While I have an instinctive dislike of television, I am an avid lover of stories. I have found great delight in novels for as long as I remember – having fallen asleep to the sound of my mother’s voice reading The Lord of the Rings to my older siblings years before I was old enough to discover the delights of reading for myself – and I derive great enjoyment from films. Books have, to resort to a cliché, been constant companions, and I have found within their covers not only comfort and escape, but great –if often subtle – learning. As my mother’s favourite author, Ursula K. Le Guin, wrote, “When we’re done with it, we may find—if it’s a good novel—that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we’ve never crossed before.”
With my husband away, I have been indulging in watching films about Paris, daydreaming about my ‘one night in Paris’ to come later this year, following our 11th wedding anniversary and at the very end of a sports tour that will take us to both Belgium and France in September. With a little over 24 hours to indulge in the city before flying back to South Africa, I am free to daydream of boat trips down the Seine, and feeling the wind in my hair at the top of the Eiffel tower (will there be a wind? Will it be raining, or warm, and does it really matter? I find the joy of exploring new places generally makes me grin with delight, even when it isn’t at all as I have imagined, and my feet ache from a long day of traipsing unknown streets). I am surprised, somehow, that after nearly eight years of living in London, and fairly frequent travels to Europe, the closest I have been to Paris thus far in my life is driving around it on the motorway in rush-hour traffic, seeing little more than concrete walls and frustrated or resigned motorists.
I find myself, however, feeling somewhat exasperated tonight that films and novels – stories, that is – almost inevitably wrap everything up so neatly. Ah, that old, bitter ‘Happily Ever After’ vexation we all feel sometimes I’m sure.
There have been numerous times in my life when, facing difficult and potentially life-changing decisions, I have wished to know how the story ends: what will the overall tale of my life be, and how will this particular decision fit into it? It reminds me of some lines from a poem I wrote as a teenager, twisting an assigned essay on the famous line ‘All the world’s a stage’ into a poem – something that broke the rules, as was my tendency at the time:
But if all the world’s a stage
And we play our parts page by page
Then why can’t I cheat
And just take a peek
At the future, the past and the present? Continue reading