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Smallville: A Blacker Shade Of Grey

Peter B. Farrell recalls grey days.

Caught in the early morning traffic, I whiled away the hours reading the various flyers pasted at the cluster of traffic lights.

Amongst the promotions for karate, Ho Ken Bohl Da, Rock, Garage, Grunge, and Garage Sales was a programme of vintage film performances playing at local Village Halls. Featured were Tarzan of the Apes, Laurel & Hardy meets Frankenstein and - as the traffic lights changed from red, amber to black and white - Rose Marie.

My upbringing in the industrial North East bridged the shortages of the 2nd World War with the austerity of the Cold War. Predominantly grey, the landscape was crying out for L.S.Lowry and would have had Cezanne scrabbling around for the charcoal and Van Gogh reaching for the razor. I doubt Hockney would have even dipped his toe into the local Municipal swimming pool. Most clothing was grey including the school uniform, which was topped off with a black cap and blazer.

It was a time when the local cinema took up the space now occupied by TV, DVDs, CDs, iPod and Pad, BlueTooth and Ray, Wii and the Mobile phone. The films shown generally lacked any vestige of colour which made them more credible, although in ”Flash Gordon Invades Mars” - starring Buster Crabbe the ex Olympic swimming Gold medallist - the film had been tinted green to replicate the local atmosphere. I now recall it was then that I joined the local Wolf Cub pack. I “dib dib dibbed and dob dob dobbed ” wearing the obligatory green sweater. Spooky or what

. “ Oh Rose Marie I love you
I’m always dreaming of you….”

So sang Nelson Eddy in the film “Rose Marie” as his canoe cleaved it’s way through the icy torrents against the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies. His starring role as a ‘Mountie’ in the film added another dimension to my knowledge of the Wild West, previously only occupied by Cowboys, Indians and Outlaws such as Jesse James and Billy the Kid.

On our streets the Wild West now extended from Mexico to Canada with Texas and Oklahoma in between, about 20 Square miles, but without a paddle or canoe we missed the ‘cleaving.’ Incidentally the noun ‘cleavage’ was unheard of until much later, coming to the forefront following the release of “The Outlaw” starring the unforgettable Jane Russell and the long forgotten Jack Beutel.

A generation later the film “Davy Crocket” had an immediate effect in our neighbourhood when every child - including my young daughter - wore a home made ‘Davy Crocket‘ hat, coinciding with a diminishing cat population.

This early romanticised view of the North West was enhanced only by seeing the Monty Python crew performing the Lumberjack song, occasional appearances of k.d lang and sundry musicians accompanying Ally McBeal on ‘Transatlantic Sessions’ if I was still awake. The Winter Olympics kept me wide awake, especially the ice hockey.

Luckily by the time “Brokeback Mountain” was released in 2005 the Government had successfully cleared the streets of all juveniles in readiness for the 24 hr Drinking Laws and the Saturday night mayhem that was to follow. Any conundrum posed by the film would have to be resolved by after-school clubs.

After seeing “Rose Marie” at the local cinema I fell in love with it’s co-star Jeanette McDonald. A few weeks later after a screening of “The Blue Dahlia” she was supplanted in my affections by Veronica Lake with the trade mark hair style, who then suffered the same fate after I saw Lauren Bacall with the whistle in “To Have and to Have not.”

There were now a few rainbows appearing in the skies and Technicolor had made it to the big screens. Shortly afterwards, tired of competing with the likes of Bogey and Alan Ladd I spent more time under the Cinema, conveniently housed under the local dancehall.

This morning the sun shone brightly out of a clear blue sky and there was less traffic on the road. I waited for the lights to change. Red, Amber to Green. I sighed with relief as a quick glance confirmed that the flyers had been removed.

Authors note.
I saw Jesse James’ mummified corpse alongside the Flea Circus at a Travelling Fair in the North of England in 1956. The Tattooed Lady was in the next tent, then a novelty and now a craze.

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