Tuesday, 28 December 2010


It's cold and the wind keeps lifting the curtain and tossing it, revealing the steel coloured sky outside. I am curled up in bed, the feather doona tucked under my chin with my chilly fingers creeping out to type. It is not, for all the world December in Queensland. It could be Autumn in the highlands. Next to me I have eat pray love splayed on the bed where I have been tucking in indulgently.

It's a polarising book. I have had friends that have panned it, and I see why - there is a level of self absorption without humour wrapped up in earnestness which is at times saccharine. But it appeals deeply as well. The recommendation which had me reading it in the first place gives it amnesty from its failings because I want to see what they saw. And about a third of the way through, what I see is me. I see that great desire to slip out of normal life and to just experience. I work very hard. Ridiculously hard, and the idea of just stepping out of that and doing something for me resonates as surely as the love of handmade pasta.

I am not like the author. I am perhaps more like her sister, the pursuit of everything driving me more, but I empathise strongly with the emotions she occasionally skips over. I know that fear and I know that passion, but in me it is more tightly curled. I do not give easily, although I always try to give generously. I never actually give myself. Well, normally.

I know friends that have never travelled alone. Who always travel with a friend, or a husband or someone. Because travelling with someone is creating your own private memory that you get to share. A reflection on all of those times that exists in more than just a few synapses and takes on a life of its own, living and breathing because if more than one person knows it then surely it cannot just be imagination. And I understand the appeal of that. Brussels for me exists for that very reason. But I also feel a deep seated yearning to travel on my own.

The pyjamas I am wearing at the moment are soft cotton in that silky style that Bingley knows that I love; and I am not sure if I love them more for that, or the satiny bow that holds them to my hips. Or more (and I know this to be the case) for the fact that they came in a little buttoned bag with a diamanted Eiffel Tower on the front. It is very childish to love something so much for its branding. The cheap marketing attempt to appeal to the cliche of Paris. But I want to live that cliche.

I had the opportunity many years ago to go to Paris. It was a short train trip away and I was on my own. But what stopped me was that it was not quite ready yet. Paris meant something to me that I didn't quite yet understand. But that one day I would, and would appreciate the stalling. I have of course always wanted to go, in the same way I have wanted to visit Rome and London and Prague and Copenhagen. And all the other towns that I pored over in my atlas. But in the last year there has been something else, a desperate craving as if there is something my soul needs from there that I must satiate.

Perhaps it is simply turning 30 next year, and cliches about epochs and must dos and bucketlists. But I have so many things on those lists that they are not so much buckets as bath tubs (the tublist was once a fond topic of conversation with a likeminded friend).

We were chatting one day at work about had we always wanted to be doctors, after I revealed yet another incarnation of what I had wanted to be when I grew up, Mathematician, Interpreter, Archaeologist, Physicist... A conversation that spawned when I tried to discuss relative time and the jimp worthy time dilation. I felt it tingle up and down my nerves as I explained how two clocks will tick at different speeds depending on the movement of the clock through space relative to the observer and he shook his head and declared it impossible while laughing that I was lit up like a Christmas tree. And he pointedly said that I had wanted to be an awful lot of things when most people settle on just one.

And he didn't say it admiringly. Or as if it was a good thing. Or a bad thing really, it was just a statement of observation. And I thought it summed me up nicely - a haphazard molecule of attraction that wants to be part of everything, but quite happily spinning alone in its mixed metaphorical nerdy universe.

But what this little molecule wants most right now is to go to Paris for her birthday, and wear a grey coat and a red scarf and long black hair with flowers in it and take a sketch book and smudge charcoal on her cheek without noticing. To drink mulled wine from a street vendor and speak rusty French and find a boulangerie. To create a little ephemeral bauble to hang each year on the Christmas tree of memories so that when the lights are all on they sparkle in the darkness.

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