First Pictures

First Pictures

 

That August, in particular, I remember,
the rediscovered beach,the summer rain the same,
the lagoon at Langamull, across a field of black cattle
my father said were dangerous,
the hotel kitchen and the sounds of soft voices, plates clattering,
the cook, with two other island women, speaking Gaelic to each other,
laughing, tapping their feet to Scottish dance music
on the wireless and playing with us children,
the place I learned that lobster are not  red
but blue, gesticulating, alive things
until boiled in bubbling pots of water.

The holiday itself defied the obvious, the day to day,
the humdrum and, it must be said, a dread of things
not always  being all they were cooked up to be.
At times, like a cousin once removed,
I revelled in this annual strangeness that somehow felt  familiar:
the hotel, chosen for the fishing,its proximity to trout- heavy lochs,
a march across an adder- wriggled moor,
became a home, and imposed its own routine.

One night was different:
a liquid sun leaked red against a wash of deepening blue,
my mother, there, but distant that summer, said,
“We are going to the pictures.”
Some confusion, an  omission surely?

Into the long main street, its row of low, stone houses,
one deep, and across from the Hotel’s Public Bar,
a dark blue Morris Minor van with lettering,
Highlands and Islands Film, outside the Village Hall.

Corrugated, dull, flat green, no chinking lights in
windows  black with  anti -aircraft blinds,
inside smelled fusty, and faintly sweet, like cake.
Beyond the entrance, on a small table, a whirring, two- wheeled machine,
beaming  towards the hall’s far end
to pick up dust  motes in its projectory.

Adults in  coats and caps, sat on steel- framed chairs
to face a taut ,white sheet, stretched on a stand.
We sat on benches, straining to look behind as,
from a tin canister, a silhouetted man took two reels
– much bigger than the fishing ones –
and  laced black tape onto the wheels.

The whirring stopped.  And then resumed.
Pale, speckling screen  alive with jumping numbers,
Clipped, received pronunciation, a voice announced the news
– with pictures.  A cock crowed. Captivated, we sat agape.

Then the feature film, the first I’d seen, “ A Town Like Alice”.
Images of people, places, voices unknown to me.
The first inkling that film is like a holiday:
Another world, for a time one’s own.

first pictures 

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