(Isabella – Braveheart of France)
There he goes.
Eighteen years old and really, he doesn’t have a clue. He has such grand dreams and none of them make any kind of sense.
He’s left school and got a job in an office in London. He hates it. The shortcut to the train station takes him through the local churchyard and this morning he has stopped to study the gravestones.
Some of them are mossy with age, others are relatively new. They all have one thing in common though; the people under them are all dead.
This kid – he isn’t even shaving on a regular basis yet – makes some quick calculations in his head. All these folk under the stones had a certain time allotted to them and when you add it up, it really doesn’t amount to much; and some of them, when you do the math, well it doesn’t add up to much at all.
So then and there he makes a decision. He is going to live a life quite different from his parents. He is going to quit his job and go to Morocco.
photograph: Jerzy Strzelecki
He is going to stay there until his money runs out and then he is going to write a book and become a best-selling author. He promises himself he is going to love passionately, travel widely, and cram as much into his life as he can before he ends up just another stone in the ground …
Looking at me standing there in the churchyard as a sallow youth I am filled with a kind of poignant regard. I feel kinda sorry for him.
There’s so much I would like to tell him, but it’s too late now, and anyway, he wouldn’t have listened. But I am also quite proud of him; for despite all the spectacular screw ups he made, he stuck to his guns. I admire him for that.
Hemingway: the closest I got was naming my pet parrot after him
But this is what I would like to have said to him:
Firstly son, I know that sometimes you ask yourself – Am I good enough? Well, let me reassure you on that one. No, you’re not.
You have talent, that’s all. Who hasn’t? Everyone has some kind of talent. But the point is this: it doesn’t matter that you’re not good enough now. You could be one day if you have the balls to persist, and if you are prepared to work at it. I mean really work. And that’s the same for everyone. So quit worrying.
Secondly – you’re absolutely right: we don’t have long down here. Hold on to that thought, it will stand you in good stead later when you come to make important decisions in your life.
Most of all, don’t worry about making mistakes. They are guaranteed. Even if I told you in advance the truly, unbelievably idiot things you are going to do, I know it won’t do any good.
But in the end, it’s only the times you did nothing that you’ll regret.
Hold onto your dreams. You’re going to find out soon enough that loving passionately is not as straightforward as you think and that travelling the world is not all palm-fringed sunsets and camel rides.
And this dream you have of writing a manuscript, sending it off and becoming instantly rich and famous; well, you’ll learn.
But don’t let life’s hard lessons make you bitter or cynical. Toughen up. Wise up. But don’t ever stop dreaming. Some days dreams come true.
photograph: Aaron Escobar
What else should I tell him, do you think? I’m sure you can think of plenty of things I’ve missed. I just scratched the surface really. What would you have liked to have told yourself at eighteen?
Anyway, feel free. He won’t listen, of course. He’ll have to learn the hard way.
I guess that’s why they call them life lessons.
She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.
12 year old Isabella, a French princess marries the King of England – only to discover he has a terrible secret. Ten long years later she is in utter despair – does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death – or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself?
Isabella is just twelve years old when she marries Edward II of England. For the young princess it is love at first sight – but Edward has a terrible secret that threatens to tear their marriage – and England apart.
Who is Piers Gaveston – and why is his presence in the king’s court about to plunge England into civil war?
The young queen believes in the love songs of the troubadours and her own exalted destiny – but she finds reality very different. As she grows to a woman in the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, she must decide between her husband, her children, even her life – and one breath-taking gamble that will change the course of history.
This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England – and win.
In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, ISABELLA is thoroughly researched and fast paced, the little known story of the one invasion the English never talk about.
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13