The other day, leaves fell in Odense. It was not quite cold enough, but the greyness was back. I’d left an office that looked as though it had not been occupied for very long, and the campus bus was filled with students as term began. Outside, here and there, were signs of rain.
My bag was packed. I should have been going to the station to pick up the train to Kastrup and a wicked game of aerial ping-pong across the North Sea and the length of England. There would be the metro, and one last train – not even fifteen minutes, if one was lucky. At some point on that journey, it would be dark, and there would be the sensation of air at the end of it all, the walk down the hill then up the hill, through the wood perhaps; and there would be our damp house on Gilesgate with Isabel waiting.
I missed that time. Part of me wanted to return to those months when Marie Curie felt like a new beginning, an opportunity. When the future was not quite such an immediate concern and the grounding in the north-east of England meant there was not the knowing self-delusion of setting up a new home in Denmark.
But the other part of me, sad in a different way, saw no point in that. There are things I would do differently – there always are – but I doubt that the end result would be anything other than what it is now. Besides, the mise-en-abyme image of Alastair sitting on the bus with the last books from the office, wishing he could go back and relive the beginning of the Fellowship, is too much for me to get my head around.
The hard fact is that, unless ‘other factors’ come into play, one’s use as an employee in a programme such as this ends along with the grant one has got to pay for one’s own job. It is not a particularly pleasant awareness to have on one’s way to work each morning, and being free of it is a large part of why I am so happy now.
Behind that is a complex mix of relief, most of all, and other, often contradictory emotions. There is the sense of something being over, and of finding a way back to what matters. Home, in some meaning of the word. Hence the title of this blog entry as way of closing the circle: as chance would have it, when I dropped by for an event in 2015 before the start of the Fellowship, Danish TV was showing a documentary about John Ford in the hotel … a little puzzle, if you don’t recognize the allusion!