This piece is taken from “1000 Memories”, available as a Kindle book here (UK) or here (US).
Bird’s Eye Supermousse
My brother Jim and I were in an advert, for Bird’s Eye Supermousse. There was a chocolate bar called supermousse at the same time but this was a pudding, sweet, creamy stuff in a plastic pot. We missed two days of school. A minibus picked us up from Wellesley Road early in the morning and dropped us home late in the afternoon. We had to get up earlier than on a school day, and we got home later than we did from school.
The bus took us to a film studio. It was February. We had to get changed out of our winter clothes and into ragged clothes which we stayed in all day. The changing room was really cold. I was in a different changing room from Jim. He was with bigger boys. I didn’t know any of the other boys in my room. They all ignored me, talked among themselves, apart from one boy who was really friendly, who told me what was going to happen. We had make-up put on our faces, dark stuff like shoe polish to make us look dirty.
The advert was that scene from Oliver where Oliver Twist asks for more. We were all dressed in rags like the boys in the orphanage. The boy who played Oliver looked familiar. I was sure I’d seen him on TV or in a film.
“Please sir, I want some more.”
They did this over and over again.
All the grown-ups seemed really grumpy, didn’t talk to us at all. Someone went round spraying smoke everywhere. It looked like the smoke they had at 11 o’clock mass, incense, but it didn’t smell the same. It smelt cold, but incense smelt warm.
We just had to sit there, at the table, looking miserable. It wasn’t difficult. I was cold anyway and nobody was talking to me. Jim was on the other side of the big room where they were filming us.
The most fun part of the filming was when we all banged our spoons and bowls on the long wooden tables shouting “Bird’s Eye Supermousse” as loud as we could.
On the second day we finished earlier than we did the day before. We were given sweets, as many sweets as you’d get on your birthday, and I was allowed to be with Jim again.
We waited for the advert to come on TV but it was months later before we saw it. I only saw it in full twice, and I couldn’t see myself in it. I saw the end of the advert a few times. If it came on whoever was in the room would shout out to the rest of us, like we did when Chiswick House Grounds was on TV. By the time I got to the room I only saw the last few seconds.
My sister saw a different version of the advert, where they showed some boys sitting under a staircase, looking frightened and miserable, and she said that I was there, she could see me really clearly for a second or two. I never saw it though.
We didn’t tell anyone at school that we’d done an advert. We weren’t supposed to.
NOTE: This piece, from September 2017, contains more information about the TV advert, and has a link to it, from The Alan Parker Film Company Showreel (1977) on YouTube: https://thecompartments.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/a-1970s-tv-commercial-featuring-me-and-my-brother/