You have thirteen hours in which to solve the Labyrinth before your alcoholic grandmother becomes one of us….forever. Such a pity. For me, Solving the Labyrinth turned out to be a lot easier than solving the riddle of being a kid.
During one of the worst years of my childhood, my mum returned from a hospital stay literally wreathed in pain. She’d had a hysterectomy, but something had gone wrong at the end of the operation and all I really remembered from that Winter was constantly turning up the music on my walkman to drown out the sounds of her sobbing in the bathroom. It was a grim, terrifying time: being an only child, you have a certain amount of fear tied up in the fact that there’s really just the two of you: my nan was a borderline alcoholic, and could really only be relied upon to provide unpredictable problems whenever she came back from the pubs.
After many calls and complaints to our local surgery (I even made one myself), the doctor came out and prescribed mum some serious painkillers, but these came with a price: hallucinations. I distinctly remember having lunch one day when my mum leapt up onto a sofa and shouted at me to get out the room. Thinking that there was some killer spider running free, I dropped my lunch and bolted from the room, only to discover that she was actually seeing a different room entirely: the floor was covered with books and an army of giant snakes were writhing in between them. I kid you not.
To make matters worse, people were trying to help in a variety of unhelpful ways. On one of my days off school, a form teacher – with the best possible intentions, I’m sure – had told my entire class that I was going through a lot of ‘pain’ and that they should be nice to me and make sure that I was okay. This culminated in girls I’d fancied and boys I’d scrapped with suddenly coming up to me in the hall and striking up conversations or giving me inexplicable hugs. I thought I’d suddenly become popular….until a mate told me about the ‘announcement’.
At this time, my nan and I were getting invited to a lot of parties, presumably because the family knew mum needed time alone to recover from her operation. It was at one of these, a Christmas party at my cousin Lisa’s house, that I first saw Labyrinth. I distinctly remember that the kids were playing Twister, a game I absolutely hated because it involved physical contact, and I was never that struck on being close to people. The TV was on in the background, and I could see some sort of squat, bulbous-nosed dwarf talking to a pretty girl in some sort of fantasy setting. I loved fantasy, but we tended to watch whatever nan wanted to watch on TV, so I rarely got a chance to see anything I was actually interested in.
Despite the TV being turned down while the games were on, I managed to work out that the girl was trying to save her brother from a gang of warty looking goblins who were apparently reporting to David Bowie. It was all very bizarre, but I was completely – and I mean COMPLETELY – lost in that world. People were talking to me and only getting vague answers. I was gone. I’d found a world I wanted to be in, and I wasn’t interested in coming out of my head: not to play Twister, certainly.
In the days that followed, I bought a copy of Labyrinth on VHS video, and watched it pretty much constantly…..in one big loop. I loved the world, I loved the girl, and I wanted to call David Bowie to come and take away my nan and her massive supply of gin: that way, I could go into that amazing Labyrinth, and if I couldn’t save her in thirteen hours it was no big deal: she could fall up and down his weird staircases instead of the ones at home.
Labyrinth was the first film I showed my son, Sebastian….but – as we cuddled up together on the sofa and he saw his first Jim Henson created monster – I remember making the comparison between his childhood and mine, and thinking how amazing it is just how much things can change given enough time.
Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me.
Solving the Labyrinth was originally written by Davey Stone in June 2014. Thanks for reading Solving the Labyrinth. Please follow the blog for more content!