Blog, London, Travels

On Living in London – And Being a Sucker for Britlit

Recently some really nice things have come my way what it comes to travel, literature and writing.

Firstly, one massive writing project is closing to its (well over-due) completion, which gives me more time to explore other possible, even more massive writing projects, about which I am very excited. Sadly, I still have to hold my proverbial horses till I can brag about this one particular project in public, but…

…happily I can, for example, brag a little bit about my last year’s another massive project, this time in translation, which was a dream come true for any lover of travel, literature, or, travel literature. Modestly I announce that it was a joy to translate Robert Byron’s travel classic The Road to Oxiana into Finnish, for the delight of all Finnish speaking travel literature geeks (yes, I know, there’s maybe three of you out there). The Road to Oxiana was a joint project with another Finnish translator, and I think we honoured Byron’s tradition with brilliance (if I may brag), and this gave me, as always, new energy for some new, massive, future projects.

However, again, of these I cannot yet brag about.

But rest assured; I will, when the time comes.

The Gate Theatre's An Ideal Husband was also a delight.

The Gate Theatre’s An Ideal Husband was also a delight. Especially as it was a present from my then future husband (not in photo).

I am also really happy to be living in London. This state of affairs was not a dream to come true, as I never dreamt of living in London. My dream was to live in Dublin, which I did for over a year, and, as it turned out, this particular dream edged more towards the side of a nightmare. I did like the cosiness and culture of Dublin, I saw the best theatre in my life over there (although full applauds go to Tampere’s Uni Theatre for its The Importance of Being Earnest a few years back), drank some very nice cups of coffee (see e.g. here, here, or here) and I got the best Bircher muesli ever in Dublin too. And yes, it was uplifting to dwell around the city in the footsteps of my Irish heroes Joyce, Beckett and Wilde.

But then there was the other side, the not so cosy side, of, how should I put it…well,

reality.

Those everyday obstacles to which I just could not get accustomed to and take with a serene ease but had to return home enraged yet by another ‘incident’ in town or in the local library (and here the word local not in it’s sense denoting proximity). And there were hideous crimes against fashion too – and those are the crimes which never get old.

So, Good riddance Dublin it was, and Hullo London!

Hullo London! Says the Paddington designed by Stephen Fry.

Hullo London! Says the Paddington designed by Stephen Fry.

And moving to London is another massive new event in my recent life I’ve been very, very happy about. For let us face the fact: I’ve been a sucker for BritLit since I was eleven. It all started on a hot summer’s day, when I was forced to participate into a family holiday at a summer cottage. I did not like sun at the time for it didn’t suit my complexion – unless you happen to like the pink prawn colour of a tan gone wrong – and as a booky sort of a nerd, I had to hamster bagfuls of books to keep my 11-year-old mind sane during the duress of entertaining myself in the woods while others would be splashing gingerly in the lake.

So up I climbed, to my local library’s second floor: this was the adult’s section and a big step in my pre-teen mind. For some time already I had had difficulties finding new interesting series to get hooked to from the children’s section downstairs, and the paradise upstairs seemed full of immense possibilities. Downstairs, I had  gone through all Blytons (21 Five books, 8 Adventures, 15 SOS books, and 20 something Mysteries), Polvas (29 Tiina books), Viks (47 Lotta books) and way, way too many Nancy Drews and pony books. It was also around this time I had got The Three Musketeers from an older friend of mine, and our Barbie sessions had turned into bloody, revolutionary French battlefields: It was time to say goodbye to silly childhood, and hullo to more serious teenage years. And, as I reasoned that there’s nothing more serious than a murder, murder it was.

Hullo Hercule Poirot!

“Sometimes I feel sure he is as mad as a hatter and then, just as he is at his maddest, I find there is a method in his madness.” From Christie's first Poirot novel.

“Sometimes I feel sure he is as mad as a hatter and then, just as he is at his maddest, I find there is a method in his madness.” From Christie’s first Poirot novel.

Reading all Poirots my local library had on that summer holiday marked the beginning of my decline into alienation with the real world, deep into the pits of BritLit. After Christie, many others followed, and apart from a brief spree into the world of Russian Depressionists, that is the great Realists, my condition worsened, taking a plunge into a Bachelor’s Thesis research on E.M. Forster’s Howards End, and then, as the grande finale of my condition a Masters Thesis on British motorcycle travel literature followed, accompanied by a translation of Lady Warren’s journey in a side-car in the 1920s North Africa. Then a natural, healthy obsession with moving to Dublin (because of such sensible reasons as James Joyce and Oscar Wilde) took place, and as is accustomed to cast of alienated day-dreamers, I acted on it.

You might think that all this would have cured me already, time to move on, and give some American, Asian or even Scandinavian masters a chance for a change. But no. No, no, no, no. It is always the section of British Literature which sings to me like sirens when I’m trying to ignore it’s treacherous shelves in libraries and bookstores.

Yes, dear reader, there is always room for some more Britlit for, as the great E.M. Forster puts it, “the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves.” For me, reading British Literature is going further down on those particular British paths that are no longer here for us: the Bloomsbury with the Bloomsburyans, the champagne with the Bright Young Things. Heck, even afternoon tea with the Queen. And then the bobbies and the laundry washing feminists, the tweeds, the Westies, the pipes and the Jeeveses. What delight! – as the great J.B. Priestley would put it.

Living in London, I wake up each day like a Charlotte in an Easter Egg Factory: I get excited over the mere fact that I am breathing, if not exactly the same air, at least the air in the same place where once all the great one used to breathe.

"The leaves were still falling, but in London now, not in Oxbridge; and I must ask you to imagine a room, like many thousands, with a window looking across people's hats and vans and motor-cars to other windows."

“The leaves were still falling, but in London now, not in Oxbridge; and I must ask you to imagine a room, like many thousands, with a window looking across people’s hats and vans and motor-cars to other windows.”

 

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