more east coast portraits: chloe and the small boys.


we took a lovely train ride yesterday up through the flaming autumnal trees of upstate New York towards a town that we thought only existed in the movies – mais non! tis real.

the Purpose of our visit was to catch up with a dear friend and former person-who-also-worked-in-a-skyscraper and is now the darling mother of a small brood of boys – three of them, under three, to be exact.

oh we had the most delicious time!

the thing about photographing small people is to let them understand that one completely appreciates the nature of being small – and Young – and saying definite things and enjoying the color/colour/shades of Lilac and Yellow (“like the sun – and we Like It” we were told, most clearly with a splendid seriousness we Much agreed-with).

 we also Adored being read to – and we have a very soft spot for using the English accent and doing a spot of reading to.

the books on offer were about Trucks (yellow, mostly – a clearly compelling shade and no wonder – tis glorious and Like The Sun) and Very large airplanes, mostly. Now airplanes we recall from la vie jet-set (in fact, we were in INDIA when we first knew of the impending arrival of this small boy in a blue sweatshirt, not too many years ago) and Trucks are not unknown to us (but we prefer something small and sporty and nippy for driving down Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu – can’t wait!) but we suddenly saw something in the corner of the room and we kept taking pictures while moving it gently over to our field of vision with our right foot……

…….and then we started reading in a Very British Accent and slowly but surely the attention was diverted from the Trucks and Airplanes and we both sat quietly and with a great deal of sonorous pleasure and a vast amount of relaxing energy and smiles and Deep Sighs when discovering what happens when it is the Night Before Christmas..

our divine reverie was complete when we were Informed, gently, that not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, by a small eager voice Piping up from the small blue armchair by the crib and we sat reading, in delicious companionship, for a little while.


this New Life is Rather Excellent.

thank you, Chloe and the small boys for the visit.

P. L. Travers is one of our most favo(u)rite writers and has a Lot to say about writing – and not specifically for children – but being Delighted when children fall in love with her characters, like a certain Ms. Poppins.


The other day two little boys accosted me in the street and said to me, “You are the lady who wrote Mary Poppins, aren’t you?” And I admitted it, and said, “How do you know?” And they said, “Because we sing in the choir, and the vicar told us.” So, clearly, they had thrown off their surplices and rushed after me to catch me. So I said, “Well, do you like her?” And they both nodded vigorously. I then said, “What is it you like about her?” And one of them said, “Well, she’s so ordinary and then . . .” and having said “and then” he looked around for the proper word, and couldn’t find it. And I said, “You don’t have to say any more. That ‘and then’ says everything.” And the other little boy said, “Yes, and I’m going to marry her when I grow up.” And I saw the first one clench his fists and look very belligerent. I felt there might be trouble and so I said, “Well, we’ll just have to see what she thinks about it, won’t we? And in the meantime, my house is just there—come in and have a lemonade.” So they did. With regard to your question about her altering, I do not think that people who read her would want her to be altered. And what I liked so much about that—I felt it was the highest praise—was that the boy should say, “Well, she’s so ordinary.” But that’s what she is. And it is only through the ordinary that the extraordinary can make itself perceived.

I certainly had no specific child in mind when I wrote Mary Poppins. How could I? If I were writing for the Japanese child who reads it in a land without staircases, how could I have written of a nanny who slides up the banister? If I were writing for the African child who reads the book in Swahili, how could I have written of umbrellas for a child who has never seen or used one?

But I suppose if there is something in my books that appeals to children, it is the result of my not having to go back to my childhood; I can, as it were, turn aside and consult it (James Joyce once wrote, “My childhood bends beside me”). If we’re completely honest, not sentimental or nostalgic, we have no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. It is one unending thread, not a life chopped up into sections out of touch with one another.

Once, when Maurice Sendak was being interviewed on television a little after the success of Where the Wild Things Are, he was asked the usual questions: Do you have children? Do you like children? After a pause, he said with simple dignity: “I was a child.” That says it all.

But don’t let me leave you with the impression that I am ungrateful to children. They have stolen much of the world’s treasure and magic in the literature they have appropriated for themselves. Think, for example, of the myths or Grimm’s fairy tales—none of which were written especially for them—this ancestral literature handed down by the folk. And so despite publishers’ labels and my own protestations about not writing especially for them, I am grateful that children have included my books in their treasure trove.


a perfectly proper way of explaining the magic of children.

and we Did enjoy the magical boys we met yesterday, up in a town we had no earthly idea actually existed in real life and not just the movies.

although the movies are pretty much RL to us.

and we like it like that.

just like a small boy in Pleasantville is most definite about liking Yellow – because the sun is yellow – and – we quote – I Like That.

yes, magical. *smiling*

5 thoughts on “more east coast portraits: chloe and the small boys.

  1. Such beautiful photographs! And I love these words: we have no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. So true.

    I had the (surprise) good fortune to read to a 5-year old today about dinosaurs, that same little one an old favorite – Clifford (that big red dog!), and also a room full of 5 year olds about ladybugs and spiders and pumpkins,

    None of this was planned… It was simply the way my afternoon unfolded in a far off place, on an off day, in the magical sphere of children.

    No photos, but delicious pictures in my head.

    1. dearest D – oh that’s lovely – Clifford is a particular favo(u)rite with that kind winning smile.

      reading-is-delicious (especially with small people)

      waving from soho!

      _tg xx

  2. Love this comment you posted from Travers: “If we’re completely honest, not sentimental or nostalgic, we have no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. It is one unending thread, not a life chopped up into sections out of touch with one another.”

    1. dear lady-of-letters

      we agree – entirely.

      and a most enjoyable unending thread of magical experiences it is too.

      Waving to the Sprite and hoping she feels A Lot Better soon………..

      _tg x

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