On a cold wet afternoon in November 1965, Athol and Bruce and Judith and Keith let it be known that the carnival was over. The cat was out of the bag. I was but a tot at the time, with only half a dozen summers behind me, but I knew this was a call to action. If I did not do something, where would it end?
First things first. I decided to put the cat back in the bag. It was a cloth bag, pink and green with a scattering of yellow dots, like the dawn rising on a buttercup-splattered meadow, with a draw-string fastener. My mother used it for keeping her buttons in – so many buttons! – until I tipped them out near the fireplace. I picked up the bag, drew it open to its full extent – impressive forward-planning for one so young! – and went in search of the cat.
I waylaid Pontius – that was the name of the cat – by the wainscot in the parlour, picked him up by the scruff of the neck, and tried to shove him back into the bag. But, like most cats, Pomtius was not tractable, and he struggled in my grasp, flailing, and clawing savagely at my face. Had a passing snapper photographed the scene, it would have resembled Neon Park’s cover design for the Mothers of Invention album Weasels Ripped My Flesh, although that picture was not executed until 1970, it would have shown a six-year-old boy rather than an adult male and a cat rather than a weasel, and would most likely have been black-and-white rather than full colour. Most of my memories of that time are monochrome, when I call them to mind, which is more and more often these days.
Howling, I dropped Pontius, who skittered off at high speed towards the catflap and the open air. I also dropped the bag. Clutching at my bloody cheek, I went in search of my mother and bandages.
Restarting the carnival would have to wait. Alackaday, I was soon distracted by other matters – a tumbler of milk, snakes and ladders, picking up buttons – and I quite forgot about the carnival. Only today, more than half a century later, have I remembered that it is up to me to get it started again. I will, I will, after I have taken a nap.