My First Picturehouse


I cannot say for certain that the first film on the big screen I saw was at the cinema that has occupied the corner of King’s Road and Old Church Street for as long as I can remember, but I cannot think that it would have been anywhere else. This is where I believe my love of film began. And sadly, this is the place I must say goodbye to next week, because they are closing their doors. When I found out that news a month or so ago it felt like a chapter of my life was ending. Similar to the way you feel when you leave school. That place where you became who you are, no longer part of your every day.

When I tell people that I grew up at this cinema here that is no exaggeration. My mum, as well as series of godmothers and family friends, worked there up until I was in my teenage years. Even now when I go there’s a possibility that someone I call ‘Auntie’ will be taking my ticket. I remember it first as a Cannon, then a MGM, a Virgin, a UGC, and now its final incarnation as a Cineworld. I remember when the box office and kiosk were both on the ground floor, and what is now the kiosk was an actual bar. When the uniform was a brown skirt and blazer and the tickets were printed on a dot matrix printer. One of my mum’s friends would watch my sister and I as she served behind the bar. We would eat the peanuts as we waited for our mum to collect her wages. No bank transfers then. Sometimes we’d go upstairs and look over the side of the bannister on the first floor into the lobby, now that space is a second kiosk. When I was a child watching movies there used to be an usher standing in the screen selling ice-cream before the film started, I remember their names were Sue and Maria. Sue had curly blonde hair and wore glasses. Maria, with her silver hair always tied up neatly, reminded me of a kindly grandmother from a storybook.

Screen 4 – the basement, if you wanted to you could sit all by yourself in the single seat on the left, bathrooms conveniently located just outside the door. Screen 3 – take the back row on the right, that way you get the rail. Screen 2 – the bigger screen, where we used to sit on the left because that way my mum could find us if she needed to, but middle-middle is where you wanted to be. Screen 1 – the screen at the end of the corridor, middle-middle. Three Men and a Little Lady. The Woo Woo Kid – before Patrick Dempsey became McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy. Turner and Hooch. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – that one was a little frightening. The Princess Bride. My Girl – it was the last show that day and my sister and I were the only ones in there, but we were waiting for my mum to finish her shift anyway. Who Framed Roger Rabbit on my then best friend’s seventh birthday – I still have the cinema ticket for that one somewhere. Mermaids – my first 15 rated film in the cinema, I was not 15 but it was the start of my Winona Ryder fandom.

So many memories. It is only now that I take the time to think about it that I realise how many there are, and how so much of my life was influenced by those walls. Simple things that seem unrelated, like my watching Eastenders. My mum would have Thursday and Friday off, and Thursday used to be the only day Eastenders was on so that was the show we ended up watching. Every Thursday, after Top of the Pops. We would tape Dallas – yes, on a VCR (with a plug in remote I might add), because that was on a Monday. I am not a big fan of metal staircases because of the ones that go up to the staff room. In my mind I remember them being dimly lit with water dripping between rungs. That memory is probably more influenced by a movie I saw there rather than actual reality.

Practically I understand the decision, even if there wasn’t issues with their lease. There’s another cinema a short walk away. That one’s recently added a Starbucks franchise and the screens are much larger. It is probably a better cinema, although I will never fully admit that. A rivalry again from my childhood because that cinema was originally part of a different franchise – an ABC. We didn’t go there. We just accepted that if a film we wanted to see was there we would have to wait for it to be on video to watch it. My cinema certainly doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of 4D and leather chairs on offer in other cinemas and other chains. However, none of those will ever feel as much a part of me as this cinema came to be.

I have taken the day off work with the intention of watching as many films as I can, which given the current schedule most likely means three. Now to decide what that final film will be. It will quite likely be a choice between Logan, Kong: Skull Island, or Hidden Figures. Wolverine’s last hurrah seems fitting, and I have certainly seen many a comic book based movie here. Kong, featuring my current silver screen crush – Tom Hiddleston, and of course a Hollywood legend – the ape. Or perhaps the story of three extraordinary women whose determination brought us to the stars. I’ve already seen Hidden Figures, but it seems fitting that a movie that teaches us to see a world bigger than the one we might have imagined possible might be the last one I see there. That place where I was carried to a thousand different worlds and times.

My choice will most likely be determined by time. Aren’t most things these days? Under that roof though, in the darkness, sat in those seats, for however long that movie was on for, the rest of the world didn’t matter. You didn’t look at your phone, you might not even talk to the person sat next to you. Instead, you were carried away to wherever and whenever the screen took you.

I will miss these walls. I will miss the chance to be carried away again in this most familiar of environments. Chelsea cinema – in all of your guises, for all of the memories and the movies I thank you. Goodnight.


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May the Force

Six years ago when I had had more than enough I asked someone I barely knew to meet for a cup of coffee, and she said yes. In that single decision, she gave me back a city I so wanted to love, and so much more than that. Today, I do not wish to ever imagine my life without her. She is a joy. Tomorrow, she takes a big step. She is leaving her city. The one she has come to call home, but it is for the best possible reason, to pursue their dream. To make their life what they want it to be. I know that they’re worried, they are still caveating the decision with, ‘We’re going to give it a year.’ I would add those words too were it me.

I know that this is the best choice for them. I have been reminded often the past few weeks of something I told another dear friend, ‘The only regrets in life we have are the risks we don’t take.’ I know those words to be true. I also know those words have sometimes gotten me into trouble, but they have also lead me to paths and people whom my life would have been less without, including the friend leaving their city. Selfishly, I sill wish she wasn’t leaving.

I feel like I am almost back to where I was six years ago. Only, instead of wanting to be anywhere but there, I long for the city’s familiar streets and sounds. I miss the freedom given to me since the city and I came to our truce, I ask nothing of her and she takes nothing of me. Now, my talisman, the one I could turn to when I felt myself turning back, will be gone. I never thought I’d have to make this journey without them again. I have to ask myself if I have changed enough to be able to go back to her on my own. I do not know if I have.

May the 4th. As she leaves and as I return, may it be with us both.

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And Seven More

“For every seven years we change completely, they say, and there is nothing left of what they were.”

Without realising it, I’ve reached another seven. Thirty-five years today. I would say it sneaks up on you, but it doesn’t really. Sure, sometimes you forget the exact number, but when you’ve had so many, they’re hard to not know they’re coming. Thirty-five. Five times over I have become someone else. That sounds about right.

When I think of who I was when I was 28yrs old, they are a world away. An entire galaxy away from who I was when I was 21yrs old. And though I still cannot comprehend how many years there are between now and my 14yr old self, I find it even more difficult to see how this life came from that one.

There are things that still persist. Friendships. I choose those carefully, and the fact that so many have endured is testament to how well I have chosen. And there are those, whose friendships I have not kept such a tight hold on, that remain in my heart, if not in my life. The Job. I still work for the same company if not the same role. I still sit next to Graham, well kind of. We still go to lunch on the days we’re both in together. The wanderlust. I see that my last post was in 2012 was a Bucket List. I have not crossed off a single item. If anything I could add a dozen more. But then I think, the last item…I may have found some of that. So much is different too. There is a marriage. Nieces and numerous other little people. A mortgage (I fear that will still be there in seven years). I bake. All the suggestions of a grown-up life, but still that title is not one I wear easily.

In my 28th year I finally made that trip to Cambodia I had been planning since my 21st year. My final impetus? I did not want to look back two…five…seven years later and say that I should have gone then. So I went. I am still hoping for a return. That year I also started watching this webseries that would change the course of my entire life. Who I am now, who I have in my life, had I never clicked on that link, I can say with certainty that this would not be my present.

I cannot say I have any idea of who I will be in another seven. I know who I want to still have in my life. I have a vague suspicion that those in my heart will still linger, as will this hunger. This need for more. To see experience more, to see more, to be more. Through the thirty-five that has always persisted. Through the seven, I hope that remains.

Onto the next great adventure. I suppose this means I’m also due another tattoo…

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The Bucket List


Normally around this time I answer the questions for my ‘Year in Review’. I can’t remember how long I’ve been answering those questions for, certainly back in the LJ days. It is a way to test my memory, and also for me to see how much has changed or stayed the same. I answer questions on the places I have travelled to, the people I have lost, the lessons I have learned, and songs that will remind me of that year. For me 2012 was so full I am not entirely sure where to begin, so I decided not to. This year, I have instead chosen not to reminisce and reflect on what has happened, but to look ahead at to what is to come and what I hope to achieve.

I have experienced some new and wonderful things this year, amongst them my first Olympic Games in my city, my first real Thanksgiving, and of course, holding my niece. However, this year more than most has been one in which I kept coming back to that same longing Belle sung about in ‘Beauty in the Beast’, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere…”

In a year in which so much has changed I still feel as though I have been stood still. I have not been amazed. And I fear I am guilty of that thing I always warn people against; I have not seen the wonder in each in every day. I need to live again. To that end, I have decided to write my Bucket List.

For those unfamiliar with the term (or who haven’t seen the movie), a Bucket List is simply a list of things you want to do before you die. Perhaps not what most would choose to think about at the start of a new year, but I think it allows you to focus on what it is you want to achieve.

Here is My Bucket List:

  • Camp under the stars like a cowboy
  • Ride a motorbike across an open highway
  • Go on a Safari
  • Witness something wonderful that makes me speechless
  • Watch a Wimbledon Final in person
  • Be in two places at once
  • Make a difference
  • Twirl beneath the Northern Lights
  • See the stars arrive on the Oscars’ red carpet
  • Throw a really good punch
  • Catch a big fish
  • Be a force of positive change
  • Have more in my ‘Yes Column’ than my ‘No Column’
  • Go on a roadtrip from one end of a country to another
  • Fly a plane
  • See the sun rise whilst sat on Ayers Rock
  • Catch a ball in the stands during a baseball game
  • See a whale in the wild
  • Build a home (literally)
  • Volunteer with elephants
  • Watch a meteor shower
  • Climb 14 flights of stairs without getting winded
  • Find the Joy in your life

The last one is from the movie; I hope everyone else has that on their list too.

The list will change. Things will be added, others hopefully crossed off. I am a living work in progress.

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My City, My Coffee

I have an overwhelming feeling of pure and complete contentment at the moment. Not to be mistaken for happiness, for I feel that implies a sense of giddyness and a certain spring in ones step accompanied by a most definite Cheshire Cat grin (or at least it does in my case). No, this is most definitely contentment. Calm, peaceful, inhale deeply, exhale slowly, contentment. Why? Because of my coffee.

This is quite ridiculous I know, even more so because I am not a big (or small) coffee drinker. However, this is different. This is no ordinary cup of coffee. This is the Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. Oh yes. I have had people request their local Starbucks hold back some PSL mix for my visit so it would be there when I visited (yes, again, my people are amazing). This drink conjures up so many memories of thick socks, hands in pockets, and pulling your jacket that little bit tighter to keep in the warmth. I am almost willing to call this season ‘Fall’ even though I know it to be autumn.

I was introduced to this beverage three years ago on a cold autumn New York afternoon. My friend Bobby and I were having one of our walking and talking moments and he stopped on the corner of 35th and 7th. That I remember exactly which Starbucks, in a city where this is one on every corner, demonstrates how important a moment this was. We went inside, and rather than simply ordering me my first Pumpkin Spice Latte, Bobby managed to get the lady behind the counter to give us the drink for free. Something about not wanting me to have a whole one in case I didn’t like it, but she said she would have to make it anyway so we could just have it. This may actually be why I remember it so clearly, because it’s one of my favourite Bobby Moments, rather than the start of my love affair with the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Whatever the reason, it makes for a good story.

This drink was part of so many of my favourite moments, and now that Starbucks has brought it to London, I get to enjoy it whilst I walk the streets of my own city! I feel that I am now ready for autumn. Let the clocks go back, let the colder days come. I will hold my Pumpkin Spice Latte in my hand and fall in love with my city as the leaves turn golden and wish my NYers were with me to share these moments, but perfectly content because my LDNers are with me.

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Sentimental Reasons

I have been clearing out my home for the last few weeks. Needs have necessitated space. It has been a good process, a lot of stuff we have needed to get rid of because it serves no purpose and holds no monetary or sentimental value; those items we put away that we never remember to actually sort through. There have been some pleasant discoveries too, old memories from old toys. Many moments of, ‘Oh I remember that!’ Were we really that small?

As good as it has been to de-clutter, I know that it has been hard for everyone involved to let go of some items. We have had to be ruthless in our clearing, sometimes necessarily so because there is simply no need to keep a vacuum cleaner we no longer use simply because we still have lots of vacuum bags. Why do we even have two in the first place? Other items, years of schoolwork – essays and notes, as much as you may want to keep hold of them, they really serve no purpose. They have to go.

I thought that I was doing quite well. I am as guilty as anyone of keeping hold of things. I am also probably more guilty than most of accumulating items. Books. Coins. Comics. DVDs. Ticket stubs to shows I have seen. Issues of Empire magazine. The last being what I chose today to clear out. The last being the one I am finding hardest to let go of.

In my mind I thought I would have a bigger place by now. Somewhere I could have shelves around the tops of the walls or a whole wall dedicated to shelving that would hold my collection. Every issue since 1997, in perfect chronological order. The reality is quite different. They have, for the past 15yrs that I have been reading Empire, been stacked in various corners, put in various boxes, pretty much forgotten about. Leafed through only a few times since their first reading. So why was it so hard for me to box them up knowing they were going to a new home? Sentimentality.

There is little in my life from 15yrs ago that is still in it now, a few friends certainly, but the life I lead when I started reading this magazine is very different from the life I have now, very different from the one I had imagined. I suppose those magazines are a reminder of that time. At times they were my company during a quiet shift at work, sometimes they were my only travel companion on a long flight across the water, more often than not they were insights into the world of film that I chose to escape to. Perhaps when I explain it like that my sentimentality is more understood.

Maybe in years to come when I have more money and more space than I know what to do with, when I finally have that wing of the house dedicated to books, or even just a whole wall, I will consider rebuilding my collection again; probably not. They will never be my magazines again. As I look at these covers one last time, put aside a few issues that I allow myself to keep, I am boxing up a part of my history. My story. Making room for the future I have yet to lead. And though I know it is a necessary thing, that I need to let go, it’s still hard.

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Helping Hand

I was at the supermarket today, arms full with bottles of shampoo and conditioner, making my way to the checkouts when I saw an elderly lady in the crisps aisle. She was reaching up for a multipack on the top shelf. She’d put her basket down and was pushing the bottom of the packet up in the hopes that it would topple forward and land within her reach. This trick learnt by many a child is apparently one that comes in use later in life too. Her efforts were to no avail and the crisp packet remained firmly on the top shelf.

I precariously moved the bottles I was holding so I could free my other arm, and on tip toes I reached up and took down the packet she had been reaching for and handed it to her. I smiled at her and she smiled back as she put the crisps in her basket. Without need of a “Thank you” because I could already see the gratitude in her smile I turned and went to the checkout; my good deed done for the day.

As I waited in the line I saw the same elderly lady carrying on with her shopping and I hoped that should she need anything further that someone else was able to reach the top shelf for her. But what happens to the people who don’t have someone to help them? Whether it is a member of staff or a person willing to take a few seconds out of their day and notice that someone needs help, what if that person isn’t around?

I suppose I notice these things more now. I worry about what will happen to my parents as they get older. I am there to help them, but I am not there all of the time. My parents, like so many people, are proud. They do not want to have to ask for help. We all crave our independence, and to admit that we are not able to do the things we were once able to do so easily hurts. In a society where people are living longer, we have to do better.

I understand the need to block food items to make them more appealing, we used to do it with movies. Create the biggest visual impact in the hope that it entices customers to buy your product. But instead of side to side blocking why can’t it be vertical? Have several items on a shelf so that the same item forms a column rather than a row. That way, no matter what your height is you are able to reach the products. Surely that would help with stock rotation too? Everyone would take the items that are easy to reach over the ones that are higher up, so you can encourage people to take the items that are nearing their use by date.

Staffing issues mean that it is not always possible for someone to help customers that need assistance; pride often means that people won’t ask for help anyway. A simple step like remerchandising their stock is something supermarkets can easily do in order to help their customers. Hopefully we all get the chance to grow older. It is little steps like this, which will make a difference.

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