In the early '80s, when the teenage me was sat at my school desk in North London, having a fairly unpleasant time, I was told that I should consider my future. Myself and my classmates were informed that it was time to think about what we might like to do with the rest of our lives, and to help with this endeavour, we were given a form. Printed at the top of the form were the words 'JIIG CAL'. Not even words, in fact. Job Idea Information Generator for Computer Aided Learning.
The principle was simple. We would complete the form by filling in the relevant printed circles with the provided pencil, and by doing so, we would tell it our likes and dislikes, our academic strengths and weaknesses, our hobbies, our gender and our location, and in return, the mighty JIIG CAL would, after a little electronic pondering, tell us our ideal occupations.
So, we filled them in, one of us collected them all up and gave them to our teacher, and they were posted off to a computer in Cambridge. A couple of months went by, during which we quickly forgot about the feverish computations going on behind our back that sought to define our future. Then, one morning, after assembly, we each had a small brown envelope dropped onto our desk in front of us, inside of which were our two most statistically perfect jobs. The careers that, according to cold hard mathematics would be both best suited to us, and best placed to help the community in which we lived.
I opened my envelope. First choice: Social Worker. Second choice: Undertaker.
I swear this is true. I have spent much of my adult life attempting to discern which little circle filled in with a stubby pencil pushed a computer to decide that I might make a good undertaker. For the record, I wouldn't. I'm thin skinned, terrified of death, and I can't even drive. Although I do look damn good in formal wear, so there's that.
Anyway, as you might imagine, the teenage me wasn't particularly enamoured with either of the two potential careers I was given, and for a little while I floundered, aware that I was being expected to have a dream of what I'd like to be when I grew up, but still awaiting the delivery of said dream.
Until I went on holiday.
My parents liked to go to a folk festival in North Yorkshire. I wasn't as keen as they were, but the seaside is the seaside, even in North Yorkshire, so it was fun. And it was on holiday that I first saw them. The Fabulous Salami Brothers. Street performers. A loose collective of oddments - a strong man, some musicians, a fire breather and a unicyclist - loud, fun, brash, witty - and front and centre, Ricardo Salami. He held the show together, and he was a juggler. Not a spectacularly good one, but good enough, and more important than that, he was a showman - he had charisma, so he could sell every trick to within an inch of it's life. I became a fan, and would spend my days finding out where they were going to be performing so I could make sure I got there early enough to be in the front row of every show. And then, pretty soon, I started to realise that I didn't just want to be a fan, I wanted to be them. I wanted to be Ricardo Salami. I'd taken delivery of my dream.
When we got home from the holiday I bought three rubber dog balls from the pet shop at the end of our road, and my dad got me a book on juggling from the library where he worked, and I started the practice that has never ended, and took my first steps on the path that would take me around the world several times and on a few adventures along the way.
It's now nearly thirty years later, and I've been a professional juggler for almost all of that time. I've worked hard to redefine peoples preconceptions of my artform, and show that it can be as fun, dramatic, beautiful, silly, elegant or thrilling as any other art. And this year, somehow, I've ended up hosting my own West End show.
But I'm not just a juggler - who cares about just showing off? I'm a showman. That's important to me, and it's the name of the one man show I'll be taking to the Edinburgh Fringe.
I never got the chance to say thank you to the Salami Brothers, but when I took the stage name Ricardo, it was no coincidence.