I’m all about rhythm and balancing skills,
The best at me prosper by perfecting the drills;
Drills that teach them to look right ahead,
By pushing my pedals, not coasting instead.
I’m odd for a bike as you’ll soon find out,
And my history is mired with jokes and doubt;
A conveyance so singularly simple as I
Can only raise questions like how, and why?
But I do have a purpose and a grand manifesto;
One wheel is plenty; two’s just for show!
Two wheels are easy when attached to a frame;
I need more practice for proficiency and fame.
When finally mastered I can stop on the dots
Or speed along roads at a fair rate of knots.
Alas, my story’s not all smiles and fun,
My first thirty years were pretty humdrum;
Beginning in Barnsley at the back of a shop,
An afternoon’s doodle; a bicycle chop.
Sold to a troupe of miserable freaks,
They worked in a big-top, white faces, red cheeks.
His made-up frown was designed to clown the kids all around the ring.
But they all looked to mumsy when he fell, awkward, clumsy,
To the sawdust, in a well-rehearsed sting.
He was the clown whose living I was making,
Falling was part of our twice daily faking;
Yes, clowns aren’t that funny and tricks aren’t that clever
When, after years of performing, every day becomes, ‘whatever’.
I toured with the circus for many a year
Was ridden by clowns from High Wycombe to Highclere.
They none of them loved me nor treated me well;
Just rode me in circles; their living; my hell.
I should be more grateful at my travelling lot,
But it’s not like he was famous like Miss Laura Trott!
Bright coloured silks and a face of surprise,
Made Clarence the clown the target of pies.
Custard, of course, was in all of their jokes,
But not much fun when it’s caught in your spokes.
Chased by fools with flippers for feet,
Backfiring cars with an ejector seat,
To entertain kids was our singular purpose,
But every day made me more want to purchase
A ticket to Ryde or wherever I could
Be loved and ridden for ever, for good.
One wheel, not two, was all I was given,
Designed by a dreamer who thought steered could be driven.
Gears are for girls, brakes for the bonkers
Unicycles were made for men with conkers!
Always moving means never stood still,
Just like the circus; a perpetual treadmill.
All around the country, chasing the dough,
Stuck in a jam on a journey of woe.
The clowns who learned on me swore quite a lot
Unicycles take much more time than they’ve got.
Gin was their pleasure away from the ring;
Faces of joy turned ugly to sing.
Songs that were bawdy and crude about cupid,
Songs that said children were worthless and stupid.
They didn’t realise that with children came mums;
Who paid for the tickets to fill seats with bums.
When big tops were loaded the owners got flash,
Clowns were sent home with pockets of cash.
Cash to burn on whatever they’d like;
More make-up, more gin, more custard, new bike?
Escaping was never an option for me,
‘Cos one wheel can’t turn without balance and he;
Clarence’s balance was legendary good;
Backwards or forwards he rode like he should.
So alone I couldn’t leave that dusty old ring;
What would become of this lonely, one-wheeled thing?
The elephants were nevertheless sadder than me,
They could remember their lives when free.
The toothless lion gave a pitiful roar,
Horses got giddy, monkeys got sore;
Stung by the whip to jump for the trainers,
The circus made hay for owners and campaigners.
I befriended a mouse who travelled along,
John, his name, small, brave and strong.
‘Always believe there’s a much better way,
The worlds much bigger than a stage ringed with hay.’
Day after day I repeated his line
And one day was rewarded with news of a sign;
The circus was closing, we were all for the chop,
Soon I’d be free from working the top.
Free from the top-hat that called himself Master,
Free from being a by-word for laughter.
If it wasn’t for anti’s making circuses stop,
The elephants and lions would still work till they drop.
As the clowns and the high-wire weren’t frightening enough,
They all took a severance and told, ’get out! Tough!
A tent’s not the place for your sort of fun,
Go join the Canadians and run rings round the sun.’
Sold at auction for a song and some money;
Entertainer, his profession, name of Sonny.
A new coat of red paint — yes, very daring!
A much needed service restored my old bearing.
We now ply our trade amongst tourists and shoppers
Whilst keeping an eye out for long tall coppers;
They don’t like our sort on the Capital’s streets,
So move us along to neighbouring beats.
But people still throng along to the square
To stand, and clap, and cheer, and stare.
But instead of being a figure of fun,
I’m now treated equally, fairly, we’re one.
One wheel, one act, one purpose, one direction,
Sonny and I are uni-cycling perfection.
The one-wheeled bike will be here for good, but remember, we’ll always be misunderstood.