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The New Diamond Circus was the biggest show in Silghat and running performances virtually back to back to cope with the demand. Any seasonal profits had definitely not been spent on maintenance – this was the rattiest circus in the world and for this reason, and this alone, I loved it.

The Great Performing Goat of Silghat was not the only entertainer of course, but after seeing her goatlie magnificence – the jugglers, the trapeze artists, the contortionists, even the terrifying dwarf with a painted face and clown costume just didn’t get me excited.

Well, perhaps the dwarf did, a little. Here was an image of such brutish extremity that I found myself watching him more than the show. He prowled the stage, his dark little dwarf face streaked in war paint, angry dwarfie eyes staring out from angry dwarfie face.

‘Bugger you pal!’ he was saying, ‘bugger you and you mother as well. I’m as good as you ever could be. I’m better. I’m different!’

That’s how he earns his money – by being a nasty little dwarf. Quite frankly, I’d be nasty too, if I was a dwarf.

His little baggy clown costume, complete with frilly ruff, bunched up around his fat dwarf thighs as he thundered around the circus ring clasping his clacker – two long thin flaps of wood that, when hit against the palm of his hand, resounded with a loud ‘clack!’. This was the signal for applause. I clapped.

The star of the show, Ms. Goat, solo artiste, was dragged unwillingly into the arena where she stood, looking stupidly around. In front of her was a steep wooden plank that led from the floor up about five feet to a tiny platform on a steel triangle, held up by more Indian string. She was given the traditional pre-show whack around the ears to get her started then took a few tentative steps up the plank. A couple more steps – just one more…

The trainer stepped away and held out his arm.

‘Look at my magnificent goat,’ he was saying with that gesture.

The dwarf clacked the clacker. She promptly fell off. I clapped.

Now the goat was lying on her back with all four legs waving wildly in the air with her trainer bearing down. A kick and she was upright, a cuff to the head pointed her in the right direction, a whack to her arse and she was trotting back along that plank, up and up to her goat roost in the sky.

The plank was removed with a flourish – and there she stood, a beautiful white female with a perky tail and a look of great concentration, hit by a shaft of sunlight, her four thin goat legs meeting in a pure point of contact on the perch.

Ms. Goat, paragon of balance, was standing on a platform no bigger than my palm – she then turned a full 360 degrees, still perfectly poised on this tiny surface and as I watched, walked slowly along a piece of narrow steel not half an inch wide, stretched between her first perch and a second weeny perch – then one second strip of steel that culminated in one final tiny destination.

Clack, clack, clack!

Clap, clap, clap!

That was me.

I confess I was the only man in this circus tent that found this quite so thrilling. I could see about five hundred of the rest of the audience in the cheap seats on the other side, staring down with confusion at this very peculiar sight – a white goat standing on a platform, turning circles. But that’s exactly what this talented goat did – but this time with a variation. Now the goat could lift one leg, crook it and lower its head – in a perfect little bow.

Clack, clack, clack!

Clap, clap, clap!

Me again.

The Great Performing Goat of Silghat walked all the way across to that third tiny platform, turned in a circle, bowed, then walked calmly back all the way to the first one, paused for her invisible applause – then leapt into freedom with one joyous bound. Her trainer grabbed the rope around her neck and they both trotted proudly out of the tent to – well, I do have to say it – ‘less than generous’ applause.

Clack, clack, clack!

Clack, clack, clack!

Clack, clack, you buggers – CLACK!

I had seen the glory; I had been to the Promised Land – this was the Maria Callas of goat performers, the Edith Piaf of goats – I loved her. That old goat: beaten and abused, bashed into submission: that damn goat got up and did her thing regardless – with a goat-ish resilience and a modicum of style. She was star of my personal circus, the goddess of Silghat in my eyes.



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