CHARLIE AND THE LACE FACTORY

 

Monday 4th May 1904, Grand Theatre Radford Road, Hyson Green

Evening performance of Sherlock Holmes over, Charles Chaplin aged 15

Collar askew from a swift costume change leaves Billie the page boy behind

And cheekily slaps the final drop curtain just below King Charles head

The sun-light overhead sputters and dies leaving the stalls gloomy

As he exits through the corridor of mirrors, flickering like a film

 

He turns left on to Gregory Boulevard which is quiet now, audience departed

The half-moon illuminates the Forest park to his right, a few stars above the trees

Cold now he huddles in his thin jacket, stuffs hands in pockets and half-runs

Ahead the last tram descending the Mansfield road clatters in the darkness

A cab rattles past him headed toward Hyson Green its two jovial occupants singing

 

Then silence, just his own steps and far off an occasional cry, or clack of hooves

Latecomers emerging from the Grovesnor Hotel or workers leaving late shift

At the Mansfield Road a sudden burst of steam and noise as a train exits the tunnel

Then silence again as just Charlie and his shadow dance their way up Sherwood rise

Carrington Market is busy with late drinkers fresh off their factory shifts

The rumble of machinery echoes across the granite sets, mixes with brewery smells

 

A quick tap at the door and Mrs Hodgkinson lets him into his digs at number 100

From the back high window he looks down on the Burton and Sewell factories below

Their dark brick walls dotted with illuminated floors of workers making lace

Women on one floor tending the bobbins and un-twirling long lines of thread

Below men tending to the machines as they endlessly repeat their movements

He thinks he catches a smile from one young girl but she is gone in an instant

 

He is left hanging out of the top window watching clouds cross the moon

His only companion a rabbit hidden beneath the bed can be heard scratching

He feeds it leftover stale bread he’d been given that morning

Watches the endless repetitive machines coming and going over and over

The steady hum of machines that brought him to this place, steam and iron

The flicker of images that will be with him throughout these modern times

 

He thinks of his mother in confinement, his brother tending a bar in London

He hardly speaks except when on stage and wanders a different town weekly

Too late to play loudly he picks up his fiddle and bow one more time

And stood in the window, in moonlight, imagines himself a famous musician

He glides the bow gently across the strings, hardly a sound can be heard

He serenades the men and women below, all the world his stage forever…

 

  1. The lace factory now a care home behind imported plastic net curtains

A woman in her 80s suffering dementia suddenly remembers her mother speaking

About a night she saw Charlie Chaplin playing to the stars but no-one believed her

How one day he’d return and play one last reel for her….forever.