When you put on a clown suit and a rubber nose, nobody has any idea what you look like inside. (Stephen King)
I never much liked clowns, and as a child, I found them nothing short of terrifying. I always felt there was something sinister about clowns; they might be stumbling about on a circus stage, falling over and making a fool of themselves, but beneath the silly exterior I sensed something much darker.
Little surprise then that I’ve been feeling edgy lately, given that each day that passes brings my adopted home country closer to acquiring a clown as prime minister. A lying, cheating, racist clown, no less. Despite his abysmal record as a politician, he is far and away the most popular candidate for the prime ministerial post, soon to be vacated by Theresa May.
It wasn’t long ago that Mrs May was lambasted in the media as the worst British prime minister in living memory, but I bet that two years from now, we will look back at her premiership with much kinder eyes, because if the recent past is deemed a farce, that’s nothing compared to what’s to come.
History and literature are both aplenty with clowns that appeared harmless at first glance, but proved anything but:
The future was coming nearer, one relentless goose step after the next. Juliet could still remember when Hitler had seemed like a harmless clown. No one was amused now. (“The clowns are the dangerous ones,” Perry said.) – Kate Atkinson, Transcription
Kill you all!” The clown was laughing and screaming. “Try to stop me, and I’ll kill you all! Drive you crazy and then kill you all! You can’t stop me! – Stephen King, It
“Beware the jokers and the tricksters and the clowns…They will laugh us all to hell.” Those are the words of Muriel, the matriarch of Years and Years, a six-part BBC drama set in the near future, but which feels in many ways like present-day Britain.
On the day that Boris Johnson launched his campaign to become the prime minister, I nearly crashed my car while screaming at the radio broadcasting his launch speech. And it’s been downhill ever since, for me I mean. It soon got so bad that my husband started fearing for my mental health and tried banning me from listening to the radio or watching the evening news.
“Welcome to my world,” a friend commented ruefully, noting that current political developments in Britain are beginning to look frightfully similar to those in her home country, a small, struggling nation on the margins of Europe.
Meanwhile, messages of condolences were coming in from friends in the United States. “We feel your pain. We’ve been living it for the past two years over here.”
In normal circumstances, when feeling a little blue, I’d take comfort from the latest pictures of my adorable young nephews posted to family-shared photo albums – just as effective as Prozac – but these days not even the irresistible smiles of toddlers can cure me of my despair.
“Get used to it, Jenny” friends and family tell me, “BoJo is going to be the next prime minister, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Sorry I can’t. I’m still scared of clowns. You should be too.