(with apologies and a tribute to C.S. Lewis)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has booked this year’s summer holidays to Cornwall – though Boris is cautioning all of us not to make plans ‘just yet’.
In these straitened times just where we want to go, when we’re allowed to, has become one of the hottest topics of conversation amongst anyone still speaking to anyone else.
‘I’m itching to get away,’ a friend confided to me this week. ‘Aren’t you? Where do you want to go?’
Now it’s my turn to share a secret. I don’t want to go anywhere. Well, not on earth. I’m not in a great mood with this planet at the moment and I reason that wherever I choose could go from heaven to hell the instant there was a new Covid case within 50 miles.
I’m not suggesting a trip to the Moon, or God forbid, somewhere inhospitable like Mars. No, what I fancy is another world entirely. So, I’m planning a trip to Narnia.
The idea came to me after re-reading the seven C.S.Lewis children’s books (my own youthful favourites) during an idle spell in this interminable lockdown. And now I can’t think of anything more appealing than to visit this green and pleasant land where animals talk and I could dance with the trees in the moonlight.
There’d be marvellous midnight feasts with magical dryads and naiads and midday picnics under a blazing summer sun with the descendants of Mr Tumnus, the faun. Bacchus might make an appearance, ensuring I was well fuelled with golden nectar.
The food would be delicious, the company delectable – and probably surprising. I’m not sure I’d have a lot in common with Mr and Mrs Beaver, or Puddleglum the gloomy marshwiggle, but I’ve always wanted to discuss philosophy with a centaur.
There’d be sunset cruises in the bay around Cair Paravel aboard the Dawn Treader, with the mischievous mouse Reepicheep serving unique Narnia cocktails.
Perhaps there’d even be an opportunity to have an audience with Aslan, Narnia’s lion King; though I’m not at all sure this could be easily arranged. After all he’s not a tame lion.
I’m a little concerned, though, that I might be too old to find my way into this mystical land, rather like failing to qualify for an 18-30s holiday: in the books it’s pretty clear that most adults are not allowed in. Or maybe, I’ve since reasoned, it’s more to do with attitude and suspending your disbelief, rather like the intellectual mantle you don for a trip to the theatre.
My greatest concern however – a truly terrible thought – is the risk that I could take Covid into Narnia. There is no pandemic there, as far as I know and evils such as the bad giants and the dreaded White Witch (who made it always winter but never Christmas) have long been banished.
Would I need proof of a vaccination, or a Covid test to show that I was disease free? Or perhaps the Narnians are immune to Covid. Only their Kings and Queens are human, and human children, after all. The rest of them are talking beasts.
I so long to visit – in truth I always have – that I’m now spending an inordinate amount of time planning this trip: when is the best time to go? Is there a rainy season? And would I need to pack sun screen and insect repellent (do their insects talk? I don’t think so).
The main difficulty, of course, is how to get there: most famously it’s through a wardrobe (though there have been other magic ways of whisking children away from our world to Narnia mentioned in the books). But ancient oak stand-alone wardrobes are thin on the ground these days and I’m not sure the magic works on built-in robes.
This is really the greatest sticking point. And I haven’t yet calculated how to overcome it. I could write and appeal to Aslan to help me visit but it would be like sending a letter to Father Christmas. I am sure that Aslan exists but I don’t know his postal address.
Of course, he is actually (and I don’t mean to be sacrilegious) a very, very large feline. So, in desperation I’ve taken to whispering pleas to my cat, hoping she’ll have an inter-species way of passing on the message.
Wish me luck. But if I succeed don’t expect to read about it. I’ll keep it as my own top-secret holiday destination. And if I like it as much as I expect to I may even pack up and go to live there.