Being on the planet to do something
I have some great emails from people I have probably only met at the end of a show as they pop a pound or two into the hat. I love receiving them (the pounds and the emails) and always reply, even if it’s sometimes some while later. I had a lovely email from someone who’d seen the show a few years running in Wallingford and had introduced her family to it and enjoyed their enjoyment of what I enjoy. Doing my show on a sunny day on a piece of grass at an event in Britain. She said something significant and it gave me the impetus for this blog so I am grateful. The email finished with two sentences. I don’t think she will mind me quoting them;
‘I think the pleasure that flows through you affects us all equally. Thank you for doing what you are obviously on this planet to do.’
Of course I was flattered by the comments but there is more here and it is worthy of exploring. Despite what I write here in these pages about the difficulties of my life in one way or another, I am hugely favoured and lucky for being able to continue to do what I love doing. It does continue, event after event, to give me such pleasure to see the effect I seem to have on people.
There was another example on Sunday at the Malpas Yesteryear Rally. One of the regular faces in the audience at that lovely Archeresque event, a girl of about seven who has probably been in my audience there since she could walk, came over at the end of the show and gave me a spontaneous hug. I does happen from time to time and whenever it does it is very moving. It is as though they see something warm, something human, in the show and need to share it, to give it back. It is rich and humbling and deeply rewarding, all at the same time.
The email comment catches it precisely, that somehow I seem to be able to focus my pleasure at juggling or magic or unicycling through to all of you. There’s a human dimension thing going on too. My efforts (not always totally successful) to do all these weird things with objects becomes a symbol of all our efforts (equally not always successfully) to do things. Great when they work and funny/sad when they don’t but it’s the trying that is the most important part. It’s the human predicament to try a make some order out of the human condition. And to do it all with determination, good will and good humour. As well as a touch of classic style.
I try to catch everyone’s eye, person to person, as much as possible during the attempt and make contact with them. Sometimes hard when there are maybe five hundred people as there were at Wallingford. I do still try to look directly at the people and I see the pleasure they are taking from me and I try to win over any doubters and cynics.
Another example from the weekend. There’s always a few people who never clap at all. Perhaps it is partly that, as another unsolicited email told me earlier this year after complaining about quiet audiences in Derbyshire.
‘I think that you actually misinterpreted the response to your show for the following reasons:
1. No matter what you did, most of the audience seemed to be anticipating the moment when you would pull out a couple of handkerchiefs and start a Morris.
2. Audiences have learned to avoid eye contact with performers for fear of being dragged into a 'stick dances' where the performers kick their legs out while thrashing around with pick-axe handles. Many audience members have developed evasion tactics that include pretending to tie shoe laces or moving around slowly with a pronounced limp.’
Again on Sunday at Malpas there were a few there who don’t quite get the convention or the importance of active audience involvement through clapping, cheering etc. It’s partly that the event is in the middle of nowhere and the only other performance they may have ever experienced in the deep English countryside is Morris dancing.
I looked at the unparticipating audience member while I was on top of three chairs just after juggling the knives, smiled, and said ‘Not worth uncrossing your arms for?’ He laughed and started clapping. And for that moment we shared our common humanity.
Long may I continue to do that with all of you. And keep the emails coming.
All the best from a road near you,