Row K, Seat 7 – Episode III, The Return

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The lights had dimmed and now the audience settled as the Pearl and Dean theme faded and the screen was filled by a shot of a jumbo jet taking off, accompanied by the immortal voiceover, You don’t have to fly to India to enjoy a delicious Indian meal.  

The advert, for the Spice of Life restaurant in Abronhill, played at every single screening in the County Cinema in Cumbernauld, and every single time it played everyone in the audience snickered and muttered because the actor doing the voiceover managed to mispronounce Abronhill.

The Spice of Life was just around the corner from Abronhill High School, where Gregory’s Girl was set.  The showing I saw of Bill Forsyth’s heart-warming  film was riotous.  There was uproar every time a character in the film turned a corner and ended up five miles away.  There was even more of an uproar whenever anyone in the audience saw someone they knew in the film.  As all the extras were from the town, there was a lot of uproar.  It was a strange and exciting feeling being from somewhere as utterly ordinary as Cumbernauld and seeing people I knew in real life up on the silver screen.  Given the mayhem in the cinema, I guess we all felt the same.

Despite not appearing in the film, I still managed to receive some direction from Bill Forsyth.  This  when I inadvertently blundered into a scene.  I have since blocked the words he used from memory.  I sincerely wish I could do the same to the sound of the jeering crowd.  I had wondered why they were all standing there, but I somehow managed to miss the camera.  And the boom.  And the actors…

The scene of my humiliation took place outside the Spice of Life where I tasted my first curry, and just around the corner from my friend Kevin’s house.  My favourite scene in the  film is the one in which his bedroom window makes an appearance.

It would be several years before I would fly to India and enjoy many delicious meals, but in the meantime there was the County Cinema and the Spice of Life.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Row K, Seat 7 – The Sequel

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The only way the County Bingo Clubs chain was going to get permission to build a bingo hall in Cumbernauld was if they agreed to build a cinema beside it.   Without much in the way of enthusiasm, they duly agreed.  Built in the bowels of the Town Centre, the County Cinema was basically a bricked-off corner of car park.  It may not have had the panache of a classic art deco picture house, but it had 350 plush red seats and was a ten minute walk from my house.

The doors opened in 1978.  I was fourteen and would have sat through almost anything, but indiscriminate though I was, even I had my limits.  I passed on Abba: The Movie.  Thirty years later I likewise successfully swerved Mamma Mia!  though I was eventually suckered into watching it on DVD.  One hundred and eight minutes of cinematic misery duly ensued.

Abba aside, the only movies out of bounds were X-certs.  In the meantime I made do with U, A and AA classifications.  Many of these films were, or became, cinematic classics – Star Wars, Snow White, Jaws.  It was from films like these I began to learn about story telling, character development, and structure.  Others were classic in their own special way.  The trashfest double bill of The Savage Bees and The Incredible Melting Man will forever have a place in my heart.  You can’t help but feel for Steve when his ear slides right off the side of his head and ends up dripping down the shrubbery.

A scant year later, armed with age-transforming green eye shadow, and enough maths skills to figure out which year I should have been born in to pass for 18, a whole new world of cinema opened up.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Row K, Seat 7 – The Beginning

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I fell in love with the cinema when I was four years old, a passion which has endured.  I loved everything about it.  The adventure of the bus ride from Cumbernauld to Glasgow.  Walking through busy city streets to the Odeon, ABC, Lyceum, or La Scala.  Choosing my sweets from the shop next to the picture house because my parents said it was cheaper than buying them in the cinema.  Chocolate forbidden because it made you thirsty.  Liquorice comfits chosen because you got a lot in a quarter and could make them last by sucking on the sugar shell.

There was the commissionaire in his uniform and peaked cap.  The usherette guiding you to your seat with her little torch. The ice-cream sellers, with their lit-up trays.  The ticket booth with its tiny window.  I even enjoyed sneaking covetous glances at the sweet concession, though the heart-shaped chocolate boxes on its shelves were forever destined to be a treat too far.  And, of course, there were the films themselves.

Those were the days of continuous shows.  Main feature, support feature, adverts, trailers, an occasional additional short, all on a never-ending loop.  If you missed the start you stayed until the bit where you came in and suddenly the film you’d begun watching two and a half hours earlier made sense.

I grew up on a cinematic diet of Disney, sci-fi, and creature features.  The Jungle Book, King Kong Versus Godzilla, Dr Who and the Daleks, The Land That Time Forgot, Sleeping Beauty, Battle For the Planet of The Apes, Mary Poppins… all watched through a blue haze of cigarette smoke.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.