Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Childhood Horrors

I do so love a coincidence.

I have been reading about memoir on Anne Goodwin’s blog, of late. It’s a fascinating subject, and a conversation has been building on her blog that has been quite enlightening. Anne also wrote two companion pieces, one a memoir and the other a fiction, both very short, and both rather good. I recommend you read them.

On Saturday night I was in the audience of the Britain’s Got Talent final, and I suddenly found myself plunged back into an event from my own childhood. It was hugely traumatic... the childhood event. I remember it vividly. I had nightmares about it at the time, and since. It's a story I've told from time to time over the years.

When I was about four years old, I saw an escapologist chained and suspended from a burning rope. His name was Alan Alan. On Saturday night, Darcy Oakes was straight-jacketed and suspended from a burning rope that was operating a man-trap.

I didn’t watch. I couldn't watch.

On Sunday morning I managed to find footage of Alan Alan on YouTube. The film is from 1979, from a decade or so after I saw his act, but it’s essentially the same.

This is Darcy Oakes performing last Saturday night.

I’m glad I didn’t watch Darcy Oakes's performance. I'm glad I covered my eyes. I’m also rather glad that I took the trouble to find Alan Alan on YouTube, and that I’ve now seen both pieces of footage side-by-side.

I’m not sure I’ve entirely dispelled those daemons. I’m not sure after four and a half decades that’s even possible. I do, however, suspect that particular nightmare is a thing of the past.

It does cross my mind, though, that there’s very little new in the world of entertainment. Darcy Oakes was impressive and many of us might not have seen this particular spectacle before. I know that Alan Alan was doing something similar at least 45 years ago. That doesn’t necessarily take anything away from the drama of Darcy’s act or from the skill or showmanship with which he performed it. I know how enthralled the audience was by this rather good magician. I could feel the tension in the studio, and I could hear the gasps, the sighs of relief and the huge applause he got from the people all around me when he escaped the jaws of that trap.

He chose his act well, and he delivered it flawlessly.

Time’s a funny thing, isn’t it?

I’m four and a half decades down the line. I’m a grown woman. I even have some idea how this act was performed and why it might have been possible that Darcy Oakes wasn’t in any real danger, and why Alan Alan, in his time, probably wasn’t either.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t watch. My heart was in my mouth. I was that four year old child, again, for a little while. 

Thanks to Darcy Oakes and the modern wonder that is YouTube, that’s one nightmare I don’t have to revisit. I wasn’t expecting to be reminded and then relieved of it, and, although I was rather blindsided by being confronted with it at the time, I’m rather grateful for the experience.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, Nicola and for linking to my blog. I'm afraid I can't face those videos (well, I probably could if I had to but would rather not) even now so must have been terrifying at age 4. I agree, some of our fears never completely go away – perhaps they just become fodder for fiction? And, of course, seeing the man in such jeopardy is exactly what we are supposed to do to hook our readers, but don't want to scare them away completely.