Monday, March 17, 2008

My useless old tickets and I


For at least the last twenty years I have kept my old tickets from films, concerts, plays etc.
I don’t know why I started, and I don’t do it so much anymore. But I often browse through the bulging old wallet that serves no function other than to store them, and each time some new memory is recalled.
Here’s Norman Wisdom (18th April 1993, he cut himself slightly but carried on of course), Anthony Newley in Scrooge The Musical (9th December 1993, not long after a funeral), Vivian Stanshall live in Exeter (12th December 1991, we had to leave before the encore and run for the train), and Cannon & Ball live at Torquay (29th August 1998, they did a routine with a miniature plastic trumpet that made me weep with laughter, but all that I can remember about it is that it involved a miniature plastic trumpet).
Here are the films I thought it my duty to see in student years: the Walerian Borowczyk shorts, Pasolini’s Salo, Syberberg’s 7½ hour Hitler - ein Film aus Deutschland, even a ‘Rare Warhol All-Nighter’ – I was nothing if not fearless.
Here are the cinemas that are no longer with us: Eyes Wide Shut at the Catford ABC (21st September 1999), Dirty Weekend at the MGM Oxford Street (29th October 1993), Manhattan Murder Mystery at the Camden Plaza (no date, but I remember sitting next to Simon Callow).
Here are tickets for every single Marx Brothers film, some of them many times over, A Night at the Opera in double figures. Here is the proof that I saw Ghost World five times at three venues between 24th November 2001 and 11th March 2002 and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me three times in a single week at Tottenham Court Road.
Here is the proof that I saw films I have no recollection of ever seeing at a cinema in my life: Tod Slaughter as Sweeney Todd (14th May 2001), Basil Rathbone in Pursuit to Algiers (28th August 2002), 10 Rillington Place (12th September 2003). Did I really spend the teatime of Wednesday 21st July 1993 watching Boxing Helena at the Drake-Odeon in Plymouth? I have a little piece of paper that says I did.
And here are the tickets with the happy memories attached: rushing across Hungerford Bridge from the National Portrait Gallery, where I worked at the time, to get to the NFT in time for a 6.20 showing of Joan Crawford in Berserk (29th April 2001). A late showing of The Exorcist at the Trocadero before it had been reissued or was legal on video (28th May 1993). The screening of The Black Cat I walked out of because the audience wouldn’t stop laughing at it (9th August 2004). The Hour of the Pig at the MGM Tottenham Court Road – actually forget I mentioned that one (31st January 1994).
Sometimes one ticket is enough to bring back a memory of some experience I would otherwise have lost entirely. Why on earth did I go to see Urban Legends: Final Cut at the Catford ABC at, of all ridiculous times, 9 in the evening on the day after Boxing Day 2000? For a while, I couldn’t imagine. Slowly the fragments of memory came together: I had returned to London after spending Christmas with my parents in Devon to find snow on the ground, and a flat so cold that it was literally uninhabitable. I put all the heaters on full blast and trudged off down the hill for the warmth of the cinema while it returned to something like a tolerable temperature. And what happened to be showing? Urban Legends: Final Cut.
Not the most eventful story ever, but the point is that I can now remember a dozen different and discrete sensations: the smell of the cinema, the feeling of being pleasantly thawed, the dark, snowy streets, my cold, empty flat and - indivisibly linked to all - the sight and the sound of that one fair-to-middling film. And all because of an old ticket.
The moral of the story? If you want to experience the Proustian rush, don't delay: start saving crap today.