Articulate logo.Articulate is supported by Deutsche Bank. Click here to visit their website. Click here for The National Gallery website.
Click here for Homepage.   Roy Apps story
Click here for Articulate Projects page.
Click here for Feedback.
Click here for Contact Us.

Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando

Every time I swing from the circus roof, I think about Tad.

My father was a sea captain and my mother an African girl he had met on one of his voyages. I was born in Stettin, on the Baltic Sea.

When father was home, he would take me by the hand and we would walk through the streets to the woods that lay up on the hill above the town. People would stop and bid us 'Guten tag!'

I loved the smell of the trees; the crunch the pine needles under my feet and the woods’ dark, secret places. I would hide among the great pines, crouch down and crane my neck up towards the sky where the seagulls hovered waiting for the next fishing boat to come in.

But when my father was away, life was very different. Before going out, my mother would dress us both in coats, scarves, hats and gloves. I thought it was because of the wind that whipped down across the North Sea and into the town. But there was another reason; more chilling even than the wind. Out on the street with my mother, people would stare at us, point at us and even spit at us. And so I learned what it meant to be different.

When we knew for certain that my father’s ship would not return, I braved the angry and despising looks, and went up into the woods to think. That was where I met Tad. He was a year or two older than me and his father was a sailor, too. Tad climbed the trees all the time. He was practising for the day when he, too, would go to sea and would have to climb the masts and rigging of some great sailing ship.

Tad taught me to climb; to balance and to swing from the highest branches. Each time I climbed I would feel closer to the seagulls and the sky until the day Tad said: "Olga, you climb even better than me! You should become a sailor!"

But girls cannot become sailors. In Europe girls cannot become very much at all, especially black girls. That made me sad. But what made me sadder was the thought that Tad was now twelve and would soon be going to sea.

One evening, Tad and his father called. It was all arranged. Just like that. My mother would go and live with Tad’s family, to keep his mother company when the men were at sea. And I? I would go to the circus.
"Girls may not be able to climb the rigging," said Tad, "but they can walk the high wire."

In the circus we are from everywhere: from Asia, Africa, America and Europe. Our costumes and our characters are bright. Ours is a world of colour; unlike the foggy grey streets of Stettin.

And every time I swing from the circus roof, I imagine Tad, flying high with the seagulls from the rigging of his sailing ship, somewhere on the great ocean.
Somewhere between Europe and Africa.

(511 words)
Roy Apps 18/11/08
Image of quote from Roy's story.This is the Roy Apps' story page.
Image of a Brian Flynn Masterclass.Click here for Brian Flynn's Masterclasses.
Image of student.Click here for Student response page.
Detail of ‘Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando’ by Degas, 1879.Click here for About the Painting.
Other links:
More about Roy Apps