Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Its behind me

Lewisham Concert Hall, 1976 or 1977.

In the afternoon, Mummy and Daddy take me to Lewisham. Not to the shops to buy things, but to a big building that I don't know. There are lots and lots of other people there, boys and girls and grown-ups. We have to show some bits of paper to a lady and then we go through a room where lots of people are standing up, and then Daddy shows the same bits of paper to another lady who is standing at the doors of another room.

The next room is very big, bigger than church, but more dark and more warm. It is full of chairs in rows, flippy chairs made out of rough grey fur, that feel like the chairs on trains, but with numbers on them. All the chairs are on a big staircase, so that each row is higher than the one in front of it. We are at the very top of all the chairs. Mummy sits next to me, looks at me, and smiles. It is very noisy in here, but I am glad that I have my own seat and that Mummy and Daddy are here.

At the bottom of all the stairs is a gigantic curtain. I don't know what is going to happen next. After a long while, people stop coming in and sitting down, and the lights are switched off, apart from the green ones that say 'EXIT'. The curtain moves up. Most of the boys and girls stop making a noise, grown-ups tell them to 'Shhh!'.

Behind the curtain is a big flat wooden floor, that is all lit up. This big space has had things put on it to make it look like a room. You can tell that it's supposed to be like a room, because there are flat boards that have been painted really well, to make them look like walls and fences. The room has two chairs and a table, and a treasure chest in the corner.

Two men are in the pretend room. One of them is old, and the other is supposed to be a boy, although he looks grown-up to me. They talk to each other.

(This is like being in somebody else's house. Although lots of people are sitting on seats with us in the dark, the pretend room is more important because the lights are on there and the man and the boy there are talking.. I like watching this make-believe.)

The old man looks after the boy. He tells the boy how poor they are. He also tells the boy that the most important thing is that he must NEVER open the chest, because then bad things will happen to them.

Some of the grown-ups and bigger children laugh when the boy is talking. I don't know why.

The old man and the boy leave the room. The lights in the room go dark so we know that it is now night and after bedtime. The boy goes back into the room, in a nightshirt and a cap - like children wear in books - and carrying a lamp. He goes up to the chest.

(He can't do that!)

He hears a noise and goes away.

(I'm glad that he stopped because he can't open the chest!)

He goes back up to the chest and opens it.


Light bursts out of the chest and loud music suddenly starts.


I'm very frightened. I cry and howl. Mummy and Daddy don't understand why. They tell me to stop. But the boy did a bad thing, and he knew that he shouldn't! I'm frightened.

The other people on the seats aren't crying. Strangers shhh me. I don't stop crying. But I'm not being bad - the boy was being bad! It's not fair!

Mummy and Daddy tell me to look at what's happening. The make-believe room has gone. Now there are pretend trees and ladies in bright dresses and men dressed up as soldiers and singing. But I don't understand what's happening any more! I know that the boy did a bad thing! I'm scared and I don't understand. I cry some more.

One of the men dressed up as a soldier has a red face and shouts a lot, and the people sitting on the seats around us laugh when he shouts. This man is the same as a man on the television who has a red face and dresses up as a soldier and shouts at some other soldiers. He says something about me - how we don't like cry babies who spoil things, do we boys and girls?

This makes me cry some more, and shriek. I'm being told off now! But it was the boy who opened the chest who was being naughty, not me!

A long time later, the curtain goes down again and the lights come back on the seats. I've stopped crying, but I feel tired and my head and my neck hurt. At the bottom of the steps, some of the ladies who wear smart clothes and open doors are standing, and boys and girls are climbing out of their seats to go up to them.

Daddy tells me to go down there too. They are giving sweets away to boys and girls!

(But that's not what happens. You have to buy sweets in a shop. Strangers don't give you sweets)

Go down there - They are giving children sweets.

(No no. I can't do that. That isn't what happens to me. People are cross with me. The man told me off...)

I don't know what to do now. If I go down - which Mummy and Daddy want me to do - those people might tell me off, but if I don't then I won't get any sweets.

After a long time, I do go down and try to ask for some sweets.

The lady tells me that I'm too late and that we've run out of sweets now.

I climb back up to my seat. I knew that would happen.

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