It is a truth universally acknowledged that when your children have school holidays, adventures must be had, and a goodly proportion of these adventures must be had in the real world.
During the last summer holidays, we made fridge magnets of wooden circlets cut from fallen branches.
We erupted a volcano and linked it to the science of cupcakes, which necessarily involved the baking (and eating) of cupcakes.
And we replied to an invitation found on a novel’s printed page. That novel was The Princess Bride, by the late and very great William Goldman; page 195 encouraged us to write away for an extra, unpublished scene.
So we handwrote a letter, complete with illustrations.
We spent our nights reading on.
We braved the torture, the not-quite-wedding, the escape. We discovered another great love, a child, a fall. (No spoilers here.)
At the end of the book, we were treated to extracts from past responses to those write-away instructions, and I felt silly for writing away. Still, I thought, there may be something to add…
So we waited.
Months passed. We got on with our year and forgot about the letter — until a familiar envelope peeked out at us from the mailbox.
Our letter had been returned, undelivered. Perhaps the “Jelenka Harvey” ruse had been discontinued after the author’s passing. Perhaps my handwritten address was too hard to read. Perhaps there was nothing more to say.
What is certain is the wonder this book sparked within us, the delight that came with the invitation, the bond formed from beyond the written page. This is a magic book.
Thank you, Mr Goldman, for bringing this wonder. I am sorry we missed the chance to invite you to tea.
In a completely different strain of wonder, my fabulist short story ‘Jezabel’s Reformation’ appears in the current issue of Tahoma Literary Review. It’s free to listen here.
And Atticus Review has just published two of my videopoems — ‘His wife reflects’ and ‘You ask too much’ — which you can find here.