“High on a slightly-blurred hill…”


1966 is fondly remembered in England mainly for winning the World Cup. For me it was the year I was forced to watch The Sound of Music without my glasses.

I’d been wearing glasses since I was five and now, at nine, whilst I didn’t need them all the time, I did require them for watching TV and any film involving both Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

In the summer of 1966 I visited for the first (and last) time, the Isle of Wight. I stayed at the Ocean View Hotel which was a lie on two fronts: there was no view of any ocean (you could barely see the Solent) and it was more boarding house/prison than hotel.  Nearby Parkhurst was probably modelled on the routine there.

One evening’s entertainment was a trip from the “hotel” in Shanklin to the Odeon at Ventnor. We drove the 3.7 miles there and had bought tickets for the blockbuster musical from the previous year.  It was, after we collected our tickets, when I discovered I’d left my glasses back at the hotel.  3.7 miles was deemed too far to return to fetch them and my mother insisted I watch the film and suggested I squint (another reason she never made it as an ophthalmologist) through the entire 174-minutes.  In Germany they had a shortened version for their own cinema-going public which lasted only 138-minutes – I can only assume the scenes involving the Nazis were left out?

Watching the film with very indistinct vision meant I didn’t think the goatherd was all that lonely – I could see three of them; Maria didn’t have a few favourite things, she appeared to have bloody hundreds and in the scene where they sing: “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu” I wondered, with ostensibly fifty or more children (several of whom were sixteen going on seventeen) on the staircase, how on earth it didn’t collapse?

Climb every mountain? Which one, I can see a couple?

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