On this day in 1850, one Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson was born into the noted Stevenson family, at 8 Howard Street, Edinburgh. Engineering & design was very much the Stevenson game & it`s easy to imagine young Smout (or `Runt`as he was known at a young age due to his lack of size) being lost to the more practical professions, lighthouse engineering or the law. Thankfully, for us, his was a restless & curious mind, a travelling soul who would one day fetch up here where I am now, in Grez-sur-Loing, already about his travelling business, ready to meet future wife Fanny Osborne with whom he`d embark on a life-long journey which would see him settle (& eventually die) on Samoa in the south Pacific.
More about my own experiences here at another time. Tonight, I`m taking a framed RLS print for a pint, on his birthday, me & 2 Finnish artists & an American fossil fern expert. It`s what he would`ve wanted. How unfortunate, that my carefully researched plans into acquiring & bringing a life-size RLS cut-out should eventually come to nought (they couldn`t make a fold-up version alas) - I`d rather have liked him standing next to me in the local bar while I slopped red wine all over him in the midst of ranting about the Referendum result. I think it`s enough that I`M here, where he was & where he wanted to be back then, & that a glass or two will be raised to a framed print of him looking extremely Stevensonesque at Barbizon in the 1870s. It`ll be tough going, mind - I`ve never got a framed picture drunk before.
ON THE OCCASION OF ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON`S 164th BIRTHDAY
A strange thing, you`d think, taking a framed print
For an evening of banter & drink
But here, where plans were made, travels mapped,
Love found loitering in late Spring shade
Two centuries back, we will walk out on your birthday,
Man & print, to Le Bar Relais.
In mid-November the weather seems
To be trying hard to remember you,
Day upon day of sun & that sort of hypnotic light
Which tempts dragonflies to lazy flight,
Mesmerises the world into thinking
We´re a lifetime of seasons from winter.
Last week, after hours of floundering through
Nearby woods, I found a path home &
Rather magically, a tiled sign announcing
Chemin Robert Louis Stevenson
Complete with portrait –your body trees,
Your face made of futures, en route to Grez.
You`d come this way in 1876
From Barbizon, walked miles through forest
And met your future wife at Hotel Chevillon.
I walked you home, updated you on Scotland,
The Referendum, heard your resigned sigh,
Was glad to know that you`d have voted Aye.
Tonight, Louis, we`ll show them who`s boss,
Slap imaginary shoulders, put right the world
To when it was, down Normandy Calvados
And when midnight comes walk to the old bridge,
Drink the river, unpaint the moon,
Meet each other this beautiful side of never.