Sunday, 11 January 2015

The magic of the cinema....single parent style.


The code. Minus this code, this magical experience wouldn't have been possible. The beautiful online booking reference number that would prove the gateway to a mornings entertainment at Cineworld. You can try and use it if you like, it's as useful as my PIN number without my debit card; even with the card, you'd have trouble drawing out enough to buy yourselves anything substantial.

In driving there, my average speed is at least double the limit, the kids having to cling to the grab handles to avoid being ejected from the vehicle through a closed window, desperate to make the 10am start time, only having to sit through 20 minutes worth of commercials and spoilers (AKA trailers). The only thing that used to make the wait worthwhile was the pre-movie peak of the Pearl & Dean theme tune. The absence of this is the worst thing to happen to cinema since 'Throw Momma From the Train'.

I feel sorry for my children that they missed out on that; a sub-20 second experience of sound and logo. It shouldn't have held any significance, but sometimes, it's things like that that stick in the memory. Like when you go on a day trip to England and you catch that first glimpse of the Severn Bridge, or the moment the the train you're on begins to move. These small moments are exciting to a child and live in the memory for a lifetime.

My nostalgic mind starts to run riot and relive halcyon days before smoking was prohibited from cinema's. Kids, passively chain-smoking from the ciggies of nearly every parent in the room, I'd probably smoked the equivalent of a 10-pack by the time E.T. finished. I was 4 when I saw that, when the audience erupted (nobody claps at the end anymore, is that a sign of decreasing quality of films or that we're more self-aware and too proud to make a show of ourselves, it can't be the latter, surely?) at the end after the sore-fingered (which used to be a synonym for salt & vinegar before political correctness "went mad") alien finally got picked up by his negligent parents, like an extraterrestrial Home Alone - Lost on Earth. Nobody questioned that did they? It's hardly like leaving your child in a trolley in a Tesco car park for 5 minutes, they didn't even notice he'd gone. He had to phone for a bloody taxi! If they're so much more advanced than us, why don't they have childline or at least a sixth sense they've forgotten something? It's nonsense!

Let's be honest, whilst cinema's these days are completely devoid of charm and individuality, it's a far more comfortable experience. My old local cinema; 'The Globe', in Cardiff, was known as the 'fleapit'. It might be fondly remembered now, but at the time, it was pretty dreadful. You had about as much legroom as Jeremy Clarkson back-seat passengeering a Die-cast Austin Metro and if you only left without at least one garment ruined by chewing gum left behind at the previous showing, you were spared the inconvenience of using the freezer as a means to get it out.

Anyway, back to the future!  I've got my Starbucks, a treat for myself so I don't feel completely short-changed by the experience, which backfires when you realise how wildly overcharged you're being for a cuppa. I've gone through the usual ritual of bringing my own sweets and refreshments for the kids to gorge on, just what they need when they're going to have to sit still for 90 minutes. As I hand the tickets to ticket checking person, to erm, check the tickets......I'm always concerned I'm going be stopped and asked to empty the contents of the smuggle bag at said checkpoint. Vaguely feeling like a drug mule at a cinema is about as wild as my life gets.

A quick visit to the disabled toilet, provides a temporary, if somewhat guilt-ridden safehaven. I'd never think of parking in a disabled parking bay (that's a lie) but think nothing of hijacking their luxurious defecation palaces with my clan. The spacious serenity is ruined however, when I have to plead with my compadres to at least try for a wazz they swear blind they don't need. After much posturing and negotiating (basically shouting at them in an "I know best" manner) they relent, before relieving themselves of enough urine to break the banks of the river thames. I'm smug now. These small victories are heady times for a single dad.

Once me and the Pablo Escobar twins make it to the safehouse, screen 13 in this instance, I'm under the false illusion that having avoided the pick-n-mix and subsequent bankruptcy, I can relax. But no, I'm now reduced from the already reductifying, thankless role of single dad to position of human coat stand, garments thrown at me from all directions, without prejudice. Once that's taken care of, I morph into Willy Wonka, handing out confectionary whenever the mood takes them, "Jeeves, I'm ready for my sugar dose", they'll say at random yet increasingly short intervals. As I reach into the cheapskate-satchel of smuggled, hastily put together items, my fingers are greeted by a mysterious sticky mess which must be the remnants of the last visit. It's gross. I feel like a pervert at a blue movie, with my kids. This won't do. I tell them to stay and watch whilst I hurriedly scurry down the invisible steps to the toilet to wash my hands, leaving them in a dark room with roughly 50 complete strangers. At least one of these, statistically, is probably a paedophile, the plot here is deeper than than anything the film has to offer.

Back in my seat, hands now goo-free, I spend the majority of the film writing this very blog, ignoring the dirty looks my daughter is giving me for not appearing as engrossed as she'd like me to be, which also renders me unable to give you an in-depth review to 'The House of Magic' I'm sure you were looking forward to.

The film ends and all there is left do is half redress the kids in pitch darkness, before doing my bit for the unemployed and leaving a truckload of litter in our wake. It's ok, my dad says it gives people jobs!

It's all an improvement on my previous visit, where such was the behaviour of the other children there, I felt like we'd accidentally chosen to watch Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 3D. Parents frantically searching for their disobedient their little brats with phones on torch mode, recreating scenes reminiscent of the last 10 minutes of the Blair Witch Project. All this whilst the woman behind me emptied phlegm from her throat on an almost bi-secondly basis.

It's safe to say, once you have kids, your cinematic experience is never the same again.

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