……..as a teenager, as my thoughts (and beating heart) turned to the young ladies of this parish (‘Parish?’ asked an inebriated bloke at the pub. ‘Waddya mean, Parish? You ain’t French.’).
I also adored going to the cinema. But I rarely combined my two great interests. I didn’t think it fair to stare at a big screen and thus neglect my companion.
It would have been positively ungallant not to whisper every so often into her pretty little ear: ‘Your beauty shines through the dim rear stalls lighting. I want to fall at your feet, providing there is room between the seats, and ply you with presents.
‘What would you like, my angel? Perhaps a tub of ice-cream with its own plastic spoon which you can use to whirl around and around the container until the contents convert into a drinkable mush.
‘Or maybe you’d prefer a refreshing Orange Maid ice lolly with its own wooden stick which you can later split into lengths and care for your cuticles.
‘Or maybe you’d just like to puff on one of my trendy Gauloise cigarettes which I carry everywhere to impress people. Anyway, the choice is yours, chuck.’
Invariably, my companion would sigh and offer the comment: ‘Can you please be quiet. I’m trying to watch the film.’ And then mutter: ‘This is the weirdest blind date I’ve ever been on.’
What I would never reveal to my companion was that I, too, wanted to see the movie but without any distraction. So I would return alone to the picturehouse a couple of days later and watch the same film in splendid isolation.
My favourite cinema for my lone visits — we’re talking of my home city of Manchester here — was the Odeon in the centre of town. I always sat in the mezzanine because the rows narrowed at the sides until they were reduced to just one solitary seat. Yes, I had my own row. I was king of the kinema.
Which reminds me. When my mother and father went on their first date — to the pictures, of course — the former did not want the latter to know that she wore spectacles.
Poor Mother sat through the trailers, second feature and main presentation without seeing a blessed thing.
When the movie show was over, Mother made sure she walked directly behind Dad, clutching the bottom of his jacket so she wouldn’t get separated from him in the departing throng.
As they went through the door, Dad turned around to Mother and asked: ‘Where on earth are you going?’ Mother replied nonchalantly: ‘Well, I want to get home, too, you know.’ And Dad retorted: ‘But why are you in the gents?’
Fast-forward to the present. Mrs S looked slightly askance at me the other afternoon and said: ‘What did that girl mean by blind date? Hadn’t you met any of those wenches before?’
‘Good Lord, no.’ I responded. ‘I was no ladies’ man. My best pal Eric the dentist — well he was Eric the dentistry school student in those days — was the handsome guy with all the chat.
‘He would attract the girls like a magnet, invite them out on dates and ask if they had a friendly sister or a sisterly friend to escort his bezzie mate — that was me.’
Deep in thought, Mrs S scratched her head and I did the same because we do everything together.
‘This blind date business sounds a bit weird to me,’ she said eventually. ‘And would you please stop scratching my head — I find your habits really annoying. Anyway, you’d never catch me going on a blind date.’
‘But I had no choice,’ I said. ‘You might not believe this but before we met I was a particularly sad-looking individual who lacked the social graces. The only surroundings in which I felt confident were in the dimness of a darkened cinema.’
I paused to allow Mrs S time to disagree with the bit about me being a sad-looking individual. But she didn’t utter a word.
‘Anyway,’ I went on, ‘I escorted some wonderful women to the cinema back in the day. They only accompanied me once, of course, but then again beggars can’t be choosers.’
Mrs S scratched her head again, brushing aside my own extended head-scratching hand with her other forearm.
‘Oh, come on!’ she said. ‘Those ladies must have managed to grab a peek at you, Eric’s freakish friend, as you stood outside the cinema. Surely, if you were that repulsive your date would have immediately legged it home.’
‘Nope,’ I said. ‘You see I was never seen outside the picturehouse. I would appear only after Eric and the ladies had taken their seats. Only then would I materialise, concealing my face behind a packet of Butterkist.’
Mrs S stopped scratching her head and shook it instead. ‘And that always worked out?’ she queried.
‘Not always,’ I said. ‘I once got terribly confused. I put my arm around my date and then realised that the occasion was one of my solo visits to the cinema. The bald pensioner bloke I was embracing looked quite startled. You see, it wasn’t at the Odeon so I didn’t have the single-seat row.’
Mrs S pointed an accusing finger at me. ‘You are telling me porkies,’ she said. ‘I went out with you several times back in the day and I never found you totally repulsive.’
I chuckled. ‘Of course I’m lying. Indeed, I remember as if it were yesterday that I actually proposed marriage to you while we were watching Hello, Dolly at the Gaumont. You said yes and I’ve never looked back, my darling.’
Mrs S stared hard at me. ‘But I’ve never seen Hello, Dolly and I’ve certainly never been to the Gaumont.’
‘Oh, crumbs,’ I muttered, feeling the blood drain from my face. ‘In that case, some poor woman has probably been sitting on the steps outside the register office for the past 46 years.’