Wednesday 5 December 2018

Crackers the Clown

by Anne Wilson

I tried so hard to wish away his evil presence in my nightmares. If only that had worked. Once you’re grown up, you stop trying.
      Coulrophobia is ‘an intense and irrational fear of clowns’. My fear is intense, but it has never been irrational, either then or now. I can still see the menace in Crackers black glossy eyes as he issued his invitation.
      I can hear the droning buzz of summer insects, feel the dry summer heat, the warm, dry sand. And I remember something else, hot and sour-smelling, when my bare legs had tickled with a horrible accident.
I grew up in Fleetwood, in a house opposite the Marine Gardens with their Floral Hall and bandstand. There was a boating lake and large outdoor baths.
In the summer holidays, my younger brother and I spent most of our time on the beach with our buckets and spades building endless sandcastles; fascinated by seashells, worm-casts and little scuttling crabs, exploring around the rotting wooden drift-waters where strands of bladderwrack smelled of damp, like dead things.
On the hottest days our parents took us to the baths. Through the metal jaws of the turnstile, through un-lit changing rooms where your lungs stung with chlorine, and barefoot through a shallow trough of murky water which was supposed to prevent verrucas. It didn’t; I got one anyway.
The most exciting thing we did was going to watch the marionette show.
There was a colonnaded area behind the baths, whitewashed, chalky and flaking, where people sat in their damp bathing suits on concrete blocks topped with green painted wooden slats. Jammed between the slats were beach pebbles, boiled sweet wrappers, cigarette filter tips, ice-lolly sticks and chewing gum.
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