When sitting in an armchair isn’t enough…
… I write. What I mean is that when it no longer suffices to sit and dream about travelling to other times, other places, I write about them instead. A most economical and safe form of time travel.
When I was a child, I ran around with a wooden shield and sword, pretending to be a knight. Other children ran around playing at being fire-fighters, or doctors, or astronauts, or… Now and then, I’d be able to round up enough of my friends for a couple of hours of playing at being Robin Hood, or crusaders – or Spanish conquistadores – but mostly they’d prefer their games and I’d stick to mine.
We were all time travelling in a fashion, but where my contemporaries were time travelling FORWARD – to impending adulthood – I always time travelled backwards. I still do, and while I haven’t gone to the lengths one of my dearest friends has done (she has driven from stone circle to stone circle in Scotland, hoping that maybe, maybe the stones will sing for her and transport her two hundred years backwards in time – blame Diana Gabaldon for that), I tend to approach old monoliths, absurdly symmetrical rock formations and all sorts of crossroads with certain caution. After all, you never know; maybe those time nodes I write about do exist, places where the warp of time is frayed and fragile, thereby allowing the unsuspecting person to fall to another time, another place.
The romantic me would welcome being jettisoned hundreds of years backwards in time. The romantic me would prefer if such a time journey also shaved some decades off my own age, allowing me to land young and fresh wherever I ended up. Once there, the romantic me of course assumes a number of adventures, all of them ending with a happily ever after with the man of my dreams. (As a side-note, it must perhaps be clarified that I am very happily married to a man who is grounded in the here and now, but who finds my imaginative excursions into the past endearing rather than weird. Lucky me!)
The rational me is less enthused by the prospect of ending up in, let’s say, the 16th century. It would be dirty and cold, it would be cramped and smelly, there would be lice and mice, the bread would taste of yeast and mould, the food would be depressingly similar day after day, and, as a woman, I’d be at the mercy of my man. Hmm. So why, one wonder, does the concept of travelling through time exert such a pull on me?
For a start, it is pretty obvious that the romantic me is stronger than the rational me. Also, being a modern woman raised in a home where both parents made it clear that only the sky was my limit, I am probably deluded enough to assume that IF I were to end up in Tudor England, I would probably succeed in changing things in my immediate surroundings so as to find them acceptable. My man would not hit me – he wouldn’t dare! – he would value my opinion, he would, by some miracle, be very much into baths and be rich enough to change shirts every third day or so.
The knowledgeable reader is already chuckling; I am describing an anomaly, as men in Tudor times didn’t wash much more than face and hands on a daily basis, rarely cleaned their teeth, wore their clothes well beyond their laundry date, and as a matter of course disciplined their wives – if it was considered necessary. Okay, so we skip Tudor England and go to… Ah; there’s the rub! Wherever you go, female emancipation is a relatively novel concept, with most traditional societies built around the idea of the man as the head of the family.
Of course, in real life I believe the women played a far more central part than that of being an obedient and meek spouse. Life was tough, requiring a couple to work as a team to ensure the survival of their children – and of themselves. Also, I do believe most people strive for some sort of accord in their domestic arrangements, if nothing else because it makes home life so much nicer, and so the pragmatic man married to a firebrand woman would strive to channel that energy rather than douse it.
Since some years back, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will probably never time travel – not in real life. Which is why I have Alex Lind, the heroine in The Graham Saga, do so in my stead.
“Thanks a lot,” she mutters.
A modern woman, well-educated and successful, Alex is yanked out of her time (2002) and propelled through time, landing at the feet of a most surprised Matthew Graham. Adapting to an existence in the 17th century is tough – and being a computer expert is of no obvious value.
“Tell me about it.” Alex studies her hands, her dirty apron, and grimaces in the direction of the lowing cows.
“I could write you back,” I say.
Alex raises her brows. I nod, defeated. I could write Alex back to her time, but that would mean separating her from Matthew, and that, dear reader, would be an amputation neither of them would survive. Not now, not now that they have found each other and moulded together, two halves combining into a perfect whole.
“Mind you, he’s a tad old-fashioned at times,” Alex says, smiling in the general direction of her husband, a silhouetted shape against the orange evening skies. As if he heard her, Matthew straightens up, raising one arm in a wave. Alex is already on her feet, moving towards him with the grace and speed of a swallow in flight.
The main benefit in writing myself through time, is that I can go to different times. Okay, so I have a particular fascination for the 17th century, and given Alex’s and Matthew’s VERY exciting lives, I’m stuck there for some time more. Not that I mind. Not at all. In fact, I have to rush, people. Inspiration beckons, and when such a fickle mistress calls, a writer must come running. Fast. Before she decides to disappear.
The post above was originally posted on Amy Bruno’s excellent blog, Passages to the Past. I warmly recommend a visit!