On skills and sanity

Betty has been trucking across town to circus class every Thursday for a while now, and quite honestly wouldn’t like to imagine this present life without it, if at all possible. This past term has been lovely: a different teacher, who is supportive and wonderful and shares Betty’s love for the clinically special and their siblings and art and dance and behaving like a holy fool from time to time; classmates ranging in age from ten to Betty, one of whom has an aunt who made a career as a human cannonball; and a beautiful studio by the zoo with windows covering one wall; and, importantly, enough rope…

It hasn’t just been trapeze all term, either. There are silks, or tissu, which are beautiful and difficult – one has to climb to fearful heights and hang on, and wrap one’s limbs into various locks and wedge one’s torso between the ribbons and reserve enough energy to come down again, while making it one’s resolve to stay up, because the silks are like a wave pool of gravity, constantly inching one down. The day after tissu is achy shoulders, tender knuckles, slight burns on the tops of one’s feet, and back muscles like a flying squirrel.

There’s also a hammock of silk, rigged from two points, that mimics the cloudswing made of rope – it’s lovely fun, perfect for flipping in, or as a place from which to sling some small child. There’s a lyra, essentially a hanging hula hoop that looks graceful but causes about as much pain as you’d expect from a solid piece of metal. The studio has two trapezes, a triple (four ropes and a bar, as seen in the previous circus post), and a single, which is currently rigged from one point, which makes it a dance trapeze. It spins.

But what Betty is trying to convey is the motivation and the challenge of aerial circus. Betty has terrible upper-body strength and a dramatic fear of heights, both of which amplify the temptation to slack off. I might just do another gazelle, one thinks to oneself. I might do something more experimental. In lieu of actual skills, I shall emote at a medium height in a paroxysm of dorsiflexion. This video, I think, shows a slightly more realistic view – the excuses of laziness don’t really fool the camera. Uninitiated viewers will have to imagine the sensations of having fairly substantial rope wrapping around the knees, with one’s practically entire and very non-Bulgarian-gymnast weight resting on it; of becoming semi-stuck on one’s own proverbial; of being acutely aware that the bar is rigged, I don’t know, two feet higher than when one started to learn this piece, which shouldn’t change much, but does. In the half-hour after this video was taken, with the help of some rosin and a run-through on the silks and the teacher’s direct suggestion, Betty did the handstand anyway and it didn’t kill her. You see?

The day after trapeze is bruises behind one’s knees, bruises across one’s pelvis, bruised ankles, bruised shoulder-blades, callouses under each finger, a decompressed spine, pathetically exhausted arms, and a smile.

On wedding vows

Betty has a frightful cold in her throat, and so she is sitting up in bed drafting out her wedding service. The one that the minister gave to Betty and the boy person fiance needed a small amount of tweaking, not least because the couple whose service the minister used as a reference said their vows in Dutch after giving them in English, which would seem a little odd in this case, given that the boy person fiance (pleasing though he is) is not a Dutchman. Betty, therefore, has been googling the Book of Common Prayer with abandon (a more difficult task than one would think — the top hits always belong to a Jane Austen fan site, which, while it seems to have the wording pat, does not sit well with Betty’s instincts about reputable referencing).

So Betty took a short break to investigate one of the obligatory YouTube links: the wedding of Frederik and Mary of Denmark. Betty had forgotten how lovely the Danish language is — apart from reminding her of Garrison Keillor (always a heartwarming thing), it simply has a beautiful sound. What Betty did not know is the way this language simplifies even the stateliest of wedding ceremonies to its absolute essence:


[in Danish] Do you, Frederik André Henrik Christian, burble burble burble?



And not an overwrought, royal “Jah”, but the clipped “Jah” of an amenable small boy; sort of a Danish “Yup”. Quite beautiful.

Adventures in Burtonland

The first trailer that Betty saw for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie was, sad to say, a little underwhelming. Though he has gone to town with the visual lunacy for which he is justly famous, there were distinct hints of lazy Disney remix syndrome going on. With this longer and more revealing trailer, however, Betty begins to feel that there may still be something there. Please, Mr Burton, please let there be something there…