I am sitting on her lap in the dark, the rubber studs on her suspender belt pressing into the backs of my legs, my knees grazing the velvet seat in front. When the heavy curtains slide open, the light is almost too bright for my eyes. The usherette in a pink and white uniform walks back up the aisle with her tray of ice-creams, trailed by the scent of perfume and cigarette smoke. The swing doors softly bump against each other as they close. On the screen a man with an oiled chest strikes a big brass gong.
I thought I was four, but the film we saw, ‘The Three Lives of Thomasina’, was released in 1964. I would have been five or six. My brother was born the year before. My sister was nine. But they are not here. I am with my mother, in a space where we do not speak, a space that belongs only to me.
a yellow apple clings
to a high branch
In 1966 we went to Butlins in Pwllheli, North Wales . In the single black and white photo of us all together we are seated at a long table in the barrack-like dining room. Family interrupted: some of us chewing, others clutching cutlery, my mother’s face showing signs of strain from the holiday camp’s regimentation. I have no memory of that, or of the food. Or of the inside of the chalet where we slept. Only of the Redcoats who filled up my autograph book with extravagant dedications and signatures. And the funfair.
My father and I queue up for the roller coaster, shuffle forward as the line grows shorter, but at a quarter to five the man at the gate ahead calls out, Sorry, that’s the last ride. Come back tomorrow. But it’s our last day. My last chance. And there’s nothing my father can do as the disappointment hardens in my chest and makes me want to cry. Then, on the walk back to the chalet, it starts to rain, heavy raindrops blown in on a cold wind that darken the path, and my father takes my hand and we start to run, and none of it matters anymore, just the feel of my small hand in his, our footsteps tamping the hard ground, in those moments before we burst in on the others, just the two of us, laughing.
all this green forgiving the rain
From forgiving the rain, Snapshot Press 2012.