|A typical view for the Coleman clan on a family outing|
These days, people stay to the very end of the cinema credits to see if there's an extra scene where Samuel L Jackson invites the protagonists to join the Avengers. I've even downloaded an app for my phone that tells me if this is going to happen for any given film, saving me from sitting there like an arse as the house lights go up and the cinema workers wait with thinly-veiled impatience for you to clear off so they can muck out the auditorium before the next screening.
But I'm used to sitting through ten minutes of slowly-rolling credits in an empty cinema screen, as I was brought up to stay until the very, very ends and "it's the last time I take you bloody kids anywhere."
"It's the last time I take you bloody kids anywhere" – the unintentional, exasperated catchphrase of my late mother, who brought up three kids in west London and latterly the commuter belt of suburbia with an air of recognition that we wouldn't behave ourselves wherever we went. She was right, too – we were a rabble that even the most patient of parenting couldn't tame.
She was also fond of "At this rate you'll lose all your teeth by the time you're twenty," the almost daily threat that stemmed from any sort of toothbrush misuse. I am 48, and still have all of my teeth, so I win on that one. "Oh, blow," a defeated mum would have said. But…
So many days out, so many treats, all ending with "It's the last time I take you bloody kids anywhere", as we were piled into a taxi, or dragged onto a bus back to Hammersmith. The museums in South Kensington. A Wimpy bar. Down to the Thames at Fulham to throw things at ducks. And so many trips to the cinema.
The first cinema we were told we were never going back to ever again was some concrete monstrosity on a visit to my grandfather's place in Essex. It was Bedknobs and Broomsticks in a time where Disney thought two hours was not nearly enough for a kids' film. I – at the age of five – had had enough by the first 30 minutes, and that was the last time we bloody kids were being taken anywhere.
The last time my mother took me to the cinema was (if I recall) was in the summer of 1978 and the dizzying lights of the cinema in Marlow to see Grease. Marlow, a commuter belt town so dull that they have to import other people's outrage. But we queued up at the Odeon (an old fashioned single-screen cinema with a circle, uniformed doorman, the whole nine yards), saw the big summer hit, and – as usual – sat through the end titles while all the cool people were already waiting for the bus home outside.
And the reason for this madness? My mother was brought up properly, with high standards and a sense of decency. She alone knew that quality cinemas still played the National Anthem after every screening, and it was your duty to stay to the end and stand to attention. So we stayed to the end, and stood to attention, a sea of empty red velvet-effect seats rolling all the way down to the blank screen.
All except for me, because a surfeit of fizzy pop had left my bladder at bursting point, and I had spent the time the credits took to roll to sneak out to the gents' and sort out this distressing state of affairs. In retrospect, I could have timed it better, for as the drums rolled and "God Save The Queen" played to a near-empty auditorium, I was spotted edging along the back wall towards our party, and certainly not standing to attention as tradition dictated.
She at least waited until we were in the car before giving me what I considered – bearing in mind my bladder-based desperation – a rather harsh verbal going over. "That's the last time I take you bloody kids anywhere," and this time she meant it. The next time we were on our own. Good thing too, because it was Life of Brian.
As a parent myself, I am pleased to report that I too have unleashed "That's the last time I take you bloody kids anywhere" on my own brood, and "At this rate you'll lose all your teeth by the time you're twenty." Still waiting for that one to come good.