>> Sunday, 31 August 2008
How clear are your memories of childhood? I have to admit that whilst, if I put my mind to it, I can retrieve images of piercing clarity - like frosty white & blue mornings in the Autumn on the way to school, and the smell and taste of home-made treacle toffee eaten round the bonfire on Guy Fawkes - that a lot of the time memories of my formative years, although always there, just sort of muddle around in a mainly happy fog somewhere at the back of my mind.
There are bad memories, of course there are. The time I was caught out by my J4 teacher when she phoned my parents to check out my fabricated excuse for not doing my half term homework. The all-too-frequent bad report at the end of the school year ('could do better' was my motto for longer than I care to remember). The crushing embarassment of being a teenager with severe eczema round my mouth and in my hair, at just around the time I wanted to be noticed by boys for something other than what I was convinced looked like a dessicated coconut mouth. But overall, these were character building experiences, and whilst not enjoyable, I wouldn't change them. Well - maybe the last one. But only if I could throw in an extra couple of inches in height, naturally blonde thick hair, and blue eyes whilst I was at it...
Anyway, my point is that most of the details of my childhood are lost in the overloaded files in the sluggish computer that is my brain. They are there, yes - just not instantly accessable.
Yesterday, though, we took the Boys to see a stage adaptation of 'The Tiger Who Came To Tea'. They loved it. The slightly subversive idea that a ring on the doorbell could announce the visit of - not someone boring, like the postman, milkman, or grocery delivery boy (who of course nowadays would be the Ocado man) - but a real, live, enormous Tiger was fantastic to them. A Tiger? Coming to tea? Eating all the sandwiches, cake, and buns, and drinking all the water in the tap? How fabulously outrageous!
Boy #1 bounced on his seat, growling, roaring, and waving his tiger-paw glove (dug out of the dressing up box at home in preparation, and carried carefully all the way to Bloomsbury on our tube journey) at the stage. His afternoon was only marred by the foot-stuck-down-the-back-of-the-seat incident, and that the whole thing was over too quickly. Boy #2, at two years younger taking a little longer to warm up the whole experience, eventually worked out where in the theatre to look (the stage, rather than the child behind us misbehaving and horsing down popcorn), and was entranced - especially when the tiger danced to the radio... Though what he was most impressed by? Our journey there on the tube. Typical.
And me? I was swept away on a wave of nostalgia. If you've read the book to your children, you'll know the wonderfully dated illustrations that show life in 1970's Britain in all it's dreary wonder. Well, this stage adaptation we saw yesterday very cleverly picked up on that. So whilst the children were wide eyed with wonder and howling with laughter at the antics the tiger got up to when it unexpectedly turned up for tea, the adults in the audience were lapping up the visual cues to their childhood.
We were reminded how it was normal to have 'high tea' at 5.00pm, and that feeding your children now contraband cake and biscuits was the norm and consituted part of a proper balanced diet. That milk came in tall glass bottles rather than in disposable plastic cartons, and that Daddy's beer was just that; not lager, not pilsner, not alcohol free. Just - beer. And going out to a cafe for sausages and chips followed by ice cream was considered a real treat at the time the book was written.
Actually, that last has not changed - it's just that now we call the cafes 'brasseries' or 'gastro-pubs', the chips are fried in Duck Fat, and the pigs the sausages were made from had names....