I begin today’s post with an apology for my extended absence. I have been busy beyond compare ~ tour, temping, tonsillitis. The three Ts. I will also be leaving my lovely little flatshare soon and have been fretting about what the future holds. Mainly though, I have been deep in research for my new job: Historical Interpreter at the Royal Palaces. As my first day grows nearer (it’s on Saturday, at Hampton Court) I grow more and more trepidatious; I am meant to be professionally knowledgeable about the Georgian period, when in fact – despite copious amounts of research – nothing is staying in. I find myself reminiscing about the year of my GCSEs. At 6pm the night before each exam I’d grab a coke, stick Goo Goo Doll’s Gutterflower in the CD player and read all of my text books for the first time. Inexplicably, I got pretty good results. Why doesn’t that work now? I have neglected my blog, my Hotbuckle duty and letter writing, but I promise – all will be picked up again sooner than two shakes of a Cockapoo’s tail.
Today’s post touches on a film that is not an ‘oldie’ – it was shot in 2003 – but the book it was based on is from 1948 and remains one of my favourites. A book that resonated deeply with every romantic girl as she grew to womanhood and experienced her first love, her first heartbreak, her first journal. I talk of the Dodie Smith literary classic, I Capture the Castle.
A quick recap of the tale: Cassandra Mortmain (Romola Garai) and her family live humbly in a dilapidated castle purchased to inspire their struggling writer father (Bill Nighy). Two young American brothers inherit the nearby Scoatney Hall and become the Mortmain’s new landlords. Cassandra’s beautiful sister Rose (Rose Byrne) captures the hearts of both men, while Cassandra attempts to deal with her unrequited love for the elder American brother, Simon. (Played by Henry Thomas; only ruddy Elliot in ET)!
Cassandra – dubbed ‘consciously naive’ writes her diary sitting in the kitchen sink. She tells us all she sees ~ her artistic stepmother dancing naked in the moonlight, her father’s anger at his own inability to write, her sister’s attempts to marry well and thus save the family from financial ruin. But most of all, she tells us what goes on in her mind. And therefore is a somewhat unreliable narrator. The young gardener, Stephen, (played by Henry Cavill… yes, more on him later) loves Cassandra with puppyish abandon, but she spends her time thinking of Simon. The occasional fantasy of her and Stephen passionately kissing in the fields sometimes invades her thoughts, but she pushes it aside. Does Cassandra really know what she wants? Does she know what is real and what is a fabrication from her daydream world? She admits herself “Dreams are like a drug. The magic doesn’t last. And then the pain is worse than knives.”
I am a girl who does – and always has – lived in my mind. From dawdling on family walks to drifting off during science lessons, my little daydreams have made life that bit happier. I spin elaborate fantasies in my mind, situations – they always have to actually be feasible, the dream is ruined if I don’t think they could happen – and spend hours staring out of the window, inhabiting my little fantasy world. Sometimes I set time aside, just to have a little ponder. 3 – 3.30 Imagine that Henry Cavill is having lunch in the nearby Pret and he has to sit next to me. And… go! (NB that could actually happen; he could be shooting a film nearby. Shut up). But when does this become dangerous? Is it true what Albus Dumbledore says? “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live?” Does life become too unbearable when the dream is over?(3.30-4 Imagine that this blog is spotted by an editor and you suddenly become a published writer… go!) I worry often that my daydreams impact dangerously on my ‘real life.’ That perhaps I won’t appreciate what I have if I spend too long dreaming of what I don’t. But then I stop. The best and most wonderful people I know live halfway between the real world and the fantasy one. The creatives, the artists, those who grab their dreams and pull them into reality. Where would be without the writers, the musicians, the visionaries who transcend the two worlds? One of my close friends is an inspiration – she has her dreams, her love of music and her need to travel – and she lives them. Is this not what life is about? To take your dreams and mould them into a feasible reality?
A little spoiler: As the book and film end, we see Cassandra growing up into the woman she’s supposed to be. She still has her journal, her little daydream world – but she is beginning to understand how life works a bit more. Here is my confession: a large part of me is an incurable romantic. Most of my dreams are about love, about my future, about my hopes in a partner. Perhaps this is counter-productive. Friends have told me time and time again that there is no hope for me if I don’t put myself out there, if I don’t try in reality. But I don’t think that’s true. In the book’s iconic final line, Cassandra ends her diary with ‘I love. I have loved. I will love.’ Perhaps sometimes you just need to find somebody to share your daydream world with.