Monday 9 July 2007

I love film - it's cinemas that I find difficult!

Film and cinema
It's 'F' time in Galway City again. With the arrival of the Film Fleadh we hit Festival Season so welcome, all you fans of film. My love of film reigns supreme among the Arts, but it's my relationship with cinemas that gives good tale.
Back in 1982, when E.T. was released on video, nobody was going to the cinema. Mega-Plexes had not yet been invented, and cinemas were decaying single-screen theatres with ancient seats, sticky carpets and crappy sound.
Everyone just wanted to stay home and watch videos.
Unfortunately, I chose this abysmal period to find a job with the famous screen advertising company, Pearl and Dean, (...the tunnel, those flashing lights and the 'ba-bapbap ba-babap ba-babap baaaah!).
It was my job to head off to the southwest of England and Wales and try to sell little local adverts to little local companies. You know those 15 and 30 second shorts, showing the interior of a restaurant, garage, clothes shop that bear absolutely no relation to the one being advertised at all, followed by an obviously different, usually deep male voice that declares:
"Shirley's Boutique, Union Street, just around the corner from this cinema!"
Nobody wanted to advertise at the cinema, because nobody was going to the cinema, but my real problem was not the fact that I offered a shoddy product from an ailing industry, but more that I am not a total shit.
I cannot sell something to somebody, if I know it will do them no good whatsoever.
Picture a tiny Welsh valley community; half way up a mountainside hangs a row of old mining cottages.
"But why would I want to advertise at the Picture House? I am the only baker in the village! Everyone knows where I am!"
Indeed, sir, and although I cannot say it aloud, you have the same face as the rest of the village as well.
Visiting the local cinema manager whilst in town was seen as a simple Public Relations exercise, and in one far-flung west Welsh town, I noticed that the manager's name was distinctly Arabic.
Visiting in the afternoon, I met his wife, a local woman brimming with vitality and a certain hippy charm. Himself was apparently Moroccan, and would be back later. Why didn't I come back that evening, and have dinner with them?
What a lovely invitation! Working as a travelling salesman can be a terribly lonely affair, so I accepted, and enjoyed a great meal and a few bottles of wine.
Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' was the movie of that moment, and I confessed to having not yet seen it.
"Well let's put it on then!" said himself, with a distinct twinkle in his eye.
So we sat, the three of us, alone in his cinema, watching the rock movie, polishing off a plate of home-baked biccies.
Half way through the film, I realised that those cookies weren't just chocolate chip, and enjoyed anew this suddenly epic and brilliant piece of film-making with extraordinary enthusiasm.
Citizens of that rain-lashed Welsh industrial wasteland town were that night serenaded by a singular Adley chorus, as I stumbled hotel-wards through the dark drippy streets:
"Hiiiiigh don' neeeeed noooowww wEddge-yoo-kaaayyy-shuuurrrn!
During that period of employment, I sat one memorable Saturday afternoon with a large group of friends, imbibing way too much alcohol. Pumped up on hubris, I suddenly declared that I could get us all in to the cinema for free.
Off we went, as a raggledy-baggledy drunken army, to the ABC cinema at Edgware Road.
Waving my arms wildly outside the cinema, I shepherded my tipsy giggly flock, explaining that they had to wait there, so that I could keep it together enough to speak to the manager, and do the deal.
Like the Usual Suspects, they all lined up along the huge plate glass window, looking in and waving in that particularly embarrassing way friends do when they know you are trying to keep it together.
Once inside, I took a moment to breathe, groom my hand through my hair, pull up my jeans, tuck in my shirt and stride, purposefully, as a man who means business, towards a door that looked like an office.
Ka-booomph!! Ouch! Bloody Hell!
The worst part of what had happened was how long it took me to realise what had happened.
To my friends lined up outside, to all the staff and punters in the cinema lobby, I had just walked at full speed into a wall-sized mirror, but my alcohol-addled brain just couldn't work out who was this fat bastard geezer who was blocking my way. He wouldn't bloody budge, and he had head-butted me, and as I flailed my arms in an effort to hit him, he somehow managed to punch me back in exactly the same place that I punched him, at exactly the same time.
Finally falling backwards, the terrible truth hit me as hard as had my imaginary opponent.
My head hit the carpet, and I rolled over to see that each of my friends outside was also at ground level, having collapsed in hysterical uncontrollable laughter.
Oh yes, I love a good film, but those cinemas can be a real challenge!
Just in case Galway's water debacle is not over when you read this, a wee plea from me to you.
A close friend of mine and I went recently to the excellent Kashmir Restaurant. Indian Sub-Continental cuisine in Galway has improved beyond all measure in the last 15 years, and we enjoyed a splendid meal, top notch food and service.
But what was this ¤3.95 for a bottle of water? We had asked for some water, and given Galway's bug in the bog, the restaurant had to serve mineral water, and as they paid for it themselves, I expected to be charged, but only the cost price which they paid for it.
Instead they slapped a whacking great big greedy profit on it, and when I pointed it out to our charming waiter, he went behind the counter to ask his superior, who merely shook his head.
On the night I let it go, but now, I urge you all, if you would normally be happy drinking tap water at your table, refuse to pay profit prices for bottled water in Galway restaurants. As Johnny Rotten might have sang:
"Making profits from holidaymakers in other people's miser-eeeee...."

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