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By Gerry Cottle, Helen Batten

Gerry Cottle, a stockbroker's son, ran away to hitch the circus while he used to be simply 15 and shortly married into Britain's oldest circus dynasty. In time he used to be the landlord of the most important circus on the planet till his starting to be cocaine habit ended in his arrest and financial ruin. He recovered, and, ever the showman, went directly to make thousands with the 1st ever non-animal circus, the Moscow and chinese language kingdom circuses, and the Circus of Horrors.

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Extra info for Confessions of a Showman: My Life in the Circus

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He also threw in the poles and ropes and tipped me off where I could get the stakes from a scrap heap. My dad lent me the £20. As for the rest of the equipment, we were so poor, Brian made the ring door curtains out of his brother’s stripy bed sheets, the seats were the old school chairs I’d picked up the day Betty went into labour, so rotten that every time you folded them they disintegrated, and the ring fence was made with old deck chair canvas. The tent had so many holes we often had to stick it back together with Copydex glue.

I yelped and rushed out of the gents and out of the pub all a fluster. We caught a bus back to Kilburn. I can still remember the journey. The smog was so bad the conductor walked in front with a flag. Joe spent the whole of that interminable journey teasing me. I’m glad I managed to give him so much amusement, but it was a long time before my pride had recovered enough to venture into the Bear and Staff again. I had more luck in Joe’s favourite haunt, the Hippo Club. The Hippo, so-called because it was behind the Hippodrome, was mainly frequented by theatrical types (I saw Jeffrey Bernard in there once).

We had a huge stand-up row and before we knew it we were once again packing up and heading off into the unknown. 46 Cottle Book 3rds 28/7/06 11:39 am Page 47 How to Marry into the Circus Once more we camped on a lay-by, this time on the A30, with nowhere to go and no money to live on. We decided that the only way forwards was to start our own Cottle and Austen’s Circus straight away. But with no money, no equipment and a baby about to arrive, we weren’t quite sure how we were going to do it. 47 Cottle Book 3rds 28/7/06 11:39 am Page 48 Confessions of a Showman Te n t h i n g s y o u d i d n’t k n o w a b o u t The Ring 1 The ring is traditionally 42 feet in diameter.

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