A young girl in a bombed out part of London wants to make something beautiful so she plants a garden in a ruined church with the help of her friend. Her parents and the authorities don't ...
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A young girl in a bombed out part of London wants to make something beautiful so she plants a garden in a ruined church with the help of her friend. Her parents and the authorities don't understand why she wants to do this. Written by
Steve Crook <email@example.com>
Showing non-stop in my head for more than 40 years....
In 1958, at the age of eleven, I found myself scurrying to the Regal in Sidcup High Street three times in the same week to watch the same picture. No film had affected me in such a way before, and none has since.
The first day I saw it, I imagine that my mother had grown tired of me under her feet during a long school holiday, and probably gave me enough money for a ticket and choc-ice. When I reached the cinema, and saw the title 'Innocent Sinners', I thought the film must be something to do with religion, and began musing on what else I could do with the shilling and sixpence in my pocket. Indeed, if it had not been for a sudden downpour, I would almost certainly have sought other entertainment and never have seen the film which has been whirring away on the projector in my head ever since. How I wangled my two other completely secret visits that week, I have no idea, but I financed them from a private hoard of pennies I had been accumulating. The plain fact was that I empathised so much with Lovejoy Mason and felt so much part of her world that I could not wait to get back to it. I was holding my breath with her in the chapel when she was about to pilfer the candle money; I was down on my knees with her in the street scooping up the horse droppings....
Now, at the age of 54, I have just read Rumer Godden's wonderful 'An Episode of Sparrows' properly for the first time - a very belated attempt to discover why the film it inspired meant so much to me.
I can only think that the answer lies quite simply in the inspirational character of the irrepressible Lovejoy (played brilliantly by June Archer) and, in particular, the 'freedom' she won for herself. This young girl, against all odds, and through stubborn persistence and street-wise ingenuity, had created what was quite literally her own patch of freedom, her own escape from an often-wretched grown-up world. However, it was not only adults from whom she had to conceal her tiny retreat. It was a patch of potential beauty too, and therefore had to be kept secret from local gangs of marauding boys. In fact, for weeks no one knew or, in the case of her useless mother, cared, about her first little garden's existence. If true freedom is when no one else knows what you are doing, then for a while she certainly achieved this -and, defiantly, right under the noses of all.
And when that initial horticultural effort was discovered and so mindlessly destroyed, Lovejoy's indomitable spirit shone through as she set to work on a bigger, better sanctuary: one, it turned out, that was going to affect the lives of many people. If all this sounds just a bit too serious, it should be added that the film (and novel) was also at times very funny indeed.
Tony Rand, London, May 2001
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