Thursday, 1 September 2011

Halfway up the stairs.

The stairs in this house are one step too few. On both flights. In our old house there were fifteen steps. I counted them one day. And then forgot what number they were. Then counted them again to remember. I used the number to make sure that when I was going up them in the dark, or while I was carrying something big so that I couldn't see my feet, I still got to the top/bottom of the flight without falling over. Now, after at least fifteen years in our old house (how nicely the numbers coincide), my feet are so used to fifteen steps that I'm constantly falling over myself at the top of these fourteen-step flights in expectation of another step, or ending at the bottom of the flight in a jarring thud as my foot hits floor sooner than it expects. Dammit.
Ah, but having fifteen steps was important for another reason. Not only because it's a nice number (a comforting number, a kind of comfortable number), it is also odd. An odd number of steps when I was a child was important. I assume you know AA.Milne? The author of Winnie-the-Pooh. Delightful writer. He wrote a poem, that my family used to sing when I was a child.

"Halfway up the stairs
is a stair where I sit.
There isn't any other stair
quite like it.
It's not at the bottom,
it's not at the top.
But this is the stair
where I always stop.
Halfway up the stairs
isn't up and isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
it isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
run around my head.
It isn't really anywhere,
it's somewhere else instead."

I've got the structure wrong, but the words are right. Or right enough. Memorised as a little girl. It took a few years for that song to sink in, but when it did, I stomped my way up and down those stairs, counting and then counting, till I was sure when I'd found the half-way-step. Then that is where I would sit. With a book, curled up against the wall out of people's way. Or with a notepad and pencil, scribbling nonsense. Or just for a minute to peer through (and later over) the banisters, just in case there was something worth seeing.
Now these new stairs don't have a halfway up. There's just that moment, for a split second, when your foot is suspended in midair between the seventh and eighth step, with your body wavering in space, when you're exactly halfway up the stairs. Not a particularly easy place to think.
And now that I've realized what it is that makes my body feel that tiny bit uncomfortable while going up and down those stairs, I feel like I'm missing something. I'm missing a step.

1 comment:

  1. There's an interesting idea for a fairytale or fantasy story; the mysterious half step. Not unlike platform 9 and thre quarters in the chronicles of a certain bespectacled boy wizard. Get on it B! I expect a draft by the 15th at 15:15.