“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.
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.