I'm Olly Pwengl and this is my blog. It's about my experience of being a man and hitting middle age. I have called it Road Map of a Mid-Life Crisis because middle aged men like maps and I hope some people will stumble across the blog while looking for directions to their mother's care home or whatever destination they might have in mind. In which case they will be disappointed because RMOAMLC describes the journey I am on; it should not be used as a guide by anyone else. If at any time you feel inclined to copy something I have done or you think that my experience offers useful insight as to how you should tackle issues in your own life it is likely that you need professional help. Do please read on and leave your comments.
Sunday, 16 September 2012
ROAD MAP OF A MID-LIFE CRISIS (12) “OSCAR; I AM YOUR FATHER” A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I was still married and when my children thought I could do no wrong, we made a film; “Star Wars Episode VII The Search for Yoda”. There is no doubting it was an ambitious project for our first feature. I will readily admit that the plot was fairly threadbare, the special effects amateurish and the production values not those of George Lucas, and yet…. I am staring at the VHS cassette now as I go through a box of old stuff, reminders of a life left behind. I have no means of playing the tape but if memory serves the film was an undoubted classic of home cinema; a definite cut above the usual sun drenched, poolside antics and the solemn recording of early years’ birthdays. I remember that in the film I played Obi-Wan Kenobi (the Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan rather than the Alec Guiness version). For some reason that I cannot now recall, my costume consisted of an old beige mac and trousers tucked into blue football socks. Eldest son Emil who was 7 at the time played Vader and Oscar who was 5 played Yoda and any other characters who Vader needed to kill with his light sabre. The film was shot on location in the kitchen, back garden, driveway and, the climactic final scene, in Oscar’s bedroom. As I think back I get a warm glow and then I have an idea. I will get the tape converted to DVD. I will play it to the boys and they will see the wonderful time we had making the film and it will reinforce our bond, bring us closer together. In fact I will post it on You Tube so the whole world can see what a great time we had making the film. We will become a You Tube sensation. It is now some weeks later. I have the converted cassette on DVD and am ready to play it for the first time to Emil and Oscar. At least I would be if Oscar wasn’t so busy killing Nazi zombies on COD and Emil wasn’t sulking because he wants to watch wrestling. This isn’t the warm happy atmosphere I had anticipated for our father son bonding session but I plough on regardless. Brandishing the DVD I say, “Lets watch this,” with a forced joviality which the boys fail to pick up on. Their reaction, if I’m honest, lacks any real enthusiasm. “What is it?” asks Emil, sullenly. “Do you remember years ago when we made that Star Wars film? Eh! Eh! You remember.” Emil nods and begins to look vaguely engaged. Oscar’s eyes roll to the back of his head as if I have asked him to write thank you letters to elderly aunts. I cajole them into sitting down and put the DVD in the player. The title sequence begins to play. My voice can be heard humming the theme music until it trails away theatrically to on screen giggles from Oscar. Then the iconic “Far far away” intro script, stretching to infinity, before the camera switches to focus on the boys sitting at the kitchen table. Gorgeously young and wide eyed they stare at the camera in between frantically drawing primitive Star Wars pictures. The boys sitting either side of me are engrossed by their younger selves. The camera zooms in on their art work to reveal a kaleidoscope of flashing light sabres. Then we move outside to the front garden and a close-up on three Star Wars action figures and it is at this point that I obviously decided to add an ironic post-modern twist to our movie. Instead of just filming the boys as they play with the figures, I start to question them in the manner of a documentary maker. They look at the camera bewildered Then we are back inside. Oscar’s blue duvet cover is draped over the back of 2 dining room chairs to provide an authentic deep space backdrop and a Lego model of the Millennium Falcon is wobbling in mid air suspended on lengths of string. As the camera pans out we see Oscar stood on the table manoeuvring the spacecraft and fielding more of my inane questions. Beside me on the sofa, Emil snorts with laughter and I am pleased that he at least is enjoying the show. “We should put this on You Tube,” I say. “Yes, can we?” asks Emil enthusiastically. “Sure,” I say although in truth I have no idea how to do it. Oscar lets out a sorrowful sigh and pulls his knees up to his chin. The scene shifts to a shot of my feet. I am delivering my lines in my best Obi-Wan voice but suddenly I snap, “I’m not in that shot at all, am I?” My voice is ill tempered and jars with the feel good atmosphere I was hoping to create. The camera pans up to show me glowering at the hapless Emil as he operates the camera. Next the big fight scene in which Vader’s hand (a glove) is chopped off in a light sabre duel before we scour the house looking for Yoda. The climactic final scene occurs in Oscar’s bedroom. He has spent several minutes in make-up to prepare for his starring role. His face has been painted green and he is wearing something that looks suspiciously like the shepherd’s outfit from the school nativity. As a finishing touch he is sporting two enormous ears made out of paper, cut to shape, coloured green and fastened to his head by means of an elastic band. As the camera enters his room Yoda emerges from beneath the bed to cries of “found him!” but instead of hanging around to milk his moment in the spotlight he makes a beeline for the door and disappears from view. It is only at this point I remember that Oscar had been reduced to tears because the elastic band fixing his ears had been too tight. The final credits roll. On one side of me Emil is smiling and asking if we can watch the whole thing again on the other Oscar has his head buried in his knees. I put my arm around him and hold him tight. I sense his shame and the memory of pain that is evoked by watching this film. Inside I feel a pang of dread as I realise that in years to come my boys will look back on their childhood with a totally different perspective from me and I pray they will forgive me for the pain I have caused them.