Things Change, Always the Same

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It was the end of that.

The problem was it didn’t seem to be the beginning of anything else and so I was faced with the terrifying prospect of it being the end…of everything.  That thought kept me up at night.  Every night.  Staring at the walls of the new flat where I lived alone, for the first time in a decade I was sleeping, eating, watching T.V…alone.  I liked it.  I hated it.  Time flew by…in slow motion.  I was finding it increasingly difficult to stay focused on, well, anything.  I stopped reading, I rarely watched more than a few minutes at a time of a show and I was wearing out the “skip” button on my iPod.  An iPod.  That is how long ago this was.

One night I left the flat and went out for a walk.

Exercise.

It’s good for you apparently.

I didn’t know where I was going…that wasn’t anything new.

Eventually I found myself outside of the Filmhouse cinema here in Edinburgh.

I had been a few times to see…things.

I entered the lobby and bought a ticket for…something.

I hadn’t ever gone to the cinema on my own before and I very nearly purchased two tickets just in case the person behind the counter thought I was weird…or weirder than I am.

They didn’t.

As I sat on my own in the dark of screen three watching something that I now no longer remember I suddenly felt less alone.  There was no option to change channel.  I couldn’t go anywhere else.  I could only look at the images on the screen and sit, quietly, while the film played.

It was beautiful.

It was a few weeks before the end of 2009.

Then in 2010 I found myself in the Filmhouse a lot.

On January 1st I saw “Tokyo Story” for the first time.

On January 2nd I saw the Coen Brother’s “A Serious Man”.

On January 5th I saw “The Queen of Spades”.

On January 10th I saw “Mugabe and the White African”.

On January 13th I saw the silent Ozu classic “I Was Born, But…”

On January 14th I saw “The Savage Eye”.

On January 15th I saw another Japanese classic, this time a modern one, “Departures”.

On January 28th there was another Ozu film, “Late Spring”.

On January 29th there was yet another Ozu film…”Early Summer”.

A final Ozu of the month on the 31st of January with “Late Autumn”.

I was there another 7 times in February.

Then 7 times more in March.

8 times in April.

Another 8 in May.

Just 6 in June…but that is explained by the EIFF running!

8 more in July.

Only 3 times in August.

I wonder what happened in August.

Something bad…or good.

Then the same again in September.

And in October.

Phew, 5 times in November.

No visits in December.

I make that 68 visits to the Filmhouse in 2010.

That’s once every 5 days.

You see during that time of dislocation I found a place to be located.

It just happened to be the local art-house cinema.

I started to learn the names of the people who worked there.

Some of them even learned my name.

Even now nearly a decade later some of those people are still there and they still smile and use my name when I visit.

Not friends.

More than acquaintances?

When my daughter was born in 2012 I used to take her to the parent and child screenings there…during a particularly tense moment in “Argo” I broke wind with alarming ferocity and attempted to blame in on her by saying, loud enough to be heard, “Oh dear…are you a bit windy?”.  I don’t think anyone bought it.

Whenever a Japanese film screens I am there with my dad who is a real Japanophile.  We will get something to eat in the bar…he always gets the same thing; a baked potato with veggie haggis and coleslaw.  I usually end up with the nachos…which should be award winning but I’m not sure if there are awards for nachos.

I’ve met Shane Meadows, Tilda Swinton, Brian Cox, Mark Cousins, William Friedkin and sundry other acting and directing greats in the corridors and auditoriums of the Filmhouse.  I very clearly remember touching Tilda Swinton on the elbow as she walked past in the hope I could get her attention and ask her for an interview…she turned around and looked at me while I muttered, mumbled, something about loving her work and before I could get to the end of the sentence she had placed both her hands on my shoulders and was staring directly into my eyes.  When I got to the part about asking for an interview she smiled and said she would be happy to but only if I took part in a flash mob she was organising with Mark Cousins.  I said I would…then I bottled it and never got the interview.

Happiest moment of my life!

Rod White, the head of programming, agreed to answer some questions about films that I sent him and he revealed himself to be…bloody lovely and funny and incredibly passionate about film; not that surprising really is it.

Chris Fujiwara who took over as the director of the EIFF was based at Filmhouse and I quickly became obsessed with him and was genuinely moved to tears when he remembered my name and asked how I was doing.

I’ve broken bread with Mark Cousins who is, without question, the most delightful and charismatic human I have ever encountered.  I love him.  I wish he was my friend.

It might seem funny to have so much invested in a pile of bricks and mortar but the truth is that out of those bricks and mortar I found somewhere to live again…and during the Guardian Soulmates era I even loved again a little bit there; just dinner you filthy beasts, no hanky-panky in the back row…Christine would never allow it.

If you are in my town you should make a point of visiting my “other” home.

I’ll come and meet you for some nachos.

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