Saturday, May 21, 2016

From the cutting-room floor - episode one

When they make a movie, the movie editor decides which bits to keep and which bits to chop out. In the olden days, before everything happened on a computer, the bits of film that were chopped out were literally dropped onto the floor - at least, that's where the saying comes from.

When I was writing Lilac in Black and White, the story quite often went off at tangents, in directions I hadn't really intended or ones that didn't necessarily make sense as part of the final tale. I couldn't bear to just delete all those hard-won words, though, so I kept them in another document where they could be little scenes from Lilac's life that had still happened. And now they can have their own moment in the sunshine, here on the blog.

This one is a conversation Lilac and her friend Agatha had at school one day:

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“What are you going to be for Halloween?” asked Agatha one day at breaktime. Katie Byrne, overhearing, piped up.
“I’m going to be a cowboy! I have red cowboy boots and a jacket with a fringe and a ten-gallon hat like J.R. on Dallas.”
“It’s a secret,” said Lilac.
It wasn’t really, but that didn’t mean she wanted Katie to know all about it. Katie was nice enough, but she always brought egg sandwiches for lunch and they were stinky. Lilac pulled Agatha away, around the other side of the grotto with the statue of Mary that they crowned with a tinsel crown every May. May must be the month of Mary because it was named after her, Lilac presumed. There was only one letter in the difference, so it must be.
“I haven’t decided,” she admitted. “I might be Mary, actually. I’d just need a blue dress and a white teatowel for my head.”
“Are you allowed be Mary?”
“Why not? People always dress up as Mary for the nativity play at Christmas. I’d need a baby too; that’s easy. You could be Joseph, if you like, with a hammer and nails and a fake beard. Or you could be a sheep.”
“I’d rather be an angel,” said Agatha, still not quite sure if it was an OK thing to be for Halloween. “But I was going to be a Japanese lady. Mum has this bright red dressing gown with patterns on it and she said we could put my hair up and make my face white with powder and my lips red.”
“That sounds nice,” agreed Lilac. “I couldn’t wear makeup if I was Mary, I suppose. She’d be like a nun and not allowed to wear any. Maybe I’ll be Cleopatra instead. But my mum always makes me wear a coat. I need to be something that still looks right with my coat on.”
“How about being a snowman? Then you could wear five coats and a hat and that would be your costume.”
“I have to think about it some more. There’s the bell. Don’t tell Katie, okay?”
“Of course not. She’d make us be Sue Ellen and Bobby.”
They went inside humming the theme tune to Dallas.


(Lilac had never actually watched Dallas, because it came on after the nine o’clock news when little girls should be in bed, her parents said. The news was boring anyway, so she usually went upstairs then and read a book until someone noticed her light still on and shouted at her to turn it off. But she knew the theme tune and the names of the characters, because it was just one of those things everyone knew unless they had no telly at all, like poor Angela Delaney whose parents thought it was bad for children’s brains. Angela couldn’t join in on any conversations unless they were about books.)

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