Team dovegrey are starting to file their reports and I have to say how sorry I was to miss social documentary photographer Martin Parr's 'Turkey and Tinsel' film premiere, so thank goodness the Happy Campers were there...
No tickets because this event involved queuing, and there are very strict rules about Port Eliot queuing...you absolutely don't save a place in the queue for a friend to join you at the last minute to save themselves the bother. I was still recovering from the day's interviews and so decided to give the whole thing a miss, and I am very sorry I did now because the reports the next morning, over that Fortnum & Mason's breakfast, were absolutely hilarious, but now you can read it for yourself...
The Happy Campers' night out at the cinema
The Round Room only accommodates about seventy people, so we were determined to be at the front of the queue to ensure that we were able to see the premiere of Martin Parr's documentary film, 'Turkey and Tinsel.' We hadn't been able to attend the Q and A session Martin had hosted that morning, which meant that I had very little knowledge of the subject. 'What are Turkey and Tinsel trips anyway?' I enquired of my more worldly wise companion. Linda replied that they are coach trips taken in the Autumn to places like seaside resorts, which would otherwise be very quiet in the off season. Older folk seem to be the target audience; Linda's mum has been on one of these, and provided useful inside information.
'So you mean the bus is full of Christmas decorations and the hotel pretends it is Christmas and they have a Christmas dinner and entertainments then they go home again and it is still November?'
If you are going to an event in the Round Room you are asked to take your shoes off so not to ruin the Aubusson carpet. After walking up and down the PE tracks all day my feet in their sandals were very dusty; I couldn't help thinking it would have been better for the carpet to keep my footwear on. I had my trusty cushion and a superior arm rest- one of those Grand Tour tables with the different coloured stone inserts on the top- and mused about the difference in comfort levels from our last cinematic experience here, watching The Leopard outdoors under a woolly blanket.
The film was laugh a minute. We were behind the camera with Martin Parr as we met the coach driver (a lovely man.......Christmas Day every Tuesday) and followed him around as he switched on his fairy lights and arranged various seasonal gonks on the dashboard. Pick -ups were next, stops around Walsall to collect those who would become our companions for the next hour. Very soon we became aware of a feisty old lady who would become the star of the show; full of life and mischief, she reminded us that these were people who were expecting a jolly good time, and would ensure that they had it! Later in the DGR tent Martin Parr told us that he knew almost immediately which characters on the trip would yield up the most entertainment and who would become the protagonists, so to speak. It was a story, after all.
Weston Super Mare. Rain. Tide out on a flat, grey shore. But tomorrow is Christmas Eve! The hotel staff welcome the guests with enthusiasm and affectionate banter. The evening kicks off with bingo and some ribald humour from the compere. He says to camera that he uses this gathering to assess how lively the punters are going to be that week.
When placed under a spotlight like this, you become aware of how strange some of the Christmas rituals are.....boisterous party games, turkey and the trimmings, a visit from Father Christmas (requires considerable suspension of disbelief), the Queen, dressing up, alarming kitsch decorations... There was a particularly scary automaton singing Santa that flailed its arms and fixed you with a gimlet eye. Martin Parr gave us rather too much of him, I thought.
But it's not all indoor fun on the Turkey and Tinsel trail. A trip to Sanders' Christmas emporium was organised where festive items could be purchased, presumably for the real Christmas yet to come. On Boxing Day, the crowd went to Clarks' Village, but this was a disappointment for some. ' We're staying on the coach', announced an unimpressed lady, staring bleakly out of the window at the persistent rain.
As we joined those who were now our friends for New Year's Eve, I began to reflect, as Martin Parr surely intended his audience to do, upon my own prejudices.
Who are we to judge what others find fun?
Why do we assume old people only want to knit, sleep and watch TV?
Incidentally, the film does not show a single person watching the box, the T and T crowd are there to chat, drink, explore, sing, dance. There was a lot of dancing, with one eighty year old lady becoming our very own Dancing Queen. Her energy would have put me to shame.
Martin Parr achieved a rare thing - a real connection between the viewer and those at the other end of the camera. We felt that we were laughing with, not at, his subjects. We were still smiling broadly as we filed out, suddenly emerging into strong evening sunlight.
Halfway down the hill I stopped. The cushion had gone AWOL again....