Monday, 3 February 2014

Saving Robertson Ay

I don't think it's an overstatement to say that I was obsessed with Mary Poppins when I was eight.  There were no videos or DVDs when I was that age, so I spent most of my spare time playing the music and replaying the movie in my head.

The fetish continued. I dressed up as Mary Poppins the Hallowe'en I was nine and insisted on saying "Supercalifragilistic thank-you!" when we got treats, until the friends with whom I was trick-or-treating begged me to stop.

On windy days, I'd feel the pull on my umbrella and pray that just this once, I'd finally sail over the rooftops.

It wasn't only the film. (Although, frankly, I would have killed to become Julie Andrews.)  The movie brought me to the books which I collected and devoured and re-read.

By the time my little girls discovered Mary Poppins, the magic wore off a little, possibly rubbed away by sheer repetition, DVDs being readily available.

Still, I'm not sure if I can fully articulate my excitement when I discovered last fall that Emma Thompson (Emma Thompson, the closest I've come to a full-on girl crush) would be playing PL Travers in Saving Mr Banks.  Elder daughter emailed from Halifax:  "We're going to this, right?"

And we went. And it was a skillfully-made picture -- entertaining, a wee bit manipulative, but it's Emma Thompson, people.  (All I ask -- all I ask, please -- is a movie, or television series starring Emma Thompson, Julie Andrews and Alex Kingston.  Wouldn't you watch it?)

And at the end, I found myself fighting tears.  Now, they have PL Travers watching Mary Poppins and weeping, giving the erroneous impression that she was moved.  (As far as I can tell, she never came to terms with the Disney-fied versions of her precious characters.)  But I was weeping -- struggling not to weep --- because I had been blind-sided by memories.  I had forgotten about how much that movie had meant to me when I was eight, and how much the books meant to me when I was nine.

And I had completely forgotten Robertson Ay.  There's a story in Mary Poppins Comes Back (the second in the series) when we hear the back-story of Robertson Ay, the Banks family's perpetually sleepy gardener.  Part of me thinks that Robertson Ay, not Mr Banks, is based on PL Travers' dreamy and alcoholic father.  And I know a little bit about that.

So I sat while the cinema emptied, thinking about a nine-year-old girl with an umbrella on a windy day.


Rob said...

I loved the film too. I saw it when it came out first, but for some reason never read the books until I read them to my daughter. I loved the intricate way the first two books mirro each other's structure. And I'd forgotten Robertson Ay. But now I have the book on my Kindle, so I can reacquaint myself with him.

Lovely piece, and an even lovelier one about your father in the link.

Persephone said...

Why, thank you, Rob!