The Third Something

001 / Towards the door we never opened

Paris vs London and reflections of place and placelessness in the 21st century.

A very happy new year to you and thank you for reading the very first letter from me in 2019. It’s been lovely to see so many of you come over from Patreon and my old newsletter.

C and I spent the holidays in Paris, the city where we met, fell in love, and lived happily for several years.

Paris was also the focus of a very protracted debate between us in 2018, namely: should we move back there or not? We could never seem to agree on the same place at the same time. The year ended with C wanting to stay in London, where we are now, and my own heart yearning to go back to Paris.

Paris was the place where I once felt creatively alive and free. It was where I was living when I started making the video essays which most likely brought you here.

When I was there, Paris always felt…right.

And although we moved - more than two years ago now - to London for good reasons, this city does not really feel right. Certainly not creatively. It is a city where money is made, not art.

So I’ve spent a lot of the past couple of weeks wondering: if we had stayed in Paris, would I still be feeling alive and free right now?

It’s a strange sense that, I wonder, becomes more common as you get older: an awareness of paths not taken.

I really don’t intend for this to be a newsletter where I quote poetry, but these lines from T.S. Eliot strike a chord.

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the Rose Garden.

It might be a sensation that has become more acute in this era of global travel. Today we are fortunate enough to be able to make our homes in many places and I’m sure you have friends and memories scattered across the globe as well.

Do you ever find yourself wondering about the doors you have left unopened? The gardens you never visited?

It’s a sort of geographical FOMO I suppose. Roll back 200 years and folks were lucky if they left their own village, let alone country. The paradox of choice dictates that if you can live anywhere, you’ll probably always wonder if you are in the right place.

I expected my yearning to get even stronger in our ten days in Paris. But strangely, the opposite happened. Sometimes, when you revisit the scene of an old memory you find it has changed. The café where a magical night happened has become a gourmet burger joint. Or the place has stayed the same, but you have outgrown it.

So I have returned to London feeling more at peace. I needed to be in Paris and then I needed to leave. I have grown a lot since I left, in ways that I probably wouldn’t if I had stayed.

But the search for a place that feels…right, continues.

Thank you for reading this week. I hope that wherever you’re reading this today feels right for you.

My rule with these letters is I am not allowed to know what I’m going to say when I sit down to type. It will be a reflection of what’s on my mind now. I hope it will be interesting and I hope you’ll give the letter at least a month before deciding whether it’s for you. Each week will be different!

Until another Sunday soon,

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