‘Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there”. With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street. And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town. It’s opener there, in the wide open air. Out there things can happen and frequently do, to people as brainy and footsy as you. And then things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.’
(Excerpt from ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go,’ by Dr Seuss).
I’ve been to several million weddings in my life (ok, maybe halve that, halve it again and then minus a few and then divide it by seventy thousand), but you get the drift. There have been a few, and, apart from the endless champagne, catch ups with friends and the opportunity to see two people who I love relax, after the sheer torture that is organising a huge event, actually relax, this poem by Dr Seuss is another favourite part of wedding days if it presents itself on the order of service.
Not hugely religious, but interested in theology to a point, I find psalms a bit hard to translate into the current day (personally, they can be more challenging than French) – for me, this poem has sweet meaning.
‘Oh! The Places You Will Go!’ was stuck above my desk during my final year at school, when the threat of my laptop being flung out the window was real, and to this day I firmly believe that these words by Dr Seuss were the final saving grace for my 100 kilogram Toshiba.
Last week saw the completion of the first five days of classes at La Sorbonne where I took myself and the whole process very seriously and, where I felt positively punchy at the end of each day as I lobbed home with stars in my eyes and the words of Dr Seuss whirling around my head. The awkwardness of new classmates, finding ‘home room,’ working out where I’d go every other week for ‘phonétiques’ and wondering why on earth I’d signed up for the 8.30 am class, but then thanking myself that I did because imagine if I had enrolled in the 12.30 course? I simply wouldn’t make it because every second day we have oral and grammar from 12-2pm.
At the end of last week, a very exciting visitor blew into Paris after a week of meetings in London.
Charlotte Coote was on my doorstep in Adelaide five years ago- the day that I moved my life as I knew it into a new house, and new beginnings. Newly pregnant with her first child, she cheered me up- in a way unique only to her, as we wheezed with laughter over endless dinners, lunches and half glasses of wine (I was on a heartbreak health kick and she, see above).
Almost two years ago when I came to Paris for my first winter, Charlotte arrived here for a week of meetings with interior design houses and I shuffled around after her- it was then that I began to understand the full extent of my school friends talent- well on her way to establishing a hugely sustainable and successful niche in the market in which her business exists.
Over dinner at Brasserie Lipp, I eyed the wine menu with great anticipation- there were now two children in her household and it felt like an eon since we’d last chinked glasses and toasted new beginnings. ‘I’m pregnant,’ she told me with a twinkle in her very blue eyes. I almost rolled off my chair (not from a croissant overdose, but in pure shock)- she’d only had her second child yesterday, or so it felt.
This time, two years since our last rendezvous in Paris and nearly four months since we said goodbye in Melbourne, she was back last week with a skip in her stride after a big week in London (and no news of any further additions to the family). With three beautiful little girls (the middle child being my sweet goddaughter) and a gorgeous husband at home, we had a mountain of catching up to do. We had a mission to accomplish.
Lou Lou is a fabulous restaurant positioned in the gardens of the Louvre, where diners sit at tables blanketed with white linen cloths and under twinkling stars, while enjoying the warmth of the night and the distant sounds unique to this beautiful city. I listened with intent as Charlotte took me through her week in London and updated me on all the goings on at home. We sipped on rosé and enjoyed the most delicious dinner – the waiter looked on as we spoke at rapid pace and in volumes that increased as the sun disappeared and was replaced by the moon.
‘How is the Sorbonne anyway?’ she asked.
Having had a week of taking myself very seriously and where I’d spent most of my time wincing, listening with great intent as we climbed over mountains of numbers in French and where we’d completed seemingly hours of grammar, I launched into my response ‘oh I absolutely love it, I’m in complete heaven and am SO happy to be doing this’. I went on to explain that just that day I’d given a presentation to my ‘home room’ about my life in Australia- where I took the class through a slide show of native animals, Canberra (le centre politique), feux de forêt (bushfires) and the much anticipated subject of le kangourou. I explained (still in a state of utter seriousness) that the class had nodded in sincere agreement that bushfires were a huge risk to people’s lives, as were les kangourous if you met them on the road travelling too fast in your ‘voiture’.
I don’t think the waiter knew where to look as we began to shudder over our glasses of rosé, as we became increasingly hysterical at the thought of me, aged 38 and in pink jeans giving a presentation in French that was more appropriate for a group of 7 year olds.
For me, nothing is more special than time spent with family and friends with last week being no exception. I was so happy to share my new found home with a friend who I’ve known for over 25 years and of whom I am so proud as she manages to grow an amazing business and a beautiful family. A friend who has an uncanny ability to introduce hysteria into the most serious of conversations, and when we weren’t wheezing with laughter, we spoke at a pace and in genuine excitement for each other as we pondered both of our futures – a topic which I relate to this final passage from Dr Seuss:
‘You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.). KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS! So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, You’re off the Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!’
This post is for you Charlotte. I will never recover from asking the man (who wasn’t actually a waiter at Monsieur Bleu), for the bill, but I am thrilled that we had the opportunity to enjoy two very funny dinners together in my new found home away from home, as we both head into exciting phases of our lives.
Pictured: the most wonderful woman walking her dogs down my street in an enviable pair of Mary Janes.
OH! THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! (The full version)
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets.
Look ’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there”.
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there, in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do, to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And then things start to happen, don’t worry.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t
Because, sometimes they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!