Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Living in Narnia

I went there with my sister. In the holidays we had long weeks with nothing to do but whatever we could find to amuse ourselves with. Eva, the Norwegian au pair who took care of us, had a serious boyfriend she was in love with which meant that she was always in a good mood but also not particularly present; so we could do more or less what we liked, and sometimes she would forget about lunch or supper. We didn’t mind. My sister was nearly six years younger than me and I was used to looking after her, as she was used to relying on me for the next thing, the next game to play or place to be.

I made Narnia in the space above the built-in wardrobe in our bedroom. To access it we needed the wooden stepladder. Once inside, the space was generous enough for the two of us to sit comfortably with our sandwiches, biscuits and fruit, or whatever I could find that would most closely resemble the tea that Mr. Tumnus the fawn made for Lucy that first time she stumbled through the wardrobe into Narnia and perpetual winter. Really there should have been a boiled egg but that would have been too difficult. There should also have been an iced cake with a cherry on the top. I improvised. The cake was made of plasticine. It was old and all the colours had bled into each other long ago so the cake was a kind of sludge brown with streaks of pink and turquoise through it. I found a red marble that served as the cherry. The walls of the above-wardrobe space were covered with our drawings of the Narnian forest, Mr. Tumnus’s sitting room and Aslan the lion, true King of Narnia. We had to keep the doors open a little so as not to sit in darkness, and the green and yellow daylight, the sound of Eva vacuuming the flat as she sang along to pop tunes on Radio Luxembourg, slightly broke up our perfect Narnian winter. We needed a candle so I rummaged around in the sitting room cupboard where my mother kept the Christmas things. My grandmother sent beeswax candles from Germany; they had a mellow, even light and gave off a scent of honey. I stuck the candle to a saucer and we closed the doors to the outside world, even though Lucy would have said that it is a very silly thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe.
“You’re very clever,” said my little sister. A selection of stuffed animals were with us, pressed against the wall and corners. Benjamin, the largest bear, was Aslan and Alfie the monkey was Mr. Tumnus. We ate our sandwiches which I had cut into triangles. On each triangle I had put a small decorative flourish with Heinz tomato ketchup or Daddies brown sauce. There was a small bowl full of raising and peanuts. “You’re a good cooker,” said my sister munching a sandwich. I read an excerpt from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the part where all four children had found their way to Narnia and are in the house of the beavers.

Eva absent-mindedly put the stepladder away and called out to see where we were. My sister was about to push open the door and call back but I shook my head and whispered, “let’s hide.” So we did, just like the Pevensey children had, and Eva thought we must have gone off to the playground. And when we jumped down, back into the ordinary world, no-one had really noticed our absence. Just like in the book.

Which is a long way of saying that I’m going to be retreating for a month or so – maybe not into Narnia but, you know – the place where story comes from. And I’ll be closing the door, but not completely –

Be seeing you.


Cusp said...

Hope you've packed enough sandwiches, cake and candles for a cosy sojourn in your own little world and that your re-emergence herald a new creation x

Mellifluous Dark said...

Signs, I love this post. Evocative and so vividly written. I was there, too, in the wardrobe.

Don't be too long...

Reading the Signs said...

Come to think of it, Cusp, I could do with stocking up on a bit of cake. Thanks for reminding me.

Glad you were there too, Mellifluous - perhaps I'll spot you running through the trees. I'll be back by advent.

Kahless said...

Oooo, how adorable.
Though I dont like the sound of you retreating cos (selfishly) I will miss you. But as long as you will be back...

Unlike David Tennant it seems after 2009...

Anonymous said...

We'll keep the stepladder in place for you.

Lovely post. I'll be thinking of your Narnia through the cold and tiring days.

Gael said...

Lovely piece. Did you ever make it to see Memory?

Sorry to see you go (just when TPE and Anna MR showed their heads above the parapet too.)

Have a productive break, and take care.

trousers said...

I love the evocation of the Narnia space that you made, it sounds both a comfort and an adventure, and also makes me think of The Poetics of Space - and so many childhood memories.

Above all, it made me smile. Thank you! I hope your temporary retreat is as warming and nourishing as this post suggests.

Nicola said...

The best of wishes for your retreat. I have had six days and it's not enough! Without wishing autumn away, I look forward to your opening wide the door to let the candlelight touch us all again.

Word ver: remated

Reading the Signs said...

Kahless - the Doctor is a shape-changer. Me too, I suppose. I'll be spooking around.

Hi Rachel - thanks for holding the ladder, and the nice comment.

Gael, unfortunately I didn't make it - energy and, you know, the usual.

TPE and Anna might still appear, even with me in Narnia - one never can tell.

Trousers, that looks like a lovely book (just looked it up). Might get or borrow it. Keep smiling, and posting (I'll be looking in).

Nicola, "remated" does have resonance - but Mr. S and I are still definitely an item (just saying).

Thanks, and keep lighting the candles.

Kahless said...

Well I feel re-assured. I dont mind spooks as I have nothing to hide.

trousers said...

signs, the book in question was recommended to me on my MA course (thanks to what I was, in part, trying to evoke with my paintings): I bought it as a result. It's dense in places, but carries a lot of insight for me personally.

Nice to know you'll be looking in: that saves me saying that I'll miss you ;-)

Incidentally, the word verification is ratefari: let's make of that what we will...

Collin Kelley said...

What a fantastic memory. I hope you have a quiet, productive trip back to "Narnia." :)

Reading the Signs said...

Trousers, well I'm glad to note the content of what I've saved you from saying ;)

The word ver: a particular community of rodents going back to the tribe of Judah - no?

Thanks Collin - I might be taking trips with a certain Doctor also.

Ms Melancholy said...

Have a creative time, Ms Signs.

The blog world will still be here on your return.

Warm wishes,

Ms M x

That's So Pants said...

Hi Signs

As always, you let us down so gently. Enjoy your break.



Reading the Signs said...

Ms Melancholy,



Minx said...

Be not far away, Miss Signs, we might miss you so.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Minxie,

I'm just on the other side of the door - back at the end of Nov.

tpe said...

Hello, Signs. That was all rather beautifully written, thank you, and Ms P says it well - as always, you let us down so gently.

But if, as you say, you are retreating to "where story comes from", then how will any one of us avoid bumping into you at every possible turn? Where doesn't story come from, Signs? You're going to be everywhere, surely?

Alarmed and armed,


Cusp said...

Got any Kunzel crumbs between your toes yet ? ;0)

it's me with an apostrophe said...

Keeping my head most firmly under the parapet but sending a heartfelt hei to you on the other side of the door, Signskins (also a shy wave to Gael, amongst others).

demsm - the story-crumbs under parapets are maybe not for family-viewing

ah well - it stopped working and became - wait for it - pater

I kid you not

(keep dancing, Signs, you're amongst friends, even when behind the door)


Reading the Signs said...

Well if you cast your mind back, Sehr Geehrte Herr Englischmann, there was a story of mine once ran riot, with characters of mine going AWOL in Ireland - somewhere in your neck of the woods I believe. I'm not taking any chances and from now on, working on the universe-in-a-grain-of-sand principle, all stories come from the wardrobe (and may even stay there). It's all there, McTeepee - you, me and everything. This may or may not put your mind at rest, but either way I remain,
yours ubiquitously,

Oh very funny, Fraulein Cusp, seeing as I am newly arrived in the no-sugar bootcamp zone of the wardrobe. No crumpet, no sweeties, and certainly no kunzel whatsits. Though I did snaffle up a bit of flapjack when no-one was looking.

Jeepers, It's you - how do I know it's really you? Well the WVLs tell me as much, if nothing else. Pater, you say? They are everywhere, I think - listening in to our very thoughts. The WVLs I mean, not the Paters.

Keep dancing? I wasn't aware I'd begun, but if you insist.

Mwoh! (and soffital)

tpe said...

Preek. I'm just putting that out there because it seems to be my word verification for this evening. I've just had flabbly over at NMJ's. Preek & Flabbly - solicitors, I'd say.

Yes, Signs, I remember that rather fondly, as it happens. We were so young.

If you feel that the wardrobe is where you need to be, magic-maker, then I'm hardly in a position to disagree (not that I would want to, anyway). I'm glad to hear that I'm in there, too, of course, and promise to stay very still indeed. Do we have crisps? Famished. (I'll eat Kunzel crumbs, I suppose, if it becomes necessary, although not from between your toes. That comes later.)

Now look here, for no apparent reason, save for the fact that I have a camera and far too much time on my hands, I've taken a picture of "preek" for you. Proof, Signs, proof.

Kind regards and most splendid things in your wardrobey direction,


Reading the Signs said...

Excuse me Mr. Muffin Man, but I couldn't help noticing that you - or somebody - has been editing your comments. Remembering what Jack Kerouac (and he should know) said about only first drafts being preserved in heaven and all that, I feel it only fair to point this out, lest you perjure the immortal souls of any future comments and to warn you that in the event of such, notwithstanding and theretofore, Messrs. Sue, Grabbit and Runn will be contacting Messrs. Preek and Flabbly. Sue is actually a woman btw but solicitors are always Messrs aren't they.

The WVLs - I promise you - have put up comiz, because they anticipated the response to aforementioned proof. ROFLMAO etc, you get the picture - and me still in my red and white pyjamas (just so you know) still gearing up for the purples.

We do not have crisps here, Englischmann, and Kunzel crumbs between the toes is a thought from the mind of Cusp (she's weird, you'll like her). What we have is fresh coffee, an apple and a kiwi fruit (no muffins. They come later).

The wardrobe salutes you, as do I.

montag said...

The late fall days make me want to retreat from the world. I do not know how we make it through Xmas.

Your Narnia retreat is wonderful and is just what the world needs now: a retreat of love and safety and warmth, from which we may return when the times are right.

Reading the Signs said...

I usually love this time of year, Montag, but it is a time when the light retreats and goes in. We make it through Xmas that way. Some people suffer without natural light but I don't mind candles or artificial light - as long as I don't have to use those energy-saving ones, the light from them is somehow not right.

Good to see you again, Montag. Blowing a breath from the Narnian wardrobe in your direction.

tpe said...

Wardrobe-dweller, hello again. Yes, solicitors always seem to be Messrs, you're right. (I assume we're using this word as secret code for Tssrs, yes? I won't tell a soul.)

Red and white pyjamas? Is that an Arsenal thing? I remember that Mr Signs is big on that sort of stuff, so maybe he...actually, I'll leave that right there. Could get messy. I can see myself landing in all sorts of unwitting trouble. (The initial enquiry was innocent enough, though, I promise.)

ROFLMAO? You're getting younger again, Signs. The most enthusiastic response I can hope for these days is SOASST (Sitting On A Seat, Smiling Thinly). But then I'm a bit of a Messr that way.

Looky, should we be bothering you in here? Maybe you want some peace and quiet as you go about your business? Anyway, whilst you ponder that, I'll help myself to a coffee, a kiwi and a Cusp. Obliged.

Hideously kind regards etc....


(Kiwis are a bit violent, by the way - but in a good way. Some fruit is more sort of "is it alright if I come inside and introduce my flavour to your mouth, mister Sir?" etc, but kiwis just kick the door down and go to the zoo. Brash and confident and totally zingy-pingy. Okay, okay, I'm going.)

Reading the Signs said...

You are possibly mixing with the wrong people, Herr TPE, for if they do not accord you the fitting response of ROFLMAO it suggests that they may not be of your calibre. Mind you, SOASST can be deceptive and many a mirthful apprehension (apprehension?) was hid behind a thin smile.

They are not Arsenal PJs - my son used to have those, wouldn't be seen in anything else at night. Actually he had a set of Arsenal clothes to cover both day and night and we still have a drawer full of scarves, hats etc. (all quite innocent so don't be imagining something that isn't and what could you have been thinking of anyway?).

Story bootcamp is a bit grim so I appreciate you calling. I was going to say something, another very interesting thing about kiwi fruits a friend mentioned to me just in case - but no. I am sure you are very "regular" and they are, as you say, a bit violent. Effective though. Should the occasion require. Now how did we get round to this? Going for a kunzel now.

Abominably kind regards,

Anonymous said...

I love your profile! I can relate!

montag said...

The painter whose name you wished:

Jean-Claude Farjas

and his site:

Reading the Signs said...

Hello Couture

Thanks Montag

montag said...

Hey! Thanks for the honor!

The only problem I foresee is that people may see my writing in close proximity to yours, and I shall suffer in the comparison.

And you are welcome for the painterly information. It took me a bit to remember the train metaphor.
Since my post dealt with foreclosure suicides, I wondered whether someone in the comment area was inviting me to firmly grasp the live third rail of a subway train...
Then I saw your name and remembered.

tpe said...

Hello Signs, how are doing? What a shame that story bootcamp is a bit grim (although you said this a wee while back and so maybe things have changed?)

You have also perhaps retreated further these past few days? It feels a bit like it, anyway. (Not that this is a bad thing, I hasten to add - quite the opposite.)

I'm trying to put the drawer full of hats and scarves and rattles from my mind, okay, but it's not easy. And I hardly dare mention kiwis around you now. Shocking.

I've just been reading your latest post. This feels like a warm and gentle (if slightly despairing) response to a cold and brutal event. I'm guessing that it responds to the recent and hideous story in the news (although I could be entirely wrong).

I don't do God, Signs - or, more precisely and frustratingly, God doesn't do me. However, if your last line is addressed (amongst other things) to God, then I'm with you. I never understand why the traffic is all one way. I'd be expecting God to reciprocate with prayer on a daily and perpetual basis, the miserable creep. Anything else doesn't really make sense to me.

Anyway, that was a beautiful thing you wrote, either way.

Only good things to you, RTS.


Reading the Signs said...

Thank you, McTeepee. Yes, the poem was for the baby who has recently been in the news and the last line is addressed to the baby. I won't explain because I don't with poems and am content for people to take from it what they do.

There is a poem by Paul Celan called Tenebrae where he does actually urge God to pray to us. I recently posted it in Montag's comments because he had the same thought - that God might actually consider praying to us. This might be quite difficult in the case of an Unbeliever such as yourself, but perhaps not. I can think of at least two atheists who pray to a god they don't believe in so no reason why that same god shouldn't pray back.

Story bootcamp has been grim basically because I haven't been well enough to really face the enemy. So to speak. But on I go, in my fashion.

Good things back atcha, unbelieving Stallion.

(ha! rittede - they know, you know)