Any mystique which still adheres to the A wild slim alien persona will be quite gone after this.
I am not embarrassed about the clothes I am wearing in this film. The embarrassment should lie fairly and squarely with my mother – alright, and perhaps the times – for making a two year old child wear such terrible clothing. In my braces, checked shirt, nappy-filled blue shorts and long white socks, I look like Humpty Dumpty given a proper pair of legs and a pudding bowl of hair. The mod in me rebels at the sight, even now.
It’s my party and I’ll run around like a headless chicken if I want to. But before I do, there is the birthday tea, with all the celebrants gathered round the table, their mothers seated behind them. The children seem puzzled and uncertain, as befits two year olds, an age when life is mysterious and confounding as well as bright and bold and butterfly-strewn. Save for my own, the mothers avoid responding to the camera as it passes over them. None will be used to being filmed, of course, but perhaps there is a social insecurity there too. Or maybe it’s simply that they are all still very young themselves, brought up in an age where higher education was still not the norm for women, and for each of them, character and confidence will only fully emerge with whatever challenges and troubles lie ahead.
The friend in the enviably à la mode striped t-shirt (not dissimilar to one I had twenty years later) is my best friend in those years, Graham, who was born in the same hospital three days after me to (I think) the woman we see talking most volubly around the table, holding his sister. It was tragically only a couple of years later that his mother died, and it strikes me now that this (and what there is on other reels) may just be the only moving footage which exists of her. The boy without a top is my next best friend Adam, whose family emigrated to Australia a few short years later. Before that, he and I played football endlessly with each other; I remember still that he was quicker and better than me. You see us both take our first steps as footballers in this film.
Given a choice between a flash red sports car and the broom, Graham opts for the witches’ implement. In fact, strangely, no-one seems to want to play with the flash red sports car, which looks for all the world like my big birthday present, one of which I have no memory save for its being captured here. We are at the age when children are happier with sticks and balls and wheelbarrows.
June sunlight and shade play across the garden and the house, evoking the quickness of life but also eerily suggesting the certainty of death. A friend has commented that these films are crying out for a Boards of Canada soundtrack; I’d maybe split the footage half and half between the ethereal, mind-bending music of the Boards, and the elegiac sounds and memory-haunted, past-is-a-foreign-country lyrics of the Clientele, but then that’s precisely the reason I’ve added no sound, because the viewer will bring their own music to the images, to the colours and objects and the wash of the film, to the peculiarly strong taste of childhood sensations that these images evoke. That time of life when senses are so susceptible to colour and noise and smell and feel and taste, because they are green, fresh, unblemished, and ready to soak up life like a sponge.
What a head of hair I had. What energy I had. Already on the run, aged two.