The cinema on the top road, also referred to as the Bug Hutch, was a favourite with courting couples since the back row seats were all doubles. Whichever seat you chose, however, a cloud of dust or possibly powdered mouse-droppings would make you sneeze if you sat down too fast.
We used to go to the Saturday Matinée, which cost nine old pence – big copper coins that weighed you down and clanked in your pocket as you walked. For that you could see Biggles spiralling downward, his matchwood aeroplane out of control, his goggles misted over and his white scarf at 45 degrees; John Wayne in a diver’s helmet wrestling manfully with a giant octopus, or Woody the Woodpecker pleading with the Woodman to ‘Spaaayre that tree!’
At intermission the lights would go up and we would join the carpet-muffled stampede down the far aisle, where the usherette waited with the ice creams. On one occasion an ice-cream cornet was thrown at the screen from somewhere behind my head, scoring a direct hit on the screen. Entranced, we watched as ice cream trickled down John Wayne’s nose. After a very long silence a policeman in a pointy helmet appeared and informed us that no Child would be permitted to Leave the Building until the Culprit owned up. After a very, very long silence in which Nobody owned up, we left.
I saw my first ever film at the Bug Hutch – ‘Bambi’. My best friend told me that it was so sad I would weep buckets, so of course I couldn’t shed a single tear. The same best friend went with me years later to the very last film I saw there – The Beatles’ ‘Help’. This time she said all the females in the audience would be utterly unable to resist the urge to scream, shout and wet themselves from the sheer thrill of glimpsing (gulp) John Lennon or (double gulp) Paul McCartney on celluloid.
To my huge relief, she was wrong again.