i remember bunking in
in far flung corners of the world the journey from child to adult is marked by life changing events such as vision quests and scarification, in 70s west london it was a bit easier: going to the pub and ordering a pint.
thanks to a childhood living in pubs the local hostelries held no magic for me and by the time my contemporaries were ready for the mystic pint i had already given up on drink.
no my rite of passage was a cultural one and took place at the grenada cinema in harrow.
i can't exactly remember when my love affair started with films but it was at an early age. i fell in love with doris day thanks to calamity jane (a not so secret love), i giggled along to carry on movies (oo'er missus), respected john wayne (get off your horse). there was james bond, disney, dodgy film adaptations of favourite tv shows. if it wasn't the cinema for the latest release or a double bill second run, it was weekends sat in front of the tele watching old movies.
the ritual of adverts and trailers of films that i might never see because they were aa or x
(oh yes dear reader old school classifications) was always a key part of the experience. it was many years after seeing the trailers for films such as conquest of the planet of the apes or population growth zero that i would finally see them.
then one day i decided i could no longer wait to see those forbidden movies - it was time to prove myself a man and go and see an x movie.
i dressed in my most adult clothes – a hideous plaid jacket that would not have looked out of place in a blaxploitation movie, a kipper tie, and my smartest jeans (which meant they were clean and didn't have a patch in the arse repairing a hole). it was a mid week day and i wasn't at school (can't remember why) and so off i went. 140 bus from the green gates and into harrow. a short walk to the cinema, a casual glance at the running times and a tentative step into the foyer. ask for the ticket, holding the worry and fear back – hoping i wouldn't be asked my age, remembering what my adjusted birthday would be so that i could pass their interrogation, should it come. pleased that there was no quiver in my voice and shake to my hand.
ticket asked for.
head to the cinema, up the grand stairs, truly a picture palace worthy of the name.
into the comforting darkness that is the auditorium.
find a seat – no problems i am pretty much the only person there.
a brief wait, lights go down, curtains open.
sit back and watch.
happy that i passed my rite of passage.
what did i see?
a glorious double bill of 'death wish', charlie bronson does revenge, and 'mean machine' burt reynolds just being so cool.
cinemas may have changed. films may have changed but the love has never faded.