Coco, a true class clown
QUESTION I have a road safety award from the Fifties awarded by the Bertram Mills Circus and presented by Coco the Clown. Why did Coco become a road safety campaigner? NIcolAI PolIAkoff, oBE (1900-1974), was the latvian creator of coco the clown, the most famous Uk clown in the middle decades of the 20th century.
As he told Roy Plomely on Desert Island Discs, he wasn’t a clown but an ‘auguste’ — the butt of the white-faced clown’s jokes, custard pies and buckets of water.
coco tells the story of his involvement in road safety in his autobiography, coco the clown: His life story told By Himself. His road campaign began in 1947 following an incident with the circus electrician and his seven-year-old son charlie.
coco had invited charlie to watch him put on his make-up and was amazed by the boy’s insightful questions. the following day charlie’s father came to his dressing room ‘with tears in his eyes’.
‘coco,’ he said, ‘a terrible thing has happened to my boy. He was playing in the street this morning, and a lorry knocked him down and ran over him.’
coco visited the boy: ‘When I saw charlie in hospital, it broke my heart.’ the boy survived, but the accident inspired coco to begin his campaign with the help of the Bertram Mills circus.
‘Now when the circus comes to town I visit as many as four schools a day,’ he said. ‘I go in my make-up, and at first I entertain them with some conjuring tricks and play some games with them; and after that I give them a quiz on road safety.
‘the boys and girls who give me the right answers will be the winners and will get a special road safety certificate and a road safety badge, especially printed for me by Bertram Mills circus.’
We live in Woodnewton, Northamptonshire, and have done so for 49 years. coco and his wife Valentina were good friends of ours as were members of his family, particularly the youngest daughter tamara and her husband Ali Hassani.
they founded the circus Hassani which continues through their daughter Mina and still tours the country.
one of coco’s granddaughters lives in the next village to us.
coco and his wife are buried in our churchyard. It was through his eldest daughter Helen and the help of clowns International that we were able to raise the money to build our village hall, which was opened by Norman Wisdom in 1992.
coco was the subject of this Is Your life in 1962. Trevor Danks, Woodnewton, Northants. QUESTION Why are the jet engines on aeroplanes set forward of the wings and not fitted directly under the wings? tHE short answer to this is because it allows the designer of the aircraft to use a lighter and more efficient wing. Now for the long answer . . . consider an aircraft flying at subsonic speed: all the aerodynamic forces on the wing, in particular the lift, act at a point one-quarter of the width (chord) of the wing back from the leading edge.
However, the centre of gravity of the wing, the point where all its weight can be considered to act, can be further back than this.
In level flight at constant airspeed, the wing will be effectively at a slight positive angle relative to the airflow so that it produces the lift required to support the entire aircraft.
A slight disturbance to the airflow will increase this angle slightly, and the wing will produce more lift. this will initially cause the wing to bend up slightly.
If the centre of gravity of the wing is behind the centre of lift, then the rear part of the wing will not bend upwards as quickly as the front.
this causes the wing to twist as it bends in such a way as to cause a further increase in lift. the more it twists, the more lift it generates, leading to more twist and so on.
this is an extremely dangerous positive feedback situation which can result in the wing rapidly failing in flight either from simply being bent too far, or from fluttering rapidly up and down.
for those not familiar with aircraft, this is a very bad thing. fortunately, there are a number of solutions.
one is to make the wing stronger. But this will make it heavier, reducing its ability to carry passengers or cargo long distances. Also the problem could return if, under emergency or turbulent conditions, the aircraft exceeded its normal maximum speed.
Alternatively, the wing could be designed so as to keep its weight either at or in front of the quarter chord position. this is difficult to do on an airliner which carries most of its fuel in the wings.
the solution generally adopted is to mount the engines on pylons forward of the wings, so the effective centre of gravity of the wing/engine combination is forward of the quarter chord point.
this ensures that when the wing flexes in flight, it twists in such a way as to reduce the force on the wing.
this is a very safe solution, as it continues to work even if the normal maximum speed is exceeded.
Denis Sharp, Hailsham, E. Sussex.
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Big shoes to fill: Coco the Clown gives a road safety talk at a junior school. Inset: The Coco badge