Just Supposin’

I wander down to Tesco where the Paradise Cinema used to stand. I saw Gregory’s Girl there. Funnily enough, sitting in the back of a taxi heading into Caracas a few weeks ago, I thought of Andy and Charlie, the two gormless boys who try to hitchhike to the Venezuelan capital because they’ve heard there are eight women to every man.

I was tired, hung-over, dehydrated and anxious to get to the hotel for some shuteye before the translation seminar in the morning. Two ghostly Venezuelan kids appeared on the top of a flyover. They were waving a placard with “Cumbernauld” written on it.

I must’ve dozed off. During my short stay, the only offers I got were from whores of all ages and sexes around my hotel in Sabana Grande. There were more women on the streets than men, transexuals or children. Only just. Sorry to disappoint you, Andy. It’s not how you imagined.

Missing starring Jack Lemmon, another film with a South American connection, went over my head back then. However, Charles Horman’s words to his wife come to mind now: “Don’t worry. They can’t hurt us. We’re Americans.” Costa Gavras’ film focuses on Charles Horman and Frank Terrugi; two victims of Pinochet’s coup. Football stadiums and theatres of war were never far from proceedings.

I saw War Games as well, shortly before the Paradise closed down. It was the summer when Platini’s free kick squirmed under Arconada’s body in the European Championship final in Paris. The threat of nuclear war loomed large over our lives. On the way out of the cinema, I half-expected to be enveloped in a mushroom cloud at any minute. We were mere particles of the nuclear generation. Friday night. Relaxation time. People escaped into cinemas, pubs and leisure centres at the weekends. So what if there was going to be a nuclear war. Might as well get wasted and go for a ride because life is short.

My pals speculated about what they’d do if there was a four minute warning. Grab the nearest Dee Hepburn, Debbie Harry or Daisy Duke was the typical reply. I preferred Clare Grogan; singer and actress rolled into one.

On Panorama one evening, the reporter said the odds on a nuclear war in the 80’s had been reduced to 10/1. It was worrying enough that people over the pond had seen fit to vote in a Hollywood actor ahead of a peanut farmer, but surely no-one would be daft enough to place such a bet. How would you collect your winnings if we were all reduced to atomic dust? Perhaps the money would serve as some sort of compensation if you and your bookie were fortunate enough to survive. Yet, when war came it was conventional and eight thousand miles away in the South Atlantic.

Excerpt from Countries of the World © Steven Porter/Breogan Books 2011


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