Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

23.1.05

Three minutes.

My brother is a super-8 film maker, as well as being a musician. He has been shooting super-8 movies since he was fifteen, when he made sci-fi super-8 movies using sets he constructed from blackened polystyrene foam stuck to large pieces of three-ply timber and painted backdrops with stars, planets and moons.

I made super-8 movies as well, from 1976 through to 1989.

In 1990, my house was burgled, my Canon super-8 camera was stolen and I never made another movie.

I also never again watched my collection of super-8s because my projector was stolen as well. The reels just sat there in a box as I moved through four addresses in seven years.

This past Christmas, my super-8 musician brother gave me the best Christmas gift I have ever received. It was in a large unwieldy box wrapped with Christmas paper and string. He warned me not to drop it.

I unwrapped it carefully. It was a super-8 projector, of course. In perfect condition. Where had he found it? Some flea market somewhere or it could have been e-Bay for that matter.

*

Late on Christmas Day, after Scotch, shortbread, walks, naps, plum pudding, conversation about anything and everything, we couldn't resist. My brother set the projector up for me and focussed it on the white wall in the third bedroom while I searched out my box of dusty super-8 movies.

The clickety-clack sound came back to me immediately. That's what, sixteen years?

First I ran a three-minute (they're all three minutes) film of my children at the zoo. 1982.

Andrew, 5, dancing around and laughing, soundlessly. Erin, 1, in the blue-and-chrome pram, a huge newly-toothed smile. No sound. Some shots of the monkeys' enclosure with Andrew's back in the foreground. Then he turns his head and pulls a face like a monkey. Then a few seconds of a long-haired, student-like, brown-T-shirted man (me) pushing a blue and chrome pram towards the zoo exit, smiling into the dying sunshine at the woman behind the camera.

Then the screen turns yellow and the clickety-clack ends.

Then more movies, just the same. The children, toddlers. On the beach, through the park. In the gardens. At home, in the backyard. Blowing out candles. All smiles and innocence and total joy and ignorance of pain.

Before the storms of separation and divorce arrived like monsters from a medieval world; foreign, alien, horrible. Before the smiles turned to tears on faces too young.

*

We watched some more. Most fascinated, of course, were my son's daughters. Canisha, 8; Shanra, 3. (Aria, 11 months, is too young to watch super-8 movies.) They recognised their father, my son, most times; and mistook him on other occasions for themselves. Long hair in the seventies and eighties made young boys look like girls.

I still haven't watched all the movies. I have hundreds, all three minutes long. I have to savour them.


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