“Last night I dreamt of Manderley.” I don’t think there are many better-known opening lines to any novel and somehow works so much better than the one I had ready for this morning. “Last night I dreamt of Freindville”, clearly some names scan better than others, but don’t be put off, as for me, there isn’t a better home than Freindville, anywhere in the world. For those who have read from the start, well you have met, seen and almost been there before, as it was the backdrop to my childhood and a somewhat stunning one too. But it was for none of those reasons, that I found myself once more floating through her corridors, and once more feeling the awe, that I felt every single day that I lived there. No, it never wore off. Just like Manderley, it too had stories wrapped within it that could make the hairs on the back of your neck rise, and history chiseled into every piece of granite, that built her and surrounded her. From 2 roomed cottage to the grand manor house, there is no shortage of stories to tell. But it was none of that, that took me back there last night. No memory that needed reliving, or a desire to step back in time to a simpler life, as nothing was ever simple there at all. In fact, if I were looking the place in its coldest reality, it was the place that ruined my life, well in the eyes of a child, teenager, and young adult, it all started there. So to explain that last night I was looking for mental comfort, for me to have chosen a journey around Friendville as my source, may seem strange.
I have been feeling so lost in the last few weeks, so in need of finding something that seems to have been missing, that I quite simply wanted to see and feel that wonderful feeling of freedom that that house gave me. In truth, to the young me, it was more a prison than a home, but one where my flights of fanciful futures lived large. That was that I was after, the place where daydreams and impossible possibilities were as real and as tangible as reality is. I like to think that we all have a place where we go, even if it is only in our heads, where all those things exist. I want to believe that, as to me, life without it would be unthinkable and I would feel so sorry for any that don’t. Friendville was the place where I learned that imagination was the greatest escape that life could offer. Granted, it was alive with the source to a million possible stories and filled with architecture, furniture, and ornamentation that any little girls imagination would be fired by. How many of us had a ballroom to sit and do their piano practice in? Who spent hours staring up into the sunlight that played in the chandeliers, rather than watching exactly where her fingers were. Or had to take her shoes off before entering the room, and not take a single thing but herself in there with her, in fear that something might be damaged. We always called it the ballroom as in my Grandfathers time it was, but in mine, I think Drawing room is probably closer. For most of my life, Friendville was a house full of doors, closed doors, ones that I knew what lay behind them, but I wasn’t allowed through, without permission, or when accompanied, by adults. Imagination ran wild and was nurtured in ways that only a home like that, and a family like mine, could produce.
Throughout my adult life, I have returned there in my head and I have found a precise comfort in being there. I always know what I will find and I always know, that it won’t let me down. I no longer bother to take my time and climb ever step from the front door to my bedroom in the attic, I fly. I wasn’t even allowed to run, so flying seems so much more daring and disobedient than just running. From the second I go through the back door, after not stopping to leave my coat and outdoor shoes in the shed, I know where I am heading. My dreaming spot. In the summer, it was in the garden sat in the gazebo, looking at the house, but at night or if it were raining, it was sat in my bedroom window. Just heading back there, is all that I need to find the permission I need to dream, just like the child me did, all those years ago. Why I need permission, I don’t know, maybe it is my tyrannical parents, or maybe the belief that adults don’t make up fairytales, or fill their dreams with butterflies and flowers. And that was why I was there, for pure escapism that nowhere else, and nothing else, in my entire life, has provided. My journey around her and through her lit so many smiles and a pride that I am sure is clear in the way I talk about her. Oh, she is a she that is something that I have never doubted, as she told me that herself. If you want to see her, well enter her name into Google, with Oakhill in front, she’s there but now a hotel of sorts, a rather exclusive one. Once a home has been reinhabited, what they do to it, is unfortunately out of our control.
Being able to escape is essential. If I couldn’t, if I felt that I was here in pain, lying in my bed or sat in the living room for the entirety of the rest of my life, would be enough to drive me totally out of my mind. The fact that I have to go through odd rituals to reach the places were that escape can be found, well, that’s just me. I have this odd need to tie everything down, put it in its place and my imagination is no different. Friendville isn’t the only place that I use, but it is the one I use the most. Especially, if I feel the need, to totally leave me behind. I am lucky that way, as I can lay my life out in so many phases, that bear no resemblance with each other. I can take myself to so many different places, where escape, both good and bad, that I can make what is happening to me, easier to live with. They say that as we age we are more reliant on our memories, I have found that out to be true far sooner than I expected. There is a lot to be said for having lived a life like mine. From the pits of being abused, through loneliness greater than I would have believed could exist, and the torture of losing my first born. Through the joys of love, the happiness and trials of motherhood and all the places that fill me with freedom, all of them now matter. You can know all the tricks, take all the tablet, do exactly what your doctors say, but if you can’t escape, it will drive you down.
Last night, I went to bed with my head still filled with all the questions and feeling from yesterday’s post. I couldn’t shut my brain up, despite the fact that I was so tired I thought sleep would capture me in seconds. I started running through my relaxation process, but the pain in my body was fighting me and mind kept changing the subject. That is when escape takes over when you need to be able to fill your mind with pictures. To remember the scents, the feeling and even the temperature of where you once were. When you can drill into those details, see every single tiny piece of what was once real, then you escape it all. My trips to Friendville have that added bonus, as that is where fairytale lands still live. If my life isn’t enough, it is there that imagination is free to run wild. Telling myself stories, or remembering, sort of, the ones I wrote in my head back then, they take me even further away from reality. Sometimes, quite simply, it’s nice to be anywhere else at all, rather than trapped inside me. I’m not escaping being housebound, that isn’t the freedom I seek. I am escaping my illness. So OK, it doesn’t last for long, but the gaps that it does open are worth more than you might think.
Never underestimate the power of your imagination. Too many people seem to stop using it once they leave childhood. They fall into letting Hollywood and the games makers doing it for them. They let themselves live in secondhand stories and fail to create their own. It is now as a skill childhoods gone, not needed other than by those who create, our own is too often shut down. I never cut mine off and believe me when I say, that I am so glad that I never did. Like all too many skills, if you don’t use it, it fades, then when you need it, it’s gone. I couldn’t manage without mine now, despite only visiting it occasionally for much of my life, I still played with it from time to time, now, I wouldn’t be without it.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 10/10/2013 – Give me the cleaver
I slept well last night, not waking for anything until minutes before the alarm sounded but I am still tired, my greatest desire right now would be to return to bed and just stay there. Yesterdays relief of pain in my legs was incredibly short lived, my belief in my socks changing more than just the temperature…..