Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Into The Past
Imagine you are walking on a crooked little street deep in the heart of Paris. There are puddles floating on the cobblestones like lily pads - they linger from an afternoon shower, reflecting the glow from the street lamps that line your pavement path. Weary of your romantic sensibilities being patronized and misunderstood by your more literal companions, you have finally taken your leave and are now, quiet blissfully, alone. Pausing by some ancient stone stairs, you listen as somewhere a clock strikes midnight. You start at the the sound of a car making its way round the corner and turn to see a yellow Peugeot Landaulet pulling to a stop at your feet. The automobile door opens and you are invited inside. You peek into the lavish, upholstered interior. You gaze in at faces from long, long ago, faces belonging to your idols of the past - Ernest, Zelda, F. Scott. You hesitate, but only for an instant, before climbing aboard this transport to another age.
This is a scene from the wonderful escape of movie, Midnight in Paris, and it actually made me ache with envy. Oh, just imagine! It is a hot summer afternoon and I have just left the library to begin the walk back home, when a car such as that pulls up to the curb, the door swings open, and I bend to look inside. Just what would I see? Which past era holds for me such fascination, such longing, that I would happily jump right inside? Whose are the faces that would peer back into mine?
As a child I was enthralled by Elizabethan England, and how I would love to sit down for a chat with that most formidable lady. To stroll along the Nile in conversation with Cleopatra. To take tea at Haworth parsonage with Charlotte, Emily and Anne. To sit talking with Churchill as he painted by the river in Marrakesh or to follow Edith Wharton round her garden in France. Imagine arguing over lunch at Charleston at the height of the Bloomsbury days, or strolling the Ringstrasse in 1880’s Vienna in a silk lilac dress. I could play in the dusty streets of 1930‘s Monroeville, Alabama with Harper Lee and Truman Capote or perhaps sit silently in the corner of Oxford’s Eagle and Child pub on a Tuesday morning, listening to members of The Inklings discuss their latest works. I could witness a performance of Henry V in the original Globe Theatre before the Puritans torn it down. Or perhaps visit The Cavern in Liverpool to listen to four local boys perform their new songs.
So many choices, just where would I go?
Like so many romantics, for most of my life I have been utterly convinced I was meant for another time. A time more gracious, less crowded. An era in which nature far overshadowed steel and concrete and the popular music of the day was Mozart, Gershwin or Bach. The movie, Midnight In Paris, understands how universal and constant is this longing for a golden age, for in the movie, even those from the past seem to long for the past.
As L. P. Hartley so famously wrote, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”. Differently yes, but better, I don’t know. Would I trade my world of air-conditioning and antibiotics, indoor plumbing and iPods for one in which I could easily die from both a visit to the dentist and the plague, where I had to wash my clothes on a rock and couldn’t keep my favourite coffee ice cream in my kitchen freezer? Probably not. But that is exactly what makes the life of the romantic such a happy one. We can always dream. We can close our eyes any time we like and step inside a totally different, completely golden, era. Perhaps we would not choose to stay, but a visit would be lovely.
So, if that big yellow Peugeot pulls up beside you tomorrow, just who would you see sitting inside?
My daughter Meg had to make a two minute film as part of an art project about "Flight" ....
she decided on the theme of a red balloon that flies away ... loosely based on "The Red Balloon" and with the help of our lovely little friend Sophie .... they filmed at our local beach on a cloudy winter afternoon.
Meg in her role as film maker.
Her little actress Sophie worked like a real trooper running up and down the beach again and again .....
(so good to work with good actress and she only wanted to be paid in lollies !!!)
The dogs managed to swindle their way into the film too.
The final shot of the balloon slowly flying out of sight ....
and it's a wrap .... now the editing begins, I can't wait to see the finished product. Well done girls, what a great team !!!