There was, Godfrey recalled, in our Welsh village, a small, dusty cinema dating from the first world war. I happily remember the old red velvet seats, great black out curtains, and the nasty, sticky floor.
For Alice and I it was a rare treat, a haven in the dark of a winter Saturday, Alice minded me when Ma did not care to, she would drop us off and drive away.Gripping my sticky hand, she shoved a coin through the wicket, told me not to lose my ticket or she’d thump me in the spine. Alice was always nice at the films, she bought us bags of Pic-N-Mix and snitched the green ones out of mine.
Wealthy Tenbrooks Smythe The Third was allergic to dust, I believe, though in those days no one gave it much thought. He sat alone we could always hear Tenbrooks over any battle scene with his sneezing and snot.
Now and again chocolate raisins would rain, down on us from the forbidden balcony above. Alice told me sternly- “Never peek up there, it’s reserved for gobby types in love”
Ancient Great Grand dad Mulgrew guarded the loo, and took a penny off anyone needing to wee. He had one craggy eyebrow, shook his cane as I slipped beneath the door, he never caught me.
Oh, I would curl up, chin on my knees as the lights were dimmed and Tenbrooks wheezed. The News of The World blinked on, grainy black and white, a bleak scene from war, a ship being launched, a Queen or President waving riding in a posh car. I was afraid of The Pope yet endured Alice’s prod to shut up when he was on or risk being smote by God..
When I was small I never knew what Alice took me to. I loved Sinbad or the films with the cowboy who burst out in song. I loved the musicals, the biblical epics, slept through the one that was four hours long. Alice cried when the romantic heroes died, but I only wept when Lassie limped home sore of paw
I recall the time we walked out on a snowy night, caught the big flakes on our tongues as we waited for our Ma. If her errands went well we had fish and chips for tea. From my Pic-N-Mix I saved for Ma a Sherbert pip and a toffee. Most times though I’d be cuffed on the head, told she disliked Sinbad films, threatened with beets and sent off to bed.
When I was much older, Beatrice and I knowing Old Man Mulgrew could not see us or hear, sneaked into the show from the high, open to the street loo window.
It never failed, until my daring Clementine got wedged part way through, I pushed from below, inside Beatrice stood on the toilet and pulled.
Clementine and the cistern fell with a mighty thud, she clung to the pan, Beatrice washed out in the flood when Mulgrew opened wide the bog door. We were not allowed in the dusty old cinema anymore.
Beatrice never forgave my fish lady’s daughter or forgot the Spanish swear words Clementine taught her. Godfrey told me this story as we rode the city bus to the movies.
The Cineplex was not dusty, quite modern and new. No dour old man demanded a penny for the loo. We sat in the balcony, forbidden no more, unchanged Godfrey noted was the manky, sticky floor. The music was Disco, the film was silly, the dancer’s tight pants were awful, I looked over at Godfrey..so absorbed in the movie I just let him be, recalling to, our dusty cinema, long ago on a wet, cold winter Saturday..