. . . will you not stay with me for one night and be my messenger?
The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde is one of my great pleasures. I love it the way you love anything that set you on your path.
As a child, I had a reading of it on cassette that I listened to every night to fall asleep. I loved (and still love) the other stories—The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend and The Birthday of the Infanta among others—but nothing quite touched my heart like the plight of the Happy Prince and his little swallow. It is a love story in its purest form. The prince’s love for his people, and the swallow’s love for the prince, are selfless, and tragic, and painfully beautiful. I don’t remember now who the voice on the cassette belonged to, but it was a lovely reading, slow and musical—the way I always hear the story in my head when I read it.
I’m sure there are millions of writers the world over who have been inspired to pick up a pen by Oscar Wilde for more than a century. He was, and remains, incomparable. I am no different to those millions, I suppose, but it was specifically the story of the prince and the swallow that made me want to write. The way the words flowed like water, the way each character, no matter how insignificant—and Wilde is a master of tiny yet complex cameos—pulled at my heart. Even as an eight year old child, I knew I wanted to create beauty like this through words of my own. I wanted to write.
If you have been following this blog, you will know that my life has taken a sharp turn in a different direction these past months, and during the worst of the upheaval, it was my creative energy that bore the brunt. I wrote almost nothing for the best part of a year, and the knowledge of that took a further toll of its own. However, I am now settled in my new home and am ready to get back to work. The peace of having turned a corner is partly to thank for the return of my creative energy, but there’s more to it than that.
I made a very conscious decision when I bought my apartment that I was going to do whatever I could, within my means, to make it my own. I was done with neutral Scandinavian palettes and design, and wanted my new home to reflect my personality. With the help of a very patient friend (Cindy, I am ever in your debt), I first put together a mood board to try to create an overall theme and feel for what I wanted, and then made inspiration boards for each of the two bedrooms and the living room. A colour palette emerged quite quickly, and when I found the most adorable vintage sofa suite in the classifieds, it became the centrepiece around which I designed my home.
After a gruelling week of painting, I began to consider creating two feature walls in wallpaper, one in the bedroom, one in the living room behind the sofa. Choosing the actual paper, however, was a daunting task. There are some amazing designs out there, and I became quickly overwhelmed. I liked the idea of peacocks, given that I was going for an Art Deco/Art Nouveau feel, but the only peacock design I could find in Norway wasn’t quite right. Everything seemed too busy, too gaudy, or too boring. Then, browsing once again through an online catalogue, I happened upon a design named Swallows in a vintage range by Sanderson. Oh, my heart! I knew as soon as I saw it that this was the backdrop for the centre of my home. The colours worked, and it was minimal yet dramatic, just as I’d wanted, but that wasn’t what did it.
It was the swallows.
Soaring, gliding, free.
It has taken four weeks of hard work—the kind of work that breaks all your fingernails, gives you deep, rippling scratches down both shins, and has you waking up each morning feeling a hundred years old—but my home is now complete. It has my soul bolted into every screw and hammered into every nail. My swallows soar above my head as I lie on my little vintage sofa and dream up a thousand new story ideas. The sun shines through my bedroom window the way it couldn’t in my previous Norwegian homes and reminds me spring is on its way. My daughter rolls and giggles on her new bed and whispers that it’s like she’s sleeping in the sky—her new duvet has swallows, too. My books, Oscar and his Prince and swallow among them several times over, sit happily on their new shelves.
I experience a pang of real, physical love for this place every time I open the curtains I hung, walk by a room I painted, sit on a chair I put together. I am in every room. Because this is my home. At last.