When it emerges, finally, that the car is not well enough to transport us all to the West for the Hallowe’en break, we get our thinking caps on. We will not fail them. Instead of frolicking on golden windswept beaches we’ll dot the break with other silver lined moments. Create new glorious memories. Double-quick.
We brainstorm. Just the two of us. He shoots. Collin’s Barracks. God. That’s hardly going to fill the void of the West. Nope. I shoot. A boat trip to Howth, fish & chip lunch. God. Cold and most likely wet. Nope. He shoots. An overnight in a hotel. God. We’ve a dog, remember? And no car to get anywhere. He takes another shot. A dog friendly hotel? God. I can smell it already. Nope. I shoot. A train to Rosslare, a fish & chip lunch. Back home to the dog. God. Too much hassle altogether. Beads of sweat begin to form. We’ve both taken annual leave for the week. Precious, beautiful annual leave. Stressed to the hilt. We need a lie down.
Right. Back to it. I shoot. I’d really love to get them all to the theatre. He lights up a touch. I search. I find it. A show for four days only, with a Hallowe’en theme. Perfect. In the Gaiety. Superb. At night. How very exciting. We book. The price of an overnight in a hotel. Oh well. But just think of the memories. I pinch myself. We won’t tell them. We’ll take them into Town for a bite to eat and hit them with the surprise. I’m semi-nauseous with excitement. This break will not be a damp squib after all.
We herd them into Captain America’s on Grafton Street. I haven’t been here since I was a kid and I can’t believe we’ve failed to do this with them already. One of Bono’s guitars sits above us on the wall. I get up to read the other memorabilia, Van Morrison and the like as they sip coke floats. I’m beaming like a Cheshire Cat. It’s a perfect start to the evening. Childhood memories flick past too – my best friend, her Dad and me in here having ice-cream Sundaes after Jaws.
‘Can you please tell us where we’re going after this?’ It’s hard to refuse a polite request. I look at the other parent. He looks at me. He nods. I tell.
‘We’re going to take you to the Gaiety theatre to see The Exorcist’. Ta-dah.
Marque 3 is nodding.
‘The Exorcist?’ He’s a little pale.
‘Yes, a play of it. It’s been on in the West End. Brilliant reviews. Can’t wait’.
He keeps nodding, in a sort of parental way. Like when a parent is pretending to see your point of view, but is going to say no anyway.
‘You’ve seen the film, right?’ he asks.
‘Of course we have, it’s going to be amazing to watch how they do it all on stage. Sooo excited’.
We scoot to the theatre via the Asian food market – their favourite place in town. Popping candy and funny flavoured drinks are bought. We’re ready to adventure on. We arrive in the foyer early and go on up to the bar to kill the time before we’re let in. It’s in the bar as we glance around and seem to be glanced at rather a lot that we notice it. The severe lack of children. Maybe they’re not here yet. We try to squish ourselves into anonymity but everywhere we stand we just seem to stick out and the interest in us is palpable.
‘Look’ marque 4 whispers to me. ‘A teacher’. I look over. Sure enough there she is, a teacher from marque 5’s primary school, looking with pronounced interest in our direction. God.
‘It’s a Hallowe’en show, put on in the children’s Hallowe’en break. What are you all staring at?’ I feel like shouting, but don’t. Creating memories, remember?
We retreat into the welcome arms of the upper circle and claim our seats. The children are very taken with the magnificent ceiling and chandelier. They snap merrily for Instagram while I wonder if we’re too high up and far away from the stage. For this perfect family occasion perhaps we should’ve booked the grand circle instead. I scan around to see if any other children have arrived yet. Nope. Then out of nowhere there’s a loud explosive bang. I scream, naturally, and it takes a moment for it to register that this is not a bomb, nor the ancient grand circle collapsing with exhaustion. It is in fact the start of the show. The kids are laughing in a slightly eye bulging sort of way. I retell it to myself. An excellent Hallowe’en fright to kick us off.
The curtain goes back and the actors emerge and not too soon after that I’m thanking my lucky stars that we’re so high up and far away. High enough up and far enough away not to be able to see too clearly. Especially if you’re only ten. Or only thirteen. Or even only fourteen. Or, let’s face it, sixteen. While I have a clear memory of levitation, spinning heads, shaking beds and projectile vomit from the film, I must’ve blocked out certain other parts. When the excellent actor playing 12 year old Regan pisses on the floor, well that’s okay. They watch Little Britain after all. What starts to come out of her mouth is far from okay. Pity the sound isn’t diminished by distance. I shrink down in my seat while adult couples all around us grab one another in fright and I try but fail to shove a coat over marque 5’s face as a crucifix wreaks havoc with said 12 year old’s nether regions. She thrusts and blood spurts and marque 3 turns towards me for just a second. Told ya, he seems to say, pale still, but thankfully he’s too kind to actually come out with it. As Sir Ian McKellan’s excellent demon voice rebounds to Regan’s mouth I whip out the tickets and examine them. At the bottom, in small-ish print I see it. ‘Recommended for 18+’. Brilliant.
We scurry out of the theatre, heads down, trying not to bump straight into the teacher from marque 5’s school.
‘Wasn’t that a wonderful unforgettable thing to do on the Hallowe’en break’ I say cheerfully when we’re all sitting at the back of the bus. No one seems to hear me. They’ve retreated to YouTube, and a semi-hysteria has set in. Tears are falling to laughter as a drunk guy scowls in the corner, annoyed by the post-traumatic gaiety.