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  • sarastgeorge7

Let the great big world keep turning.

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

'The Pendulum told me that, as everything moved — earth, solar system, nebulae and black holes — one single point stood still ... How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude? ' - Umberto Eco

Oh my - where to start? I have been to the Panthéon twice already, and it doesn’t fail to impress. The view from the top is one of the best in Paris. Two hundred steps up, you will find a 360-degree vista and a glimpse into some very swanky apartments to boot.

The Pantheon is regarded as 'the temple of the French nation.' Two hundred years ago, Architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot achieved Louis XV’s wish to glorify the monarchy with a church dedicated to Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. The Revolution in 1789 transformed the building, and during the turbulent 19th century, it alternated in its role as a religious and patriotic monument. Since 1885, the year of Victor Hugo’s death and burial in the Pantheon, it has been the last resting place for a dizzying array of great writers, scientists, generals, churchmen and politicians who have made the history of France, with the tombs of more than 70 illustrious figures, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, Pierre and Marie Curie.

The nave contains one of my highlights, a 67-meter-long pendulum, one of the most important scientific discoveries in the world. In 1851, the physicist Léon Foucault chose the Panthéon to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.

'Wherever you put it, Foucault's Pendulum swings from a motionless point while the earth rotates beneath it. Every point of the universe is a fixed point: all you have to do is hang the Pendulum from it." - Umberto Eco

I know I shall go again. Not only is my non-scientific mind blown by Foucault's pendulum, but the building is beautiful and compelling. It has an aura of calm.

So it got me thinking. A pendulum. A crypt. A 360 view. I guess the parallels are obvious. Or they soon will be.

Where to begin....

SWING... March 2020. The day the earth stood still. Well, not quite, but an unprecedented world event changed everyone's lives. And for a while, during lockdown, it did feel that the world had stopped, yet time was moving even faster than before. In April, I had covid. It was rough but ok. I lost my sense of taste and smell for over three months. Like many, I unexpectedly lost family members too (not to covid, I should add)

...SWING In the middle of it. was a ray of light. Arts and culture. I was very lucky to be working for a venue with a can-do attitude, and every time we could open the doors, take work outside, or curate a programme online, we did. We were a strong team, united by a clear vision - to make sure we survived and that we spoke and fought for arts in the regions. We found humour in the unlikeliest of places. A coping mechanism perhaps, but we found our fun, and it kept us motivated, positive and busy. Oh, so busy.

Much has been written about the role of arts and culture during times of crisis. The arts allow us to explore and make sense of what it means to be human, bringing people and ideas together. I am privileged to work in this world and to be able to share it with others. And let's face it, culture, in all its meanings, found its way into everyone's lives, whether watching an opera online for the first time or learning to speak French. (I just wish I'd kept it up!)

But it was relentless. Work and home blended into one. I was exhausted. I didn't know it at the time and carried on burning the candle at both ends.


Life starts to get back into a new groove. I tried to ban all references to 'getting back to normal' to anyone who would listen, but some people wanted the old status quo back. What is normal anyway? The pandemic gave us the opportunity to think about how we wanted to live our lives going forward. It was when the idea of a sabbatical arose. After nearly 15 years in my job, I felt stuck. I love what I do, but I was tired, lacking direction and struggling to get my mojo back after a difficult few years. So I started flying lessons. Yes really. You didn't see that coming! A lifelong ambition started to be realised. Things really were looking up ... and up, Three thousand feet over Dorset, in fact Then in October, my sabbatical was confirmed. I said I wanted to go to Paris. Now I had to do something about it. Blimey. What had I done?


December 22. Feeling quite unwell. The doctor prescribed something. The pharmacy was out of stock. Two days before Xmas, I contacted the surgery again, but no one called me back. On 27 December, I presented myself at A&E I hadn't eaten for 3 days unless you count paracetamol. I was in pain. My head was telling me something was seriously wrong. My Apple watch kept alerting me that my resting heart rate kept spiking at 130. Initially, I assumed something was wrong with the watch. 'I think I've got appendicitis', I told the receptionist, the triage nurse, and the nurse practitioner. I was sent home without tests and referred back to my doctor. A consequence of 'looking too healthy' The next day, I started to feel anxious. Something felt very wrong. E-consult advised a visit to A&E. Done that. I pushed hard to see a doctor. Within thirty minutes, I was in the surgical assessment unit for tests. Three hours later, I was hooked up to a drip, intravenous antibiotics and paracetamol. It was appendicitis, and I had an infection. My operation should have been that evening but was bumped. Declaring me stable, I was admitted for the night. Just as well really, as my appendix burst during that night. Twelve hours later, I was operated on. Suffice it to say I was not very well. I didn't eat for 8 days in all. Recovery was slow and challenging both physically and psychologically. If I hadn't gone into the hospital, I would have been at home, alone, with many people thinking I'd gone on holiday. I prefer not to dwell on that as it didn't happen. And yes, I also missed a holiday to see friends in Cape Town. My first long break in 5 years.


But the pendulum keeps swinging, and here I am. How lucky I planned a sabbatical all those months ago. How did I know? It couldn't have happened at a better time.

As I contemplate Foucault's pendulum, transfixed by its smooth, perfectly paced movement, almost hypnotic, as it slowly makes its way around another 24 hours, I have a little debate with myself. I am reminded of a quote from Paul McKenna's brilliant production Showman. One sentence sticks in my mind 'Don't sleepwalk through life' I guess the trick is to stop the pendulum from swinging too far off course. Life has its ups and downs, it’s to and fro. Standing still is not always a great place to be, although sometimes it can be. But nothing stays the same forever. I still have 1200+ weeks, maybe more, so there has to be more, right? I've learned the fear of change is so much greater than the reality. Friends who have sought out new lives have been telling me this for years. At the end of the day, you find a way. Life may change, but the great big world keeps turning. French food, eclair au chocolat and croissants have ensured I have put the weight back on (and then some.), and I have added the word 'patapouf' to my vocabulary - not a word you'll find on Duolingo. There is still plenty to do and see in Paris and friends to share the experience with. Someone put this quote on social media the other day, and I thought it was very timely so I am sharing it now. Today is the tomorrow you were so worried about yesterday. Keep fighting, be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.' Anthony Hopkins

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