Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Longest Day

It probably ties in with my previous post (musical memories of my teen years) but when I hear the above words, I automatically think of the star studded movie recalling the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944.

The Longest Day came out just before my teen years but I remember it was the first blockbuster I ever saw and it's stayed with me ever since. The little cinema in my local town in N. Ireland tended to get movies several weeks after their release across in England but we didn't care. In those days going to the cinema was such a treat, and indeed a thrill, that we kids didn't care if the movies were at the end of their theatre release - they were our means of escaping to worlds far removed from our own. The more exciting and dangerous the better.

Everyone who knows me, knows my memory is pretty awful - but some events do stand out even to this day. I was taken to the cinema by my parents for the first few years which even today is not a strange occcurance. Maybe it was a sign of the innocence of those days in the early 60's or just that we lived in a very small town, but kids would be allowed to go see a movie alone or with a group of friends at a very early age.

I finally got my parents to allow me to go on my own when I was just 8 years old. Boy was I thrilled. It was a short 15 minute walk to the cinema and I remember wanting to tell everyone who passed me that I was going to see a movie AND was going on my own !!! Well actually if I had told anyone that, they'd have given me an odd look as we didn't call them movies, but films. I guess I've become 'Americanised' over the years. And that brings me to another point.......why do people from N. Ireland add an extra 'i' to that word and say, filims ? Always puzzled me. Sometime I'll get on a similar theme with the word Michigan - but not now.

So back to 1960 and a happy and excited 8 yr old skipping gayly down the street to see his first movie, sorry filim, on his own. Yes those were the days when we could do things gayly without actually being gay and ok, I didn't actually skip either but come on, I'm setting the scene here. Go with me.

Those were also the days of double features when we'd be treated to a B-movie first to get us in the mood and pumped up for the main feature. I've no idea what the B-movie was that day and that was the whole idea........they were just the warm up act and no one remembers warm up acts. Then the usherettes would come down the aisles and stand expectantly with their trays of ice creams and assorted tooth-rotting goodies. I never had the extra money for such things (violins at the ready, please) and would simply take chunks out of the stale bread that I'd sneaked in for my treat between shows. Kidding.

And what was the main feature I'd picked for my first solo viewing ? Why no less than Swiss Family Robinson with John Mills in the title role. It was magic to an 8 yr old back then. It had everything- a cracking story, excitement with a family involved, a shipwreck, a desert island, pirates and not a swear word to be heard. What a combination for a young Catholic - enjoyment without any guilt !! Sadly it was not to last as the guilt came later.

I watched enthralled and didn't want it to end as then I'd be back into the real world of school and exams and life in general. Now remember this was in the pre multiplex days so there was only the one screen BUT you'd get 2 'showings' per evening. It had never been mentioned by my parents but of course I was only expected to see the show ONCE and so when I suddenly decided to stay put and delay my return to the real world by watching 'the family' survive their island adventures again, I had no idea of the chain of events I'd be setting off back home.

As the curtains closed across the screen and the national anthem blared out over the sound system (ahhhh those were the days), a very happy little boy exited the cinema blissfully unaware that for the last hour or so, his frantic parents and pissed off older brother were walking the streets looking for him. Now I know it seems obvious that the first port of call for them should've been the cinema but it seems it never occured to them that I'd stay to watch the movie twice. It hadn't occured to me either till it happened. I told you it was a small town so when I say they were walking the streets, basically they were able to take one each ! So although it was dark, I came out and practically bumped into my dad right away and met up with the others a few minutes later. Their relief at seeing me was in stark contrast to my puzzlement at seeing them. It had never entered my head that I'd caused a problem by my actions and so I can totally understand why kids do similar things today and wonder why their parents jump up and down and shout at them for being inconsiderate and thoughtless. Such thought processes don't occur to an 8 yr old.

My punishment fitted the crime as I wasn't allowed to go alone to the cinema for a long time after that. I think I was 25 but it may only have seemed that long. In any case a movie that should otherwise have been relegated to the furthest recesses of my mind (lets face it, it was no classic), will always be right up here when I think of titles I remember. And then there was the guilt of course. I'd caused my family such worry and anguish - not to mention I'd cheated the cinema owners by watching the show twice ! Yes 8 yr olds can suffer guilt. Hey, I was an Irish Catholic 8 yr old so guilt came with the package. The name of our parish priest at the time escapes me but I did confess my 'sins' to him a few days later and so have been spared a weekend in some hellish room just off the main hothouse when I die.

So in true Billy Connelly/Eddie Izzard style, back to The Longest Day. On this one day of the year (June 21st) I don't think of the movie but of Stonehenge, the summer solstice and all that goes with it. I've been to Stonehenge a few times and it really is the classic case of travelling a long way to see a pile of stones - admittedly rather large stones and 5,000 yrs old at that.

I realise that it's a wonderful mystery how they got there and how the top ones were raised up there and so on, but they didn't do much for me even on a bright warm sunny day.

So why an estimated 17,000 souls would turn up on this cold overcast morning to watch the sun rise through these stones is beyond me. It even depresses me that as this is the longest day, then it's all downhill till winter arrives.

Off course that would all change if Hollywood got involved and decided to come over and make a movie out of it all. I see conspiracy theories, I see ancient alien visits, I see secret treasure vaults under the stones, I see shootouts with local druids, I see Mel Gibson as a hippy tree hugger, I see an Oscar for special effects !

Now there's a movie I'd sit through twice.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting - that is funny that you sat throught the film twice. But - I can see how you would want to do that. I think my first movie was -- 101 Dalmations - and I had nightmares about Cruella Daville for weeks afterwards. I think what you do in your childhood - sticks with you throughout your life. You remember it - for some reason.

My mother's birthday is June 21s - summer solctice baby. I like the weeks before it best - such long days - afterwards it is ALL downhill


Anonymous said...

Did you know you can put music on these blogs also?

jen said...

That actually looks like something I'd like to see someday! Thank you for the wonderful story!

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