My entry for the Spyke Golding Literary Award

The Circus of Animals, Melodies and Righteous Ale

An initiation ceremony was about to commence.  The circus performers all gathered in a bedraggled circle on the wind-ravaged wasteland, close to where their caravans were sat.  They were drinking and smoking and grumbling a little.  Kelham, the acrobat, was tuning his guitar ready for later, and Screech was nursing the first few embers of a fire in an old oil can, the scruffy edges of his shirt roughed up by the early evening breeze.

“We’re not too ‘appy with him, to be honest” Brains said of the new recruit, in his melancholy Cardiff lilt.  Although Brains was the Master of Ceremonies, he didn’t get final say in such matters, as they’d agreed to a democratic employment system.

Bateman gave an affirmative nod, Bateman was old school too, he looked after the horses mostly, being too rusty to perform tricks –

“He’s a punk, we don’t like punks”

“Y’ never liked the mods or rockers neither!  You’re a grumpy old timer, that’s all” Screech suggested wafting his hand through his long, golden hair with measured arrogance.  He sat down on a low stool with his buddy Monkey, a part-time clown with blue hair and fingernails.  Monkey looked odd dressed in his civvies, with last night’s face-paint not fully washed off.

“…The yeast levels are all wrong in his make-up” Bateman added, with the wise conviction of someone who’d argued tradition for years.

Screech hooted with laughter, his messy hair and unkempt beard making him look like a mad scarecrow –

“…You don’t like these young upstarts d’you?  But you gottah understand, they wanna be punks, be anarchists and shake up the system.  Let ‘em be!  We need new blood, none of us are getting any younger, and yet if you hadn’t noticed we’ve started to get loads more young people interested in the circus…”

There were mutters in the group, Screech was a tight rope walker, Bateman thought this gave him a superiority complex.  But Kelham the acrobat, jumped in at this point –

“Yeah” he said “Screech is right, we’ll always keep the faithful regulars we’ve had for years, so long as we have the rayht staples on offer.  But even I’m struggling to keep up wi’ these trendy urbanites.  The newbie will give them just what they want.  He’ll pull out all the stops, turn up wi’ crazy hair, and crack out his ‘unicycle on fire’ trick.  He can do all that, and we can just carry on doin what we do well”

Kelham had finished tuning his guitar, and began the first few cords of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’, as if to add an ironic point to his argument.  Back in the day it was the old time characters who themselves wanted to shake up the system.  At that time young people had given up on traditional entertainment, and turned to mass-produced carbonated television. Kelham’s palomino pony trotted across the wasteland towards the motley gaggle of eccentrics, as though drawn by the music.  He stuck his nose over Kelham’s shoulder and snorted dust in his lap.  Kelham coughed and laughed, a hearty northern laugh –

“Away wi’ ya, Moonshine, ya pesky old mare!”

Brains furrowed his wise brow, and rubbed his over-sized cranium, before resting his chin in his hand, as he stared into the gathering flames –

“You’re right in some respects I spose.  But it doesn’t get us away from some of the practical problems.  His hair’s too big to fit in any of the caravans!  Where will he sleep, the Big Top?”

Monkey made a mime of hanging himself.  They’d been over the same conversation too many times already.

“You got sommat to say Monkey?  Bloody well say it, instead of tryin to be a clever bogger” Bateman said.

The conversation was interrupted by a distant rumbling, which gathered on the dusty rubble-strewn outskirts of the settlement.  The group were quiet now, Screech was rolling a fresh smoke, but they all kept on eye on the sound.  The nearby dilapidated warehouse began to rattle as the vehicle came into view.  The uneven ground proved little match for the gigantic tyres, but the bus (fashioned from reclaimed scrap metal) was short in length and tall in height, and so it wobbled wildly from side to side as though inebriated.  The engine seemed as loud as a rocket, and the open windows spewed some sort of electronica-metal hybrid.

Brains rolled his eyes and tutted –

“What a bloody drama queen” he said over the racket “Don’t we have enough of those already?”

He looked at Screech, who simply grinned and winked.  Kelham’s pony was running around in circles whinnying, as though to alert anybody that hadn’t heard the approaching cacophony.

The vehicle pulled to a halt close to the group, coating them in a flurry of cement dust and nearly extinguishing the fire.  The door opened with a loud groan.  The first person to clamber down from the vehicle was Screech’s older brother Harvest.  He was dressed, as usual in tweed, with a tidy blue cravat at his throat, his pale hair hidden beneath a flowerpot-shaped hat.  He gave a modest bow, before waving a hand to introduce the new arrival.  The young man that emerged was wearing a dog-eared t-shirt and jeans, with clumpy boots, his hair was indeed a sight to be believed.  It made him half as tall again, but it wasn’t straight and spiky like many a Mohawk, rather it seemed to have an unhuman flexibility.  It was more like the crest of a cockatoo, as he wriggled down from the bus, it flattened back, but as soon as he was stood clear it stood up on end again, giving him a charming jolliness.  He gave a big grin, and looked around the whole group, face by face.

“Nice to meet you lads” he announced in a gravelly Scottish accent “My name is Brewdog, just tell me where to sign!”

* * * * * * * *


I knew my entry for the SGLA, the winner of which is being announced at the Nottingham Robin Hood Beer Festival, wouldn’t be the ticket.  I know one of the judges is not a fan of Brewdog, and while I am affectionately taking the piss out of the cult of real ale, they may not see it that way.  It is afterall, blatant propaganda!

Over & Owt



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