I’ve become more reflective in my old age. It really is true how important it is to grab hold of happy moments when they come because you realise it isn’t a given that they will happen again. The absolute best of these I call Movie Moments.
This isn’t just about being happy – giving birth to a lovely baby, getting married, falling in love yada yada – of course those are precious. It’s also not about being happy, but I do want to tell you about a recent moment that made me VERY HAPPY INDEED. It’s funny, in my youth happiness was linked to looking good. I once gave £10 to a homeless man who said I had great legs. (I am conscious this is of course completely unacceptable in these #metoo days, but I walked on air for a good week afterwards) And I DID have great legs then, I wish I’d appreciated them more. They are getting slimmer and more muscular now – thanks to all the jumping – but they are all kind of warty and freckly – unlike the sleek, brown, glossy limbs of my trainer. Why is that? Bloody ageing, that’s why. Is there an solution other than wearing hideous, flesh coloured tights?
Anyway let me tell you what made me happy recently. If you remember, I wrote about my Jenny Eclair moment. I adore her and the podcast she does with Judith Holder. In my post I moaned that I had emailed and tweeted them both with no reply.
A few weeks ago I tweeted Jenny again and sent the link of my article again.
And this is what happened!!!!
ARRRGGHHHH! This made me so happy. And being dared to write a novel by someone whom I so admire was head-turningly delicious. Especially since my book is coming along nicely after I re-wrote the first third. This has given me a boost in good time as the summer holidays start and I have a bit more time.
Back to Movie Moments. It’s not about being happy, it’s about everything being perfect. The setting, the feelings, the look – all has to be so in alignment it feels unreal.
I have had two movie moments and last week I had a third.
The first happened when I had just started my first proper job at a boys’ school. I was 23, had a car, was living away from home and was enjoying that wonderful sense of complete, carefree freedom that you can only feel in your early twenties (before debt, heavy relationships, and children)
It was the most gorgeous late May day. The sky was cloudless and shone above with a deep, Cerulean blue like highly polished glass. There was alight breeze and I was walking out of the school over to my car. I hadn’t a care in my head.
As I walked, a cool gust of wind rolled towards me and suddenly a great tree in the front yard which was groaning with the most beautiful, pale pink blossom shook loose its flowers which absolutely cascaded over me like the most abundant, sweet-scented confetti.
The flowers swirled around me for minutes. I remember I kept walking through clouds of blossom, my head just reeling. I felt more like a bride than the day I actually was a bride.
A few years later, now in my early 30s – still before children (until last week I was beginning to suspect movie moments end when you have to live with you children) – and some friends and I had ventured up to the big smoke. We had been to a number of clubs before winding up in Soho where we stopped at a noodle bar at about 3 in the morning.
It was one of those brilliant nights when you end up chatting with complete strangers. The night was filled with possibilities, and I had endless deep, philosophical conversations with random people; solving the problems of the world in that earnest way you do when you’re young and drunk.
Finally, worn out, we decided to walk home. Arm in arm with my bessie mate Guy and a few other mates we rolled down a street in Soho. We were lit with that strange, orange, electric wash of light you don’t seem to get nowadays, and above us the moon hung huge and white.
Still fairly drunk I remember thinking how much I loved everyone walking down the street with me and how brilliant the world was. Just then a man appeared from the pavement, a long shadow, he stood up and produced a saxophone which glittered in the light. Out of the blue he started playing a haunting jazz number. It fitted the mood so perfectly it made me shiver.
We carried on walking, without speaking, allowing the music to weave us back home. I could almost see the credits roll above our heads as we reached the end of the street.
Last week was Son’s sports day. He was low because his exam results hadn’t been great. A week of anger, defensiveness and hurt has caused rows and frustration. It made us both feel miserable.
I hate Sports’ Days. It’s always too hot, and other parents always make me feel poor, gauche, fat and awkward. But he was desperate for me to come watch so I went along. (Muttering all the while how sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child, and why should I drag myself out when he’d been a complete pain all week.) But his confidence was so low after the exam horror I knew he wanted me to see him do something he was good at. Dyslexia doesn’t stop you being able to run well. It was also his last one before he moves up to the next school.
He hadn’t done badly, a second and a third but I could see he was not happy. He had one race left. I was thinking about going and was cross with Rob as he had not managed to get there so I was phoning him asking where he was when I realised Son’s race had started.
It was the 4 by 400 metre relay. On his team were three of his mates; I’d known for years and seen them grow up from little lads of five or six.
Now some were great hulking already-shaving nearly men. Son is growing like a weed but it still skinny as a stick with a great mop of hair he takes great pride in. I can see him limbering up.
First guy runs brilliantly putting them ahead. The next guy has a good go, keeping up the lead and the third does the same.
As the third guy nears Son, who is waiting, quivering like a highly charged wire, there is a crackle on the sports ground microphone.
‘I don’t believe it,’ says the head of Games. ‘I’m looking at my watch here and we are very close to breaking the school record…’
Hearing this, Son CATAPULTS away from the start line and starts to bucket his way down the track.
‘He’s 58 seconds away from the record,’ echoed the voice around the field. ‘Oh I’m getting goose bumps. Come on, Middle Aged Warrior’s Son!’
Son is still streaking along. I’ve never seen him run so fast. His legs look like he’s stretched them by about a foot. The crowd starts to clap which drives Dog mad so she starts pirouetting about and barking.
The woman on the mike is getting more and more hysterical. ’35 seconds to beat now.’
Son’s sports coach is now running alongside him yelling, ‘Come on, MAW’s Son!’ he shouts. Unbelievably, Son sprints even faster.
Mike woman is now roaring, ‘Come on, everyone! This isn’t just about Houses anymore, this is about a whole school record! Give him a cheer!’
And the whole field ERUPTS into cheers. ‘Come on, Son! You can do it!’
All his mates are now running alongside the track screaming. I can see the look of desperation on his face. He’s so close to the end but I can see he’s at the end of his rope…
And he does it!
He breaks the record!
By six seconds!
All I can hear is screams and cheers. Son somersaults over the finish line and collapses on the grass. He immediately disappears under a pile of mates.
I punch my way through the crowd with Dog and he sees me and stumbles towards me crying his eyes out.
We share a hug and I can feel him sobbing. ‘I’m so happy!’ he says, tearfully.
‘I’m so proud of you!’ I cry. ‘It was like Chariots of Fire!’
And then he is gone. All the team are smiling, everyone is clapping them on the back and exchanging hugs. Son’s face looks like it is going to split in two his grin stretches from ear to ear.
My third movie moment.
And the most wonderful thing was I was there to see my boy have his Movie Moment. I hope he has hundreds more.