Thursday, 11 December 2014


Last Sunday, through a shocking number of random actions on the part of (mostly) my mother, I found myself in Wimbledon watching a pantomime.

It was my girlfriend's birthday. Through another uncountable number of random actions, it had come to our attention that Tim Vine and some other celebrities, including some woman from Dallas ("Linda Gray", I am told), were appearing in a production of Cinderella - you may have seen the posters if you're one to travel on the Underground - and my mother instantly thought it would be such a wheeze to go and see it (psst - my girlfriend is uncultured, and has never seen a professional pantomime before), and so that became her birthday present.

That, and a copy of the new Stephen King book disguised as RƎVOUTION by Russell Brand, but that was my idea. Comedy gold.

I think I've seen at least one pantomime every year - it's, I am told, a very British thing; I can't imagine life without the idea of the panto. In fact, up until the age of about 18, I was taken to the same one every year: the semi-professional affair at my local theatre, inevitably starring some C-lister who appears to be tired, drunk, or both, plus a load of fresh-faced youngsters fresh out of drama school, doing their best with a script trying slightly too hard not to sound recycled - it's brilliant. Always has been.

That is until I saw the one I was taken to at 16.

It was, as if this matters at all, Snow White. Not the best production of Snow White - that's the one that I was in a few years back, where my job was to cut down trees and make jokes about my big chopper - but an okay one, nonetheless. Like EVERY PANTO EVER, it contained a chirpy rendition of Reach by S Club 7, and the ending sequence was Mambo No. 5, just... because.

I couldn't wait to write in my paper diary when I got home. Not just because I enjoyed writing... but because it was the first time I mentioned girls. Or... one specific girl.

...and, above all, my entry ended, the Spirit of the Woods was played by the most pretty girl I have ever seen!!!

I reflected upon this, and then added some more exclamation marks. In fact, the rest of the page was pretty full of exclamation marks, once I'd finished.

I wasn't too keen on going after that. My mother kept persuading me to accompany the yoof youth of my church to the panto because "that pretty fairy might be there again", but she wasn't. I knew she wouldn't be. Her name wasn't even on the poster, and neither was her picture; in fact, as far as I am aware, she may not even exist. But I know what I saw, and it was enough to make my heart skip a beat and my breath to catch in my mouth.

Nothing that good stays for long... but, back when I was 16, I felt like the most fortunate boy in the world - just to catch a glimpse of this radiant beauty, even from the dress circle.

It wasn't the first time I thought somebody was beautiful... I'd had crushes before then, of course... but this was certainly the first time that I was entranced. And the first time, after all, that I understood the interest in the absolutely unobtainable.

Linda Gray really doesn't match up.

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