I walked by Valance Road the other day. 'Valance' was one of the new words I learnt when I first moved to London many centuries ago. I had found a bedsit (as you do) and went to the market to buy bedsheets. I discovered that some of them were 'valanced'. I associate that moment with a bizarre calm in the turmoil of leaving friends and family for a new, lonesome, adventure. For I immediately associated 'valance' with a world of grannies. British or American grannies - not Italian for some reason - with floral wallpaper, freshly made cakes and... well, valances. My first Christmas in London was a lonely affair, my friends went off to their families, and I was left in my bedsit, staring at a dirty wall, partly redeemed by a gigantic Marylin poster. Then I decided to buy myself some presents, including a pink, flowery make-up bag with frills and lace. A gift from my imaginary granny. Moving to a different country entails some re-rooting. There's the excitement of a new life and there is also a profound sense of loss, that needs some dams put in strategic places. Imaginary grannies are great for that. With time, I learnt that what makes continuity less continuous than we would like it to be, is not just moving somewhere else, changing language and all that, but also that everything is always moving, you are ageing and so is the world. In other words, it's not just location, but time that makes your sense of reality way less real. The first sheets I bought in London were the first sheets I ever bought in my life. For what I know, there might have been valanced sheets in Italy too. Should you be interested, there is a particular type of valance called Italian valance, quite grand, actually. So, in a way it's where your attention goes at different times in life that determines your knowledge of the world and the way in which you write history. We are hardly ever aware of things we don't need.
I never met my imaginary granny, but many times I walked into her environment, and felt peace. My caravan in Kent is one such place. It's a static caravan from the Seventies with wonderfully clashing patterns, black and orange carpet, wallpaper with pink flowers and... valanced blue curtains. I would never choose such a candyfloss interior design, but it feels peaceful because, when I am not there, my imaginary granny is, baking apple pie and remembering a past that, just like mine, never really existed.