In The Olden Days

“Did you have films when you were little, Granddad?” Pepsi looked up from the film. “You know, in the olden days.”

Granddad looked up from his laptop and smiled. “Yes, we did. I wasn’t born in the stone age, not quite.”

“Was Gran born in the stone age?” said Nike.

Granddad snorted with suppressed laughter. “Well, now you come to mention it, yes she was, but don’t tell her I said so.”

“Tell us about the olden days,” said Pepsi.

“Don’t you want to finish the film?”

“I’ve seen it,” said Nike. “Anyway, Pepsi always makes the ninja marry the space captain, and they kiss.” Nike’s face expressed his feelings on kissing more eloquently than words ever could.

Granddad closed the laptop down and sat back.

“Okay, what do you want to know?”

“Tell us about the olden films,” said Pepsi. The two children clambered into the old man’s lap and snuggled into his arms.

“Well, we had films, but they were very different from today’s films. For a start, we didn’t have anything in the house to show them. When I was tiny, even smaller than you two insects, the only way to see a film was to go to the cinema.”

“What’s a cim-en-a?” said Pepsi.

“Don’t you have them anymore? No, I guess not. Well, a cinema was a big building, huge, bigger than a house, and it had rooms in it that were so big you could fit hundreds of people inside. So as a special treat we would go and see a film. We’d all go and sit in the big room with lots of other people and watch a screen bigger than a house.”

“No,” said Pepsi, frowning.

“No?”

“No. If there were hundreds of people, how’d you choose the ending? How’d you make the actors do what you wanted if there were hundreds of people watching?”

“Well, you couldn’t. When I was small there was only ever one ending. Sometimes they filmed more than one, but only one was ever shown. They filmed two endings to Casablanca, you know, but they only ever showed the one where Rick was noble. So you just had to see the ending the film company decided was the right one.”

“That’s stupid,” said Nike. “What if you don’t like that one?”

“Well, you were stuck with it. There were a couple of endings I would have changed, for sure, but on the whole I think it was better that way. It meant you were surprised by the ending. At least, if it was a good ending you were. It would mean, for instance, you wouldn’t know of the ninja was going to marry the captain and fly away on the spaceship, or stay with Rick and face the bad men together. I remember seeing A Hard Day’s Night at the cinema with my mum and dad. I think that was the first time I went.

“Anyway, that was when I was really, really little. Then we got a television.”

“What’s a tevelision?” said Pepsi.

“It was a sort of an IE unit, I suppose, but the first one we got was in black and white. You know that image of me as a boy, all grey? Well, the films we saw on it were all like that, no colour, even if the film was colour, on the television they were black and white.”

“Why?” said Nike. “That’s just stupid. I mean, if it was in colour, why did they make it black and white?”

“Because they didn’t know how to show it in colour. Colour TVs weren’t invented until I was quite a bit older than you, and even then only rich folks could afford them. But we didn’t mind that much, because if we wanted to see the latest film, we went down to the cinema. Me and your gran, when we were courting, we’d go to the cinema most weekends. Sometimes we’d even watch the film. Sometimes, though, we’d stay in and watch the television, especially if there was something good on and I didn’t have enough money to spring for tickets. Saturday evening was always good on TV. Oh, and that was another thing. We didn’t have the Net or IE units or anything. If a good show was on at seven o’clock, that’s when you had to sit down and watch it. You couldn’t just play it when you wanted.”

“That’s stupid,” said Nike. “I mean, what if you were doing something else at seven o’clock? What if you didn’t switch the IE on till five minutes past?”

“Then you missed the first five minutes.”

“But that’s just stupid.”

“No,” said Pepsi. “It’s just a story. You know Granddad makes up stories sometimes.”

Granddad chuckled. “Okay, fair enough. I do tell tall tales sometimes, so I guess I deserve that, but this is the truth. You can ask you gran if you don’t believe me. We couldn’t download films, we had to just accept the times the TV companies gave us. If we missed it, we missed it. We had video recorders, but that wasn’t until later. Um, after we were married, I think. Oh, yes, long after. And they were flat too, the films. Not 3D, but flat, like a book.”

“What’s a book?” said Pepsi, but Nike had already lost interest and was loading up some sort of game on the IE. He slipped off Granddad’s lap and ran around the display, arranging battalions of ninjas for war.

“A book,” said Granddad, wistfully. Entire holidays had been spent intertwined in fantasy worlds, as he fought monsters in space or dug up pirate treasure. “A book was a list of words that had better graphics and larger worlds than you can possibly imagine.” He looked down at Pepsi. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing deep and slow. She twitched and under her lids her eyes flickered. “Or at least, better than I can imagine anyway.”

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

5 Responses to In The Olden Days

  1. snodlander says:

    I feel like Granddad so many times talking to my kids, or even my colleagues

  2. Awww that’s lovely. I feel a bit sad for Pepsi though, her grandad knows she’s never going to have the imagination he has, I guess becasue she doesn’t have to use it. Reminds me of when I was little and used to get Listen With Mother on the radio, then Watch With Mother came on TV and I told my mother I didn’t like it as much as the pictures weren’t as good!

    • snodlander says:

      Isn’t it interesting how people see different pictures in the words? Once you’ve written them you have no control over the scenes they paint. I meant the last line to indicate that small children in their dreams have amazing imagination, beyond anything old men like me have, but your interpretation is just as valid. And I still love radio. Radio 4 is the best channel in the world

  3. I’m 27 and I still have a crazy imagination – it’s one of the things I never grew out of (that and a fondness for rainbow socks with toes like gloves for feet) and I think that’s because I read so much and always have done.

    My grandkids will probably never learn to write with a pen, it will be laptops or other devices all round.

    Sad. (also I love that Pepsi and Nike were names, brands are soooo the next step! I have a friend called Mercedes and never stop teasing her about it!)

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