I have to put a plug in here for a charming little cinema that recently opened in Whitley Bay, which for those of you unfamiliar with the UK layout is in the North East of England, not too far from the wildly romantic Scottish Borders. It’s called the Jam Jar, a name which I’d assumed derived from its very small size – just a few rows of comfortable armchair-like seats and a small screen. However, it turns out that in the first half of the last century kids could often get into their local cinema by presenting an empty jam jar at the entrance, in a sort of early version of recycling.
Anyway, I had a nice cup of tea and a sit down before going in to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, just before Christmas. I don’t usually care for sentimental American garbage like that and I’m certainly no fan of the vastly overrated James Stewart, master of overacting. In fact I loathe him almost as much as I loathe Meryl Streep, which is saying something. I would have preferred to see ‘The Artist’ or ‘Forbidden Planet’ but there was no choice and the window of opportunity, as they say, was speeding past.
Popcorn, crisps and other irritations are mercifully banned at the Jam Jar and as the audience troops out at the end the owner stands in the doorway holding a black plastic bag for you to throw any litter into. It’s all highly civilised and a world away from the big-screen multiplex monsters that are the norm nowadays. Unfortunately I had just before arriving gorged on the best fish-and-chips in the world at the Tynemouth quayside followed by several pints at the pub around the corner, so I was full of gas for the duration.
All of the small cinemas in my old stomping grounds in this area have long since disappeared. I remember seeing ‘Zulu’ at the one in Whitley Bay, ‘The First Men in the Moon’ and ‘One Million Years BC’ in Tynemouth and ‘Count Yorga – Vampire’ in North Shields’. I even remember doing sing-a-longs prior to Saturday matinees in Whitley Bay. An old bloke in a suit would come out in front of the curtain before the projector started up and tell us all to enjoy ourselves. The short and frantic episodes always ended in cliff-hangers – Tarzan having to decide whether to turn and face his armed pursuers or jump over a waterfall, and suchlike.
Incidentally, I was surprisingly upset to learn that the library in Whitley Bay which I remember opening (I remember when it opened, I didn’t open it) in the early 70s had been demolished.
All such seemingly small and trivial changes to the fabric of things accumulate until you suddenly realise that your familiar haunts have entirely disappeared and that your home, friends and everything you’re familiar with are now buried somewhere in the irrecoverable past.
On that cheerful note I’ll wish you all a very Happy New Year…