Thursday 7 April 2011

Herefordshire, a place of the Odd

Borderlines approaches its final weekend now and whilst many have flocked for the big Hollywood hitters, some of the smaller events and screenings have captured audiences in the true rural spirit of the festival.

Last week on Tuesday and Wednesday the beautiful Moviebus (or vintage mobile cinema, as I prefer) in its gleaming ice-cream-esque colours parked up in High Town and Bodenham for two days of archive films.

Commissioned back in the day by Tony Benn, according to legend this is the last bus alive from the original fleet of seven created to show off projection technology.

Although Tuesday was a fairly murky day in High Town, over 100 passers-by had their day illuminated by a step into what’s surely Britain’s smallest cinema. Climbing up the tinny staircase, despite the setting of a bus you suddenly found yourself in a corridor of a cinema, complete with red velvet seating and some art deco lamp shades. I sat down and was soon melting into the chair in utter, relaxed bliss. Such tranquillity may have a lot to do with the calming archive films, which featured black and white documentaries on hops, a visit to Henry Weston's farm in Much Marcle and a sight at the now decommissioned Rosie press roller, responsible for the infamous Old Rosie Cider. However the highlight was a true dose of Herefordshire batty magic. My first commentary on Borderlines used this adjective, 'batty', in describing Leominster's Morrisers following their Friday performance, Coming Out of the Woodshed. I admit I used the word with a degree of hesitation and trepidation. However batty, meaning insane, crazy, eccentric, remains the most succinct word.

The Moviebus reinforced this idea of Herefordshire being a place with its fair share of batty people, ideas, customs and traditions. This was fully evident during my final 10 minutes with the Moviebus as we took a trip to Leominster and Bodenham with a posh yet likeable BBC presenter. Our first experience was in England's Gate pub in Bodenham, the destination where the bus would coincidently park up at the following day. Despite the gorgeous June weather the presenter set foot inside the pub to be confronted by a mass of Christmas decorations, festive greetings and an obligatory glass of mulled wine. The raucous bunch of locals amused themselves considerably as they roared over enthusiastic Christmas greetings with strawberries, cream and the English summer only a window away. After a hard financial year sometime in the seventies the landlord had decided to celebrate Christmas everyday and insisted his regulars followed suit. Judging from this scene they took little persuasion.

It got even odder. Our second encounter took us up the A49 where we arrived in a council house in Leominster, but by now it was dusk and the moon was full. Our nameless presenter continued his chatty charm and greeted the mother of the house. ''We've come to meet your family,'' beamed the BBCite as her first son ran out the door. Having memorised their names he pronounced each one, with 6 sons and 2 daughters running out one by one....... all clad tip to toe in Planet of the Apes garb. And we're talking the full hog. The masks, the hair, the armour, the weapons; everything. Pointing at the full moon, she explained they always do this at this time of the month. This was interrupted by the realisation of a missing chimp, her other son. With some dodgy acting as those on camera scoured adjacent gardens the camera panned up to reveal the final ape scrambling on the roof and eating the television aerial. We stayed with the apes who then took us to the pub, each ordering a pint and remaining in full character and costume until it was time to drink their ale.

I left the bus happy as Larry and arriving in Bodenham the following day I even had to peer through the window to check if the Christmas decorations were still up. They'd long gone.

Luke Owen

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