They, all alike, many though they be and other star in other path, are drawn across the heavens always through all time continually. But the Axis shifts not a whit, but unchanging is for ever fixed, and in the midsts it holds the earth in equipoise, and wheels the heaven itself around.
Claude Lorrain, The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, 1648
A distant sea bird calls in the gallery. Yet, I cannot see one. The visitors mull around in corduroy, folded-arm consternation, with audio guides and little plaques to lead them through a maze of Turner and the Masters.
Something shifts in the corner of my eye. I turn back to the painting. The men carrying the trunk are wobbling and sweating feverishly as they lower precious cargo onto the boat.
The idle bystanders are laughing. The rowers are rowing. The Queen’s blue cloak ripples in a Red Sea breeze.
I step into the painting. I swallow hard and blink and stamp my feet in the dirt. Nobody sees.
I do not believe I was in the painting. I have an unsettling imagination that leaves me thirsting for reality. Yet I can taste Arabian salt on my lips.
I go home. I kick off my shoes. I roll damp socks into a ball and throw them down the hall. I watch the cat flick the sock toy in the air and pounce. Liberated feet breathe in airy relief and siliceous grains glisten between my toes.
I live in the 19th century in Victorian London. The drawing room is crowded with men in top hats and coat tails. There is a thick, smoky fug. I am stifled. I want to escape. I sneak out of the back door and walk to the end of a long, thin, untidy garden. I lift my layers of skirts and scale a metal fence; the like of which I have never seen before. I jump from a height into a busy road. Every which way I turn there are motorised vehicles so I run. I run and run down the road till air fills my mourning dress and lifts my feet and I am flying. My flight is jerky and uncertain. I’m worried my petticoats will get caught beneath angry wheels. I try flying with one arm outstretched but two arms thrust forward gives me more power. Yet I cannot gain enough height to stay above the bustle.
It was summer 1999. I ventured out from the grotty pensione for my first evening ‘solo‘. A surly, paunchy waiter with impressive sweat patches under his arms slammed a clay pot down on the wobbly table and barked ‘caldo’ at me with paternal gruffness. The fish looked aghast at their predicament. I stirred my spoon through abundant heads that bobbed around helplessly in sea-laced pomodoro. I took another generous sip of red wine while summoning the courage to swallow something that would ordinarily beat me in a staring competition, when poised with glassy-eyed head on fork, I noticed a faint glow in the night sky. On this hot Sicilian September night Mount Etna erupted and emblazoned on my memory its magnificent, molten sight.
To said good brain I say this – Thank you for bringing me out of my slump. I’m currently wearing a paper capital L on my head but I’m embracing it and off to find my pasture. (Oh and by pasture I mean Loser Lounge where I’m allowed to sit on an L-shaped sofa wearing PJs all day while I watch endless movies and eat cheesy Doritos and Quality Street washed down with case after case of perfectly chilled dry white wine for the rest of my days without getting fat, getting a headache, getting cirrhosis of the liver or developing suppurating sofa sores. BTW, it is always raining outside the window of Loser Lounge to remove any feelings of guilt at staying in and prevent the compulsion to go out for a walk or something equally absurd.) 🙂
This charming animation tells a tender and poignant tale that bears many great truths for many. In fifteen minutes your eyes will open and you will see yourself clearly and all your fellow donkeys.
‘Edmond is not like everybody else. A small, quiet man, Edmond has a wife who loves him and a job that he does extraordinarily well. He is, however, very aware that he is different. When his co-workers tease him by crowning him with a pair of donkey ears, he suddenly discovers his true nature. And though he comes to enjoy his new identity, an ever-widening chasm opens up between himself and others.’
Founded by the world-renowned BBC Aeronautics Correspondent Reg Turnill and his wife, Margaret, to celebrate the life and works of HG Wells and encourage creative writing, especially among the young, the prestigious HG Wells Short Story Competition offers generous Senior and Junior prizes and free publication of all shortlisted entries in a quality, professionally published paperback anthology.