In which all of the main characters are introduced.
Here is my mother, wearing a peach Slazenger v-neck jumper and a gauzy scarf knotted in her hair, looking incredibly young for someone who has just had her third child, that being my sister, who appears as a mere months old baby. There am I, and right by me is my brother. We seem joined at the hip, and I guess we were, till I was about ten. ‘On top of each other’ might be a better way of putting it, because we fought like dogs throughout the length of our childhood. My father is largely absent, either because he was the one shooting the footage, or more probably, because he was busy teaching golf, a six days a week job in the summer. But he does feature in the final frames of the reel. We are playing football, and – wearing a light blue v-neck jumper – he scores a goal past me. He turns to the camera, to my mother (I presume), and you can almost hear him saying, ‘I hope you got that.’
It’s 1974, and for the most part we are on a playing field somewhere in Surrey. Horsell, perhaps, near Woking. A short train ride south-west of London. My brother and I are in fancy dress, as indeed are all the children in this film. It’s a fancy dress competition. We have come as Batman and Robin. Or, to judge from the costumes, Batman and Batman; whose younger brother has ever liked having to play second fiddle? We were both big fans of the endlessly re-run television series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Fabulously, throughout the reel, we never take off our masks.
Despite the anomaly of us both being dressed as the chief Caped Crusader, and the fact that our Batman insignia look rather more like oyster mushrooms than bats, I have a memory that we won a prize, but perhaps it is a false memory, the kind that you tell yourself about a remembered day such as this to make it seem more magical, as magical as it very well may have been to live through, regardless of whether or not a prize was won. See the way my cape billows when I jump off the heavy roller, just like Adam West’s did – for the space of a day, I must have felt that I really was Batman.
We are six and four, with twenty months between us. Already we are adopting facets of the characters we have dressed up as, if we allow that my brother is indeed Robin. I am more measured, if not yet cerebral, while he is excitable, already showing signs of a tendency to wind people up and pick fights with those who were bigger than him. Here for example he takes on a sword-wielding pirate, armed only with a length of rope.
Blink and you’ll miss Sherlock Holmes, a Dickensian urchin, the obligatory cowboy and indian, and a little bear. I wonder what became of them all. The maid in blue and white and the satanic girl in fiery red, for example. What have their lives been like? Have their experiences tended towards fulfilment or disappointment? With whom did they fall in love, and do they love them still? Perhaps they went on to make costumes for their own children to wear to fancy dress competitions or parties, and if so, did they remember this day, without the footage of it to remind them? Might they even still have a memory of the Dynamic Duo flitting very faintly across the screen of their minds?
A series of blipverts finishes off the reel; it was typical for every second of film to be used, with nothing wasted. And so at the last, there finally is my father, as well as a brief portrait shot of my maternal grandmother, holding my sister, walking towards the camera, but giving very little away.