I spotted my elderly and infirm neighbour crouched outside the door of her stone-built cottage, observing me. With a sudden roar, a brewery wagon laden with metal beer kegs drove past, splitting the peace apart and briefly obstructing our view of each other.
“My powers now are very weak.” She shouted across, as the raw sound of the diesel engine faded. “You know I am not long for this world.”
“I’m sorry, what was that Mary?” I could barely make eye-contact with her, so far was she bent over. “Are you okay there?”
“You are a kind man.” She said. Her arm reached out for support against a freshly painted door frame. Twisting her neck around, she squinted an eye. “Your life, since I have known you over the last fifteen years has suffered a fair number of bumps in the road, hasn’t it?” She lifted up her head another notch, waiting for my reply.
“Well…” A pleasantry or a reflective answer required? I wasn’t sure and the passing seconds in this conversational hiatus, demanded action.
“You know Mary,” I settled upon a mid-deep reply, “there have been a fair few setbacks, you’re right. Life’s not turned out how I’d imagined. If I could do it all again, avoiding the same mistakes, I would for sure.”
“Indeed.” Mary said, with the squinted eye fully closed. “Let’s see what we can do about that.”