Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 14 July 2012
Running away with The Circus
I promised Toa a Circus-based story this weekend, so yer tiz, as we in Somerset are supposed to be keen on saying.
How to start without sounding like a tour guide? I don't know, so I had better get some historical facts out the way before I spin off on a tangent from it's massive circumference.
Begun by John Wood the Elder in 1754 and completed by John Wood the Younger in 1768, The Circus is the most overtly magical of all the Georgian buildings in Bath - and I mean that literally. Here comes the first tangent: What kind of a father is so egocentric as to name his firstborn son after himself? A father called John Wood. There is a bicycle shop in Bath ('John's Bikes') owned by a man called John Wood, and he has also called his firstborn son John. Make of that what you will.
Both Georgian Johns were Freemasons, at a time when Freemasonry meant more than a dodgy handshake and a few lucrative building contracts granted to it's more illustrious members. Of course, it meant both of those things for the Wood family - or at least it's male members - but the arcane symbolism carved into the stonework of the friezes and doorways also had meaning - a meaning now lost on modern Masons, or so I surmise.
Put it this way, my father - a Freemason all his adult life - would have made neither head nor tail of all the strange symbols carved in relief over each and every house in The Circus, and I am not sure if even the Wood's contemporaries were sure about them either, because the Woods - Younger and Elder - mixed local Pagan magic with their Freemasonry, gleaned (or imagined) from their studies as Antiquaries when surveying the historical topography of the local building-sites which made them their fortunes.
Phew - I'll try to keep this bit brief before I submit a paper to the Royal Society of Antiquarians. I know, I'll inject some sex between the dryness. That should keep you awake.
Years ago, a tall, blonde and tanned young woman called Victoria Salmon lived in The Circus, and I spent quite a few weeks of one hot summer desperately trying to find a way into her skimpy underwear (quite a lot of imagination went into selecting the word 'skimpy' as an adjective here).
One night, we were standing in The Circus, and she was wondering why so many people went into it's middle every night, just to annoy the residents by clapping their hands often and loudly, so I showed her.
Being made entirely of stones (rising from 8 inches thick in the basement to 6 inches thick at the parapet, set in three segments that form the best part of a complete circle), if you stand in it's centre (where a hand-pump well used to be sited for servants to picturesquely collect water each morning), and you clap your hands, a prolonged and bizarre echo is set up which takes quite a while to fade into silence. The drunker you are, the more impressive the echo, which explains why most cognoscenti choose a time when most of the residents are trying to sleep, to impress their friends.
Then a brilliant idea occurred to me. I asked her to give me a piggy-back, and for some strange reason, she immediately agreed. She was almost 6 feet tall and I hopped onto her back, but instead of putting my hands on her shoulders, I put one on each of her tits (right on left and left on right) and held on tight.
The whole area rang with her squeals of protestation as she galloped about in the dark, with me hanging on for grim death. This was before I had ever heard of 'Rodeo Sex'. Have you heard of it? Put simply, Rodeo Sex involves mounting the woman of your choice from behind, then - when you are settled comfortably - whispering into her ear that she is not as good as her sister; mother; best friend (choose one), then seeing how long you can stay on for.
Ahem. Viewed from the air, the combination of The Circus, the Royal Crescent and the connecting Brock Street form a gigantic image of a question mark, and the connection between Queen Square via Gay Street form a massive key - another deliberate Masonic symbol. Look at it on a map or postcard, and you will see what I mean.
In recent former times, The Circus was home to a varied mix of people, living in varying levels of luxury to relative poverty. I had a friend who lived in a squalid flat there, and his next-door neighbour (who he greeted every morning with a cheery 'hello') was Nicholas Cage. My friend's eviction from his flat coincided with a misunderstanding between Mr Cage and the I.R.S. and they both left The Circus at about the same time. In the 1970s, I used to visit a friend who had a tiny bed-sit there, and we would play 'Scalectrix' on a track which ran around the tight confines of the little, partitioned room, under his bed and over a shabby carpet. I think the place has been restored to it's former glory now, and could well be a corner of a larger room under the ownership of the wealthy Russian oligarch mentioned by Sarah in a previous comment.
Bath - unlike almost every other town or city which is primarily made up of terraced, domestic houses - can be a very anonymous place to live. It is quite possible to live in the same house for 40 years and never speak to your next-door neighbour.
It is not like T' North, where the first thing you do after moving in, is knock on the next door and ask for a cup of sugar - or so H.I. the Sheffield girl tells me. Coming from Surrey as I do, I don't know which is worse.