You’ve had lots of adventures, he said. I know, I said, I know.
Even so there was still a little frisson. I can’t call it envy, for I am not envious, not at all. I am pleased for her, for them. For it is a brave thing to sell up and go abroad. And he is right. I have done the same thing many times. And each time was such a thrill. All that promise of newness – sometimes in the sun, sometimes not. I am a romantic and I yearn to travel. To be off. On an adventure.
He mustn’t worry, mustn’t fret. I am not unhappy. I do know that for all the thrill of being-off there is a that big comedown when one is landed. For all that stuff one is hoping to leave behind follows, in tow, like Robert Bly’s black bag. The inside is the same, wherever we are. So it is OK to be here. Yes, I thought as I sat on the bench in the sun watching a blackbird hop about in the long, impossibly green, grass, it is OK to be here. And yet, I celebrate their braveness, as I have celebrated my own. I remember a friend’s mother going to live in Greece. She didn’t have a house to sell. She had nothing. Before she died she was living in a caravan out there. I met her once and I liked her. A gentle woman, yet so vital, free even. She’d been married to a policeman. Leaving all that behind meant she could be herself. The inside, this time, made sense – finding peace, as it did, with the outside.
Simon Mayo interviewed someone about circuses. They are not what they used to be. England was famous for its animals, the man said. I remember. The elephants, the horses dressed-like ballerinas and the little dogs with ruffs walking on their hind legs pushing prams. Were there lions? The smell is what I remember most. The smell of animal sweat. Animal anxiety. Just like zoos. I used to find circuses unsettling. They were too manic, too fast. On the verge of hysteria. Are they better now that there are no animals? Do people still want to run away and join the circus? Simon Mayo asks his guest. Oh, yes, he said, I still get letters.
Where would you run away too? Not Italy, he said. No? I said. No, we’d go to Northern France, he said. Yes, I said, that would be lovely. When shall we go?