Sunday, 21 August 2016

Brontes and Maybes.

We’re all fascinated by the prospect of being able to go back in time, aren’t we, back to some famous event in history where we can be invisible and watch events unfold.

Aren’t we? Oh, I thought we were. Well, I am anyway.

But what on earth would you choose to go and watch, since the options would be endless? The Battle of Waterloo, maybe? Jesus feeding the five thousand? Julius Caesar’s assassination? Robert Maxwell falling off the boat?

Tonight I made my decision. I’d want to go and spend a day in the drawing room of Haworth Parsonage in 1846 where I could watch the Bronte sisters at work and play. I’d so love to know what they really looked like and how they talked. Does that sound boring? Not to me it doesn’t.

Ah, but then I envisaged a possible problem. Emily was a bit of a strange one, and it occurred to me that she just might have been the sort to possess the faculty of being able to see me. And that would completely alter her perceptions, wouldn’t it? And then her whole future might change. She might never have written Wuthering Heights, so then she might be known as the Bronte sister nobody talks about. She might never have gone to Branwell’s funeral because she was busy behind the bar of the local pub that day and the nasty Victorian publican wouldn’t give her the time off. And then she wouldn’t have caught the chill that brought her low and contributed to the onset of TB (or so it is said.) And then she might have lived to be ninety seven and died in obscurity as a lonely old spinster of whom everybody said: ‘Did you know there was a third Bronte sister?’ Hey ho.

But then maybe – just maybe – if I went back in time, maybe my doing so is already a matter of history and I just don’t know it yet. And maybe Emily did see me, and maybe I was the inspiration for a character in Wuthering Heights (probably not Heathcliff, possibly Edgar, most likely Joseph.) Because it’s at this point that the whole question of time travel – and even time itself – gets hopelessly complicated. And the beer beckons, and what the hell?

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