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The Scrivener: Opening Doors

The whoooosh of a bank's self-opening doors opens sixty years of doors in Brian Barratt's mind.

Go on! Accept the Open Writing invitation to continue reading this column by The Scrivener - and you will pass through a magical doorway into the land of reading pleasure.

The self-opening doors of the bank whooooshed apart. The delighted voice of a small child called out: ‘They open, Mummy!’

She stood, wide-eyed, wondering what would happen next. The doors closed. She stepped forward very carefully. The doors opened. More squeals of delight. A discovery had been made — I can make these doors open and close!

Sixty years of doors opened in my mind.

The magic started in the early 1940s. The front door of our house in England had one of those old-fashioned brass letter-box flaps as well as a brass knocker. There were anti-aircraft guns in the wooded land on the other side of the road. When they fired, the brass letter-box rattled. Ignorant of the real meaning of the war noises of the night, I called them the ‘rat-a-tat guns’.

Then there was the west door of the little church in the Nottinghamshire village of Hawton. It had — and no doubt still has — damage caused by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads. Shot-holes in the church door.

My great-great-grandparents married in that church in 1827. After years of research, I believe the bridegroom was my Roma (Gypsy) ancestor. Was it, I wonder, a shot-gun marriage?

H.G.Wells wrote many wonderful short stories. In The Door in the Wall a man recalls how in childhood he had discovered a mysterious green door in a white wall. He had stepped through it, into another world.

There was a mysterious and forbidden door-in-the-wall in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. What it concealed, and how it was dealt with, became the key to the unfolding story.

You’ve probably already discovered the doors of Cold Comfort Farm, the hilariously gloomy gothic novel by Stella Gibbons. If you haven’t, then what was hidden behind them is best not revealed. We’ll mention just one of them.

Aunt Ada Doom had sat behind her bedroom door for time beyond memory, emerging only once each year for the Counting of the Starkadders. The reason has become a catch-phrase in the English language: ‘I saw something nasty in the woodshed’. What she saw, I am not at liberty to reveal.

Doors of a different kind opened and closed for me about thirty years ago. They were the main entrance to the old Education Department in Queensberry Street, Melbourne. There was a wondrous sign: Please close the door when entering. When I asked someone at the reception desk how that convoluted act was to be accomplished, I was met with blank looks.

In the heady days of early ‘women’s lib’, I was walking along the corridor of a teacher training college. The person just ahead of me went through a swinging door, and let it swing back into my face. She had disappeared by the time I recovered and wished to thank her for such kindness to others.

It was at about the same time that I held a car door open for a very liberated friend. She declared in a biting tone, ‘I can do that myself, thank you’. I explained that had she been a male, I would have done the same thing. It’s called good manners. Now we’re older, and have matured, she can join me in a good laugh about those early excesses of feminist fundamentalism.

Then there was the ever-grateful door in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. It opened when approached, and announced, ‘Thank you for making a simple door very happy’. It followed the philosophy ‘All the doors in this spaceship have a cheerful and sunny disposition. It is their pleasure to open for your, and their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done’.

I’m so grateful to that happy little girl who discovered self-opening doors. When you think about it, life is full of doors, and none of them is ordinary. Some keep you in, but others lead you into new experiences.

There is a sign on the door of my study: Persons not wishing to see worlds outside or inside themselves are gently advised to close their minds when entering this room.

Mmmmm! Which door will you use today?

© Copyright 2003, 2005 Brian Barratt
Adapted from an article first published in Bonzer!


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