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Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Evening at Ritz Cinema: Part 7

Leaving Ritz Cinema,
and lovely Thirsk,
is hard to do.

In asking Helen out that second time, James Herriot had felt that an evening at Ritz Cinema would be an easy date in which the two could simply relax together.  Instead, they faced all manner of distractions.  A cinema that opened late.  Boys who made crude noises all evening.  Giggling Maggie’s knowing glances.  A farmer who kept turning around and insinuating his cow had died due to Herriot’s negligence.  Sweltering heat.  Smelly old couches.  A deafening sound system.  And, ultimately, being assaulted by a drunk.  This fiasco hardly sounds like the beginning of a promising romance.  Compounded with the disaster of the Renniston, many young couples might conclude that they weren’t meant to be together.  Yet for Helen, that evening only increased her interest in James.  Why?

I suspect most everyone in Thirsk, from James’ employer Siegfried to Helen’s father, wondered why she chose James over the wealthy Richard Edmondson.  Whereas their first date at the Renniston Hotel cost James a month’s salary, she could have dined there with Richard every night.  Herriot hardly paints Ritz Cinema in glowing terms.  Had Helen wished to see a movie, Richard could have driven her in his Bentley.  They would have cruised through the countryside, in comfort and style, the envy of all they passed.  Eventually, they would have reached a larger city, one with an elegant cinema befitting their wealth and status.  In choosing James, Helen rejected a life comparable to that of the English royalty. 

The conventional wisdom seems to be that if an opportunity exists to better oneself, one should grasp it with both hands.  Yet, whether in regards to our choice of career, spouse, or lifestyle, some of us follow Helen’s example.  She saw something in the young veterinarian’s character worth pursuing.  Choosing James not only limited her financial prospects and lifestyle, but also meant she’d have far less time with him than with someone who had inherited wealth and didn’t have to work to keep it.  Yet, for her, the little James could offer her meant everything.  Nothing else mattered.

In all the trials of the evening that James Herriot records in All Creatures Great and Small, what strikes me is that he never complained.  Instead, he modeled tolerance and respect for others.  A couple times, most significantly when the cinema showed a low-budget Western instead of the film about Scotland he had looked forward to seeing, he grew irritated.  Yet each time, Helen assured him, “I don’t mind.  It doesn’t matter.”

After our evening at Ritz Cinema, I chatted with a young worker at our hotel just outside Thirsk.  Although he had lived in the area for several years, he had never visited Ritz Cinema.  Instead, every weekend he hopped in his car and headed East across the North York Moors.  He told me about the novel and high-tech aspects of the modern multiplexes he frequented with his friends in Scarborough.  As it was far closer, I suggested he give Ritz Cinema a try.  Yet for him, those modern features, not to mention spending time with his friends in Scarborough, meant everything.

We had visited Ritz Cinema to experience a Herriot connection.  While the other incidents in his life are told no less colorfully than his second date with Helen, this was an event that we could, to some extent, replicate.  In doing so, we not only sampled an aspect of local life, but celebrated an event that signaled the true beginning of James and Helen’s romance.  If that had been all we experienced, we would have left satisfied.  Yet the staff worked hard to made us feel comfortable and valued.  The other patrons were considerate.  The movie started and ended on time; we weren't inundated with commercials.  The temperature was comfortable, the ambiance pleasant.  In short, the evening proved a joy from beginning to end.

I can’t help but think that, if I lived in Thirsk, I’d regularly attend Ritz Cinema.  With its affordable admission prices and concessions, with all the extra acts of service they offer, and with their ability to satisfy modern expectations while still retaining their historic and unique identity, my wife and I felt perfectly at home there.  As Helen might say, next to that, nothing else matters.

Where I’d like to belong,
Dragon Dave

For July, I'm trying to tell a story on Twitter.  Each entry provides a link to that particular post, and interacts with it in a symbolic way.  I have no idea how the story will develop, or for that matter, how it will end. (At the moment, I'm not even sure what tomorrow's post will cover).  If you'd like to follow along, and see how my experiment evolves, you can find me at @DavidDunham_DC 

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