Since I touched on the subject of my childhood in the last post, I thought I would further explore the theme. Back in the days, Limerick had a cinema down Bedford Row and it was a dingy affair. The red armchairs had bald, sticky patches. A dusty velvet curtain featured an amazing ‘SWISH!’ effect. Instead of trailers, asymmetric bubbles oozed across a bile-yellow background, spawning and splitting in slo-mo until the audience was considered comatose enough to watch the main feature.
[NB: some of this recollection may be influenced by nostalgia and/or bitterness.]
At the time, I didn’t know any of this, because I’d never been to the movies. Just another neglect adding up to the conglomeration of deprivation that was my childhood. My parents are lucky they evaded social services for so many years, what with how they forced me to clean my room every month and only allowed me chips once a week and beat me. Ok, that last bit isn’t true, but the rest totally is. If I weren’t a fiction author, I would write an autobiography and call it ‘A Child Called “Hey You Do The Dishes”: A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness’ and make a bloody fortune, I can tell you.
Before he met mum, my father worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme in Australia. My parents never had a big interest in films, but when they heard ‘The Man From Snowy River’ was coming to Limerick, they decided this occasion merited a Family Outing.
Thus started the great countdown to The Man From Snowy River. We had Man From Snowy River theme dinners, and crossed off days on a Man From Snowy River calendar. It was like the build-up to the Olympics – obviously not on the same cost or magnitude scale, but certainly up there on the emotional and logistics levels. Planning kicked off weeks before opening night, when dad got a large street map of Limerick and inserted flags denoting potential parking places in the city centre.
The event was set to go down in family legend, so that, twenty years in the future when someone said, ‘What do you remember of your childhood?’ we would say, ‘Well, not a lot, although oh yes. There was. That time I saw The Man From Snowy River. *sigh!* It was the best day of my life.’ There was to be ice-cream and Maltesers, and maybe Coke if we were especially good. I’d never eaten ice-cream, and had never even HEARD of Maltesers.
[SCENE: a brown living room. A MOTHER reads in an overstuffed armchair. In the far corner, THREE CHILDREN play with a stick and a cardboard box. The FATHER enters, wearing a paisley shirt with ridiculously pointed collar]
FATHER: I think there’s someone at the door, dear.
MOTHER: Who might that be? Ooh, maybe it’s-
ALL: THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER!
CHILDREN: YAY! THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER! YAY!
DAUGHTER: I can’t WAIT to see The Man From Snowy River! It’s going to be the highlight of my tragically deprived little life!
On the big day, I woke up at 05:00 and couldn’t eat with all the excitement (although I was also saving room for the ice-cream and Maltesers). Throughout the day the tension built until it was emitting its own frequency by the time we left in the car. Even the driving rain was not sufficient to dampen our enthusiasm.
On the way into town, the three kids in the back sang our Man From Snowy River song:-
The Man From Snowy River <clap!>
He might be called Trevor <clap!>
Or Bill or Ted or Roger
So far he is a mystery
But we, but we, are going to see
Him in all his cinematic glory
When we reached Henry Street, we beheld an awful sight. Our little voices fell silent one by one. A queue extended from the gaping mouth of The Grand, around the block, across the street and up past the Garda Station.
We went home.
There was no ice-cream or Maltesers.
It would be YEARS before I finally experienced cinematic magic. My mother wouldn’t allow me to watch Top Gun due to rumours of a raunchy love scene involving Suggestion of Tongue. Her logic would have better withstood the test of time if she had forbidden me to see Top Gun because Tom Cruise’s tooth-heavy smile was sinister and disturbing even then.
Eventually I saw Man From Snowy River on telly. TELLY! The bit where The Man from Snowy River rides his horse down a cliff would have been so much better on the big screen before I had heard of special effects and knew the director was tilting the camera to make it look steeper