It’s the fiftieth anniversary of film of the The Sound of Music but I saw the stage version in London when I was a teenager- over fifty years ago.
A girlfriend and I had made the journey from Edinburgh to London aboard the Starlight Special. This was by overnight train, leaving Waverley late in the evening and arriving in London around 6 am the following morning. The attraction was the ticket price – five pounds sterling.
The £5 entitled us to a seat and a journey. We settled in a compartment where we were joined by a husband and wife who were making the same journey.
There were lots of lads aboard the train and we headed off to the buffet car, ‘for refreshments’ but really to eye up the talent. The drinks were flowing, there was a good natured fun crowd and the stewards joined in the laughter and fun. We headed back to our compartment at one point, but the husband and wife had stretched out full length on each side of the compartment taking up all the seats. With nowhere to sit we retraced our steps and joined in the party which was in full swing.
Around 3 am the revellers started to quieten down and we stayed on in the buffet car playing cards with a group of lads who had no intention of closing their eyes all night. We’d never played cards for real money before, but beginners’ luck was with us, either that or our competitors had really had far too much to drink. We arrived in London having doubled the spending money we had for the week!
We were staying with a television personality of the time, the days of live television. She got tickets for us for the Sound of Music stage show which would later become one of the most enduring favourite films of all time.
She had arranged for us to go backstage after the performance and meet the stars of the show. But firstly she told us not to tell anyone we had watched the show from the gods!
We duly went backstage. It was exciting and thrilling and another world, although the dressing rooms were smaller than we expected. After all the colour and atmosphere on stage during the performance, somehow backstage was duller, a bit jaded and didn’t live up to expectations. I knew there was something different about the man who was the leading character’s dresser, but didn’t understand what was different or why. It was to be quite a few years later before the penny dropped.
Fast forward eight years or so and I had a little boy called Raymond. I used to sing him the song Do Ray Me from the Sound of Music and call him my little ray of sunshine. In retrospect I don’t know why as he whinged and cried through the first two years of his life. It was so constant friends gave up asking what was wrong with him.
He was happiest when he was taking things apart. If he was silent you understood it was a clock or a watch which was being dismantled. It got so that when he entered the house of anyone who knew him everything that was musical or mechanical or could be wound up was hastily put out of his reach.
He didn’t sleep as a toddler but was content in his cot as long as he had his Fisher Price wind up musical toy with him. We would awaken in the early hours to the noise of the crank crank crank as his little fingers wound up the movement and drift off to sleep again to the gentle sounds of Little Boy Blue….
He wore the teeth of the movement completely out and the toy was eventually discarded.
He was my third child and as he got older would ask me, ‘Why didn’t you have me first?’ He had a reading age of 13 at 6 years old, so determined was he to be on the same reading books as his older brothers. He always wanted to run or cycle faster than anyone else and one time flew over the handlebars of his bicycle. I was on top of a ladder removing a brick fireplace at ceiling height when he came in the house screaming. His hand was covering his eye and blood pumped freely through his fingers. I thought he had lost his eye, but thankfully his eye was intact. He had a nasty cut on his forehead above his eye and a scar which he carries to this day.
He was two weeks’ late making his entrance into this life. I believe he has been trying to make up for those two weeks ever since. He arrived without warning and within five minutes of deciding it was time to make an appearance.
(We had friends staying that weekend with us, friends who were childless and who would remain so throughout their lives. They adored being in our home that eventful day in May.)
Many years later we went to Austria with Ray, one of his brothers and some others. We walked through the tunnelled avenue, and saw many of the scenes where The Sound of Music had been filmed.
I remember being on a coach going into Salzburg and this is where I learned I was no longer the mummy who had to take care of things for the little boys. The tour guide asked for either passports or some information and I opened my mouth to answer and deal with whatever was necessary. But the little boy – in my eyes anyway – dealt politely and calmly with what needed to be done. He was after all 27. I relaxed back into the coach seat, having learned that a part of my job was done.
The little boy now has boys of his own who have appeared on stage in theatre and musicals, film and television but not as far as I know in The Sound of Music, at least not yet.