Introduction: I’m writing a book of short stories. My writing takes some of its inspiration from the late American writer, Richard Brautigan who, in addition to his work such as ‘Trout fishing in America‘ published a collection of short stories under the title ‘Revenge of the lawn‘ in which he made his experiences of everyday life seem magical, poignant, ironic and often very funny. Brautigan had the special gift of being able to ground his stories in the place where the outer world met his inner life. Another writer who continues to influence me is Antoine de Saint Exupery especially his poetic essays published in ‘Wind, sand and stars‘.
The short stories in my collection appear one by one. Each reflects something I experienced directly. Even though a number of them are set in countries other than England they try to express those moments when an outer world and my inner reality were neither in harmony nor disharmony. (After the first story, please click on pages 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 for the others)
1. Velvet sonata
There’s a church in Paris: it’s an undemonstrative church and unless you are on the look-out for churches you can easily miss it. I found it by accident.
It’s called the Eglise des Billettes and it is situated at number 4, Rue des Archives, in the heart of old Paris. There are eleven Lutheran churches in the city and this eglise is one of them. The church is everything a good church should be if you want to reprise the ideas of Luther; it’s the sort of place that has a hot line directly to God.
Once you pass through a very large wooden door at the entrance to the Eglise des Billettes you come into a cloister made sober, contemplative and penitent by the surrounding Gothic arches. Just off the cloister there are some rooms given over to the things that churches value: there’s a library that helps you to think about faith, hope and charity; a meeting room to discuss Protestantism; and a room in which to meditate.
When I was there I heard music coming from behind one of the doors. So, I pushed it open and walked into a wood-panelled room: it was empty – apart from a single upright piano in front of which was placed a simple stool – upholstered in ruby-red velvet. One light gave off a dim purplish glow, the colour of incense.
A girl was sitting on the stool and she was playing the piano. She was silhouetted against a large rectangular window the panes of which were arranged in a beautiful geometric design – like diamonds set in the sky. I only saw the girl in profile. She had long dark hair and she played the piano with perfect grace. She was playing something classical. Was it Chopin or Beethoven?
And as she played I walked through the gates of her music into the Paradise of Eden.
[Date: August 2012]