Had another nostalgia moment today. I volunteer at two charity shops in Tenterden, the British Heart Foundation on Monday and Friday mornings, and at Cancer Research UK on Tuesday afternoons. Today was the latter's turn to be graced with my luminous presence, and while there I noticed on display a mint condition 8mm projector, a Bolex 18-5 to be precise, alongside an Agfa Movex 88L 8mm cine camera, also mint, both in carry cases with instruction manuals etc. I'm not sure who donated them, or why, but they got me remembering my childhood.
My grandfather, Len, had a cine camera and a projector, both Bell & Howell as I recall. During the late '60s and throughout the '70s, he took a great number of films. When my sister and I would go over there he would occasionally get the projector and screen out and give us a show. We would close the curtains and shut the lights off and watch a few choice gems. The one where my sister and I were outside in the back garden and I was doing some peculiar rubber-legged dance dressed in an old khaki army tunic and a stetson. The film of Great Auntie Dot and Great Uncle Jim's visit in about 1976 (I think it was the same one where Elsie was cutting up peaches in the kitchen, because for that one summer, one of the hottest on record for the UK, the peach tree that Len grew went nuts and actually produced fruit). In the clip, Dot and Jim, who were not the most sprightly pair, were filmed in slow motion, making their every movement seem laboured.
Len also used the slo-mo and speeded-up techniques to great effect in the film of the football game in the back garden. In this, my sister and I were very young, probably 3 or 4, and my Dad and Uncle Steve, among others, a kicking one of our balls about and we are desperately trying to get a kick in. My sister was filmed in fast motion zipping about and trying unsuccessfully to get to the ball, and when the ball finally comes her way, she picks it up and runs with it.
My Grandparents' house sits down below road level and the driveway is very steep and consequently there are a set of steps going down toward the front door. My mother is shown in an early flick trying to negotiate a pram containing either me or my sister down these steps. That's great, grandad! Instead of lending a hand, why don't you film the poor girl in distress?
Often, these film shows were done after much begging by us kids. If nothing worthwhile was on TV we would plead with him to show some films, and eventually he'd give in, although secretly I think he wanted to from the get-go. He would sit and make jokes throughout the entire screening. After he got rid of the old projector in favour of a newer model, he would have even more fun because this one could play the films backwards as well as forwards. He delighted in saying things like,"We're walking backwards today" and other comments.
While Len was the king of the movies, Grandad Eric was the slideshow man. Many happy evenings were spent at Kath & Eric's house watching the latest set of slides on the big screen. Eric and Kath were always taking pictures wherever they went, it seemed. He had a collection of cameras new and old that would have rivalled many museums. Again, Eric liked to narrate the slide shows and in fact gave lots of talks in various places accompanied by his slides. I consider myself lucky to have had two such humorous Grandads. I think they both contributed hugely to the development of my sense of humour.
Now, where's my camera?