Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Welcome to the circus

Another year, another excuse for over-extravagant birthday celebrations! Monday 31st saw my turning 23, so I made use of the previous weekend for welcoming in the 23rd year in true Laura-style!

There’s nothing I love more than celebrating birthdays, and despite the fact that I was expecting them to get dull after 21, I am pleased to report that they have yet to do so; 22 and 23 have both proved equally as enthralling as the years that preceded them, and thus have seen me driven into my usual state of ‘birthday-girl-frenzy’...

This year all began with a surprise birthday party for myself and a work colleague with whom I share my birthday 2 years apart (25 was clearly the bigger milestone of the two, so I felt even more lucky to be celebrating mine). The night was spent playing with inflatable palm trees, sword fighting, playing pass the parcel, and alternating between pirate hats, Minnie Mouse hair extensions and tiaras for head-wear. SO much fun! Turns out my body on a Friday night felt like I was turning 46, not 23, as an early start meant an early finish and I was still in bed by 11 (I suppose it’s a good sign that I can have that much fun, yet still manage to be snuggled up by a reasonable hour? ... it’s not. I’m old before my time).

Having broken the alcohol-hiatus spell on Friday night, I awoke on Saturday morning feeling better than I had in weeks (worrying? I’m really hoping it was more to do with working hot water for the first time in a while and not a sign of how much my body had missed gin)! Saturday saw the arrival of the most highly anticipated event of the year (admittedly, not much of the year has been yet, and it was my birthday, so I may have been biased), the Dark Circus Party, courtesy of Belle Epoque.

I really wasn’t entirely (or let’s face it, at all) sure what to expect, but I’d been to the Prohibition Party also at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in February hosted by the same event company and had the most amazing time there, so didn’t think we could go too wrong with this one. I’m not quite sure how to explain or describe the experience, but suffice to say, it went completely above and beyond my expectations and I will absolutely definitely making a reappearance at the next one in May (if anyone cares to join me?)!

Initially when we walked in we were a little dubious as although the place was kitted out in the most wonderful way (a Big Top covering the centre of the room, a cage at either end, one labelled ‘Monstrous Menagerie’, the other donning a sign which read ‘Sideshow Freakshow’, the promising sight of a suspended hoop, well-dressed bar staff and monkeys offering guests popcorn), it did not seem as busy as the Prohibition Party... hang about though, I seem to have skipped a little too far ahead of myself here.

Let’s re-trace our steps to the beginning of the day.

I was lacking in anything to wear (well, I had shoes, but I wasn’t sure they’d be appropriate on their own... turns out I probably could have gone with the ‘just shoes’ plan in the end) which meant that Saturday turned into rather the shopping extravaganza; took the bus to Dalston for a fancy dress shop that I then couldn’t locate, off to Oxford Circus, Soho, back to Oxford Street, and home again (with McDonalds gorge in between to keep us going). It may not sound like we covered much, but in 2 or 3 hours with such a specific mission, we sure worked up a sweat of sorts! Somehow three of us without costume managed to find something to wear before rushing back to mine for burnt pizza (not intentional) ready to leave at 8... yeah. I think we always knew that part of the plan was not going to be feasible.

When we attended the Prohibition Party in February we missed all of the acts bar one, so this time we decided we’d attempt to make an earlier appearance and acts were due to begin at 9. However, despite our much later than planned departure, upon arrival we discovered that they didn’t start as early as we’d thought, so we were actually in perfect time!

The journey to the Bloomsbury Ballroom this time had a very different effect on the general public. Where last time our costumes had sparked great discussion on escalators and the tube, received compliments from elderly gentlemen, and caused a sense for all those who joined us in our train carriage of travelling back in time, the effect of circus costume was more one of shock, despair, and general disapproval. Jacquard leggings, corsets, leotards, stockings, leather, tattoos in all the wrong/right places, feathers and hats galore, accompanied by our two very own suited and booted men, we perhaps did look like some sort of ‘organisation’ shall we say? As we teetered along underground tunnels, we prayed that we might see fellow circus-goers in order that we may stand out slightly less (although on the other hand, we did all agree that it was rather empowering to turn so many heads and drop so many jaws)! However, none appeared (because clearly they were all sensible and listened to their friends when they suggested getting a taxi) so we assumed the position of circus-themed Pied Pipers, leading the way along subways and up escalators (in fact, even almost leading some poor, unsuspecting males into the party because wherever we were going ‘we want to be there’). 

From the Underground, my directional abilities were miraculously right on point and we descended upon the ballroom to discover our skills in the art of perfect timing!

The night was so much more than I ever could have expected, with something happening wherever or whenever the head turned; fire eating, pole dancing, feathers, tassles, acrobatics, cabaret singing, tails, top hats, frills, horn-playing moneys, Marilyn Monroe strip teasing, cake and cocktails galore! With a truly interactive feel, even those of us who weren’t professional performers became part of it all through simply being there; it was a magical kind of surreal!

The circus was certainly quite the contrast to Friday night’s ‘kiddie’s party’ and a fish and chip supper on the evening of the birthday itself (always important to bring a little ‘home’ with me wherever I go). Each year I wonder how I’ll ever beat the last, yet each year so far I seem to have managed it – who knows what’s to come?

 Welcome to 23, me.