11 is my favourite number. Born on 11th of the month, and it’s that simple. Plus it’s elegant: symmetrical, clean, ‘lovely legs’ as the bingo callers on the east coast of England used to say when I was eleven. Whenever I see a digital clock at 11.11 I watch it until it changes and say thank you for time, for life, for mine. I did that yesterday morning on the bus to Theatreland Buenos Aires for a full minute and it was extra special: my phone told me that not only was it 11.11 but it was also the 11th. OK, I know it was February and not November but hell, 2 is really 1 and 1, and 1 and 1 is 11. And while we’re on the subject, 2009 is also 11 isn’t it? See. When you believe… all is possible. And I do. Oh how I do. Look, I can even turn the Obelisco into eleven, I’m that good.
Anyway, back to yesterday…
Me and C. made our way through the crush on Corrientes. “It’s like Florida,” he said – with the accent on the i. I guess the equivalent British expression would be, “It’s like Piccadily Circus.” It was. We dodged tourists snapping photos of black and yellow cabs, arms thrusting paper printed with promises of not to be missed bargain tarotreadingsEnglishclassesleatherjacketsalespizzadelivery, shoppers swinging their sacks of booty at our knees, men sleeping next to bags packed with donated bread, vendors selling fakedesignerwatchesperfumejewelry, children begging for ‘monedas’, the traffic. Finally we pushed open the doors of number 1565 and shhhhhhhh, we left the hot rush of the summer pavement behind, paid a mere $10pesos each, because it was Wednesday, and holding hands we climbed the cool marble stairs towards something that first came into my life when I was eleven.
In 1974 my family sat around the television and watched Sweden – well, mainly the huge platform boots, blue satin pants and blond hair of a woman called Agnetha – win the Eurovision Song Contest with some crazy lyrics about a battle called Waterloo (I didn’t know about love then). After that I wanted to be Agnetha, and I sang every song that she did, at top volume: while painting my bedroom walls bright yellow, pining after unattainable teenage boys, painting my bedroom walls all over again, crying over the spotty lads I landed and lost. Meanwhile unbeknown to me, across the Atlantic, in a place called Argentina, that I would not take note of until the Falklands War in 1982, Carlos was singing his little heart out to Agnetha too… God knows what lyrics he was making up: he must have understood not a jot, but the tunes were strong enough to wrap themselves around his memories, as they wound their way through mine.
More recently in adult-land Buenos Aires, I had a chance conversation with a woman whom I met because I am trying to follow my dream to be a better writer, and she told me about something on at number 1565 Corrientes that offered the best ‘feel good factor’ on the planet. I saved it until yesterday, not because I felt down, but because it was a day when I wanted to feel extra good. It worked.
In my view, the film of Mamma Mia is, for us teenagers of the ABBA era, from whatever land, a huge sigh of relief that the lyrics did actually make sense. Yet, there is more. For women of my age, this film is to know with absolute certainty that you and your mates could dress up in platform boots today, and belt out ‘Dancing Queen’ into a deodorant can or your hairdryer, maybe in the privacy of your bedroom, or maybe on Corrientes mid afternoon Wednesday, but preferably on a beach in Greece surrounded by men in their twenties with the bodies of Gods. It is to have no doubt whatsoever that if you do, even if you are tone deaf, the world will fall at your feet. Watching the oh so real woman Julie Walters leap up onto a wedding feast table to capture her chosen man with Take a chance on me is absolutely the antidote to fear: just bloody go for it Julie! Hearing Pierce Brosnan sing solo reminded me that it ain’t important how good you are at anything: he truly is not blessed in the vocal chord department, but he did it anyway and oh yeah I know he probably made a shed load of cash in the process, but I reckon he must have laughed from deep in his belly with the joy of simply having a go.
There is indeed a ‘feel good factor’ to this film that, for me, transcends the delicious ingredients of the simple madcap plot, some beloved and gracefully aging actors, the beautiful Greek Island setting, the English lyrics written by Swedes, the music of my past. Somewhere from the ‘on paper crazy idea’ that is Mamma Mia, pumps endless possibility and hope: that we can celebrate our age, be proud of exactly who we are, fly as high as we ever imagined we might and further, choose to sing and dance for joy (well or badly) every day of our lives.
Inside 1565 Corrientes, wrapped safely in the arms of ‘mi amor’, I laughed and smiled for nearly two hours until the moment just before the end when the young girl (daughter of the excellent Meryl Streep’s character) stands looking out over the sea and sings:
I have a dream, a song to sing
To help me cope with anything
If you see the wonder of a fairy tale
You can take the future even if you fail
I believe in angels
Something good in everything I see
I believe in angels
When I know the time is right for me
I’ll cross the stream – I have a dream…
Course a film like this ain’t gonna leave you crying even if it is with joy for dreams realised and streams crossed, and the final rousing scene sent Me and C. back out into the chaotic city street comparing the platform shoes of our teenage years, and left me trying to explain to my bemused Argentine the whole concept of the Eurovision Song Contest… we giggled and sang ourselves all the way back home to YouTube and 1974.
This morning I checked the link for the Premier Cine at 1565 Corrientes because if you’re after a cheap trip to the flicks, $10pesos on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday is pretty damn good these days, and to my amazement I saw that Mamma Mia has gone. It’s been on for weeks but yesterday, the 11th, was its last day. And checking my favourite cinema site, Cines Argentinos, I’m afraid that for now it has vanished from the picture houses of Buenos Aires altogether.
Ah. Obviously meant to be you see. The perfect birthday present waited just long enough for this little Dancing Queen, who may today be forty six and twenty four hours on the outside, but who will always be eleven at heart.
The sums of scheming angels:
11/02/2009 the day I saw Mamma Mia in Buenos Aires with C.:
11/2=1 and 1=11/2009=2+0+0+9=11: 11/11/11
1974 when I was 11 and I saw ABBA for the first time :
1+9=10 and 7+4=11: 1011: 111 or double 11
1982 when Argentina came into my life:
1+9=10 and 8+2=10: 1010: 11
Told you I was good!
PS. When the numbers don’t add up, I ignore them.
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