Monday, December 6, 2010

Would Jane Approve? And other London Ramblings

My mother sent me a book last week for an "Advent present." She knew I was low on books to read and with my flight coming up she thought this would be just the thing. I have begun reading it because I am no longer in school, I only have one day of work left and three days left in Copenhagen, so I'm a bit bored. The novel begins on a flight to London. As soon as I read "London" my heart ached. Then it goes on to name all the sights and roads and parks, and I am on the brink of tears. It was when the heroine steps out of Gloucester Road tube stop and into South Kensington that I had to put the book down. My Gloucester Road. My South Kensington. Memories came flurrying back.
Every time I would return from a weekend away and finally make it back to Gloucester Road my heart would swell. I would always get the overwhelming feeling that I was home. The same feeling I used to get when returning home from Rhode Island, when I would take exit 23, pass by Carmen's and the motel and pull onto our hill. It had become my home.
Across the street was Byron's Burgers, Starbucks, Tesco. Down the road the cute little boutique that changed its window display every day, and every day had a dress that made me want to melt. And soon, Queens Gate Terrace. But if you continued on you would find yourself in the middle of Kensington Gardens. The first time I visited I thought my heart would burst. I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was walking in the same place Queen Victoria played croquet as a child. I was surrounded by a history that I had been obsessed with since I was a child.
But the book also brought back other memories, the mention of St. James Park transported me to St. Patrick's Day, just come from the pub at 11 am, an unusually sunny and warm day we walked through the park, discovered a tiny mews and learned the history of the torch bearers.
Piccadilly Circus flooded me with memories of the craziest nights spent in London. I'm reminded of love, lust, jealousy, but most of all fun. I have flashing visions of dancing, lights, and the song "Sweet Home Alabama."
I decided to go to London for a few reasons. I really needed to get out of Rhode Island and I had always loved England's history. I was that little girl who wanted to be a princess, and the idea of a place where there were real kings, queens, and princesses thrilled me. I think it started in the fourth grade when I read a novel about King Henry VIII and his daughters. And then my discovery of Queen Victoria, I read everything I could find about her, and watched all of the movies of course.
Like the heroine of the book I'm reading now, I also went to London because of my deep love for all things Jane Austen. Sometimes I think she wouldn't approve of how I spent my time in London. My original plan was to visit all Jane Austen related sites. Bath, Lyme,  Steventon. But as soon as I got there things changed, I got swept up in the life of London. The fast paced, crazy, slightly tipsy life. But maybe she would approve... because I had fun, I had a love affair, and ultimately I was happy. I wasn't following the same, slightly pathetic trail that all heart broken, Austen obsessed girls make when they are trying to find themselves, and their Mr. Darcy. I had already found myself. And the guy I found didn't fit into any Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightly, Mr. Edwards, or Captain Wentworth molds. He was his own person, and I held my own as well.
What I always wonder is if Jane would approve of all the novels that are being written about her. I don't think she would because most of them are utter trash. The authors cannot write at all, but the publishers know that if its about Jane Austen it will sell. Austen has a timeless fan base. My grandmother, my mother, and I, all very different, from very different times, are in love with her writing. So the spin offs and fictional biographies will sell like hot cakes. My mom definitely proves that, I think she buys every book she finds.
But I think after awhile we really get pathetic. If we want to honor Jane then we need to make our own stories. That's why I think she'd approve of my time spent in London, much more than she would if I just followed her life, a life that isn't even there anymore.
So here's to Jane, here's to London, and here's to our own stories.

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