The Jace Letters 2: Later This Somewhere
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2007 by KFB
Subject: So How Is London?
Date: 7/2/2013, 07:43 PM
Dear Aunt Sandy -
Now that you're safely settled in my time, it bothers me a bit that in some ways you're farther away than ever. I've seen you at least eight times as Gabby, but only twice under my own name, as my college-age self. Forgive me, but I have to ask: was that part of why you moved to London? Is communication with me so awkward under the present circumstances that you feel the need to distance yourself from me physically?
Well, all right, I know it's something you really wanted to do anyway, and I admit it's a place I'd really like to see myself. Unfortunately, I'm just a penniless college student, with no money to travel any farther than Deming or Sedona, and even those I can't get to very often. Now that the school year is over, most of my free time is taken up with research, trying to work out exactly how to save you in my future, your past. The time bubble is working for now, but I'm not sure how stable it is, or how we get you out when the time comes. I know I can't ask you about that, so I won't. Oh, paradoxes are fun, aren't they?
So what is London like? Since I've never seen the real thing except on tv, it seems to me like a magical, fictional world, the place of Mary Poppins and Sherlock Holmes, Winnie the Pooh and Doctor Who. I suppose it's nothing like that, really, just another modern city, with a number of historic buildings but nothing truly extraordinary, no dimensionally transcendental police boxes or magic nannies. And that's a shame, really. It's not that I expect space-time anomalies like the Deming-Sedona one everywhere we look, and really, that one is causing quite enough trouble, all by itself. But London, the fictional London of books and tv and film, is such a place of wonder that I'm sure I'd be disappointed if I saw the real thing.
Still, I'm hoping you'll say that even the real London has charms of its own. At the very least, you can look at the Houses of Parliament or the Tower of London and be reminded of their history, both in the real world and less mundane ones.
Subject: London Is...
Date: 7/3/2013, 8:23:573122 PM
Please don’t be hurt by this, but yes, you've guessed correctly about my motives. One of the reasons I moved to London was to minimize the contact between us. You said yourself (or at least you will) that it’s the easiest way to keep the ontological paradox from getting out of hand.
I'm happy to say that you're wrong about London, though. There is something utterly charming about the place, even without the outright magic found in literature. I am surrounded by "brilliant" (they say that a lot!), funny people, speaking in a surprising variety of accents on a wide range of subjects. I'm sorry to say I'm too shy to have made any friends so far, but my landlord is rather nice, and there are a few people at the shops I frequent that I would like to get to know better.
More than that, it's a different country, a heady mixture of foreign and familiar. Every day is a mini-adventure, just buying different foods and other items in strange packaging, paying for them with something other than dollars, then taking the tube back and cutting across Kensington Gardens to my "flat." So far there is no sign of Mary Poppins in the Park, but I have to admit that sometimes I catch myself looking for her.
There is one odd thing that has happened, and I've been meaning to email you about it, since I can't reach the older version of "Gabby" any more. Last week I set out to see a play in a certain theater in the West End, but the play had closed and the theatre was dark. Instead I ended up at another theatre nearby. They were offering panto, a version of Aladdin, which surprised me because it's my understanding that it's something they normally only do at Christmas. But I paid for my ticket and went in anyway. I can't pretend I understand the panto genre; it was the most thoroughly foreign and incomprehensible thing I've seen here to date, even more so than the cricket match. To be honest, I didn't like it much. It wasn't just silly, but pointlessly silly, and full of allusions I couldn't hope to understand.
But there was something strange about it, even beyond the cultural sensibilities that I lack. David Tennant was in it, but he didn't look anything like the David Tennant on tv. He played a Grand Vizier, and all right, yes, he was all done up in a wig and a fake beard. Even so, he looked older than I expected, even allowing for the fact that I remember him mostly from Doctor Who five to seven years ago. I assumed it was the costume, but I hung around the stage door afterward, and I saw him leave. Without the wig he had gray hair, I swear to you, actual gray hair, and his face looked genuinely older. He walked right past me as if he didn't see me, and disappeared into a rather odd-looking car.
Even that isn't the weirdest part. Also on the cast list was Julie Andrews! She's certainly not someone I would expect to be doing panto at this stage of her career. Nor is she, as far as I can tell, because she wasn't the older actress of The Princess Diaries and other more recent roles. The part she played was that of the young princess, sort of the Jasmine character if it were the Disney version, which it wasn't. I saw her leave the theatre, too, and she looked no more than 15 years old! I would say it's a different Julie Andrews, but Equity is careful about such things, and besides, there was no mistaking that voice when she sang.
It was all so strange that I wondered the next morning whether I just dreamed it, or whether my experience in the time bubble has left me with some kind of dementia, or maybe an ability to see the past and future and present at once, all jumbled up. I went back to the theatre, and it was closed for renovation! I asked one of the men working on it, and he said it had been closed for a month.
So I guess I need your expert opinion, yours and Ken's. Am I going mad, or is time even weirder in the West End of London than it is in the American Southwest? And if I really did see Julie Andrews at 15 and David Tennant at 50, is it because I was somehow seeing into other times, or did the other times recombine themselves independently of me, in an unseasonal panto show in 2013?