isn’t sunday just a lovely day?
we won’t see much of it until later because we have Lots to Do (column to write, the last section of The House on Church Row and a fresh copy of a magazine from the languid and luscious South has arrived) – but we shall venture out around 5PM for a light supper and meeting up with friends in the Hollywood Hills.
so last night the Light here was Luminous.
we left the car and took a walk up steep’ish streets and slipped into quieter back roads and got Quite exhausted but happily creatively enhanced by looking at all the nice houses….
some were Very Roman.
and others had slightly sad threadbare and troublesome histories (the one at the top straight ahead was the last apartment of a certain Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald at 1403 North Laurel Avenue, Los Angeles, California) – an ignominious end – although he did not expire here, he ended his hours with us in this world not far at another apartment owned by his lover of the time Sheilah Graham – an English writer who had come to America to find her own fortune with a Life in Ink.
The curriculum for my College of One was lost. I discovered its disappearance in 1954 when a magazine editor visited me in Beverly Hills and suggested I write the story of my life. He knows, I thought. “What you really want,” I said, “is an account of my time with Scott Fitzgerald.” In recent years editors had approached me about this, and my answer had always been “No.” “We want to know aboutyou,’ this one assured me, “an English girl who came to America. Why did you come and did you find what you came for? Of course”—casually — ‘anything you’d write about Fitzgerald would be interesting.” I would think about it, I promised.
I had been thinking about it ever since I had read Arthur Mizener’s biography of Scott, The Far Side of Paradise, and Budd Schulberg’s unsympathetic portrait in his novel The Disenchanted. It seemed to me that both books had given the wrong impression of Scott as I knew him in Hollywood. Perhaps the time had come to tell my story.
When the editor left, I went into my garage, lifted the lid of the trunk, and for the first time since I had placed it there in June of 1941 I held the bulging brown manuscript envelope marked Scott. It contained the visible fragments of the three and a half years we had spent almost continuously together, until his fatal heart attack in my Hollywood apartment on 21 December 1940. I carried the package to my desk, untied the thin brown ribbon that barely held the flaps together, and, with some apprehension but more curiosity, sifted at random though the material. Ah, here were the two acts and the prologue of our unproduced play, Dame Rumor. His letters and poems to me. I had forgotten how beautiful they were. Scraps of paper with scribbled messages in his loose straight—up handwriting. The recording he had made one evening of “Ode to a Nightingale”. Some short stories I had written, my fictional account of our meeting and falling in love. I had titled it Beloved Infidel after his poem to me. I had forgotten the story and his severe editing. Here was the entire lecture he had written for me. He was on the wagon, or so I thought, when I made the tour, and I had kept the telegrams he had sent to the various cities, humorous but also intended to reassure me that I was capable of lecturing and to convince me he was sober.
But where was the detailed curriculum we had called my College of One, the twenty—odd closely typewritten pages that had absorbed us and given us so much satisfaction in the last two years of his life? I searched through the envelope again. I went back to the trunk to see if they had fallen out. Incredibly they were missing.
we have Requested these materials from the Library Service of Los Angeles County so we may well Return to this period of Hollywood lore (especially as we’re sure we’re going to write at least a short story about 4 x girls in 1920s Hollywood with a backdrop of the silent movies – it’s all starting to gel in the Mind’s eye you see, in a most delicious way).
unlike Sheilah, we’ve never had a relationship that had a curriculum of Improving Oneself therein.
oh. right. there was One (maybe two). but that’s for another blog and probably ought to remain entwined and enclosed in fiction………
no. you see. Our Curriculum comes from books and movies and Director’s Q&A post-film-screenings (we adore a director’s Q&A) and last night was a TREAT!
it was at the Sundance Sunset (started by that nice Mr. Robert Redford) which is a 21+ movie theatre (because some people – like Mr. Robert Redford and his friends – prefer to watch films without screaming children or teenagers and with a glass of a potent beverage – they certainly do a very strong and glorious Iced Coffee – black – which is what we sip there).
because it’s a 21+ theatre – they “card” as the americans call it.
and we got carded last night!
we *giggled* massively.
who-we-are-in-RL raised a (well-groomed) eyebrow and handed over her driving license (they won’t give us one because we’re a Virtual character, you see, so we hung back and looked out over the chinese lanterns and waited) and the sweet young man on the door did a double take at her date of birth (1969 – she’s not shy about her age, we can tell you – we are among friends here) and said:
“god, you look Good.”
and did a sly French/Irish smile and wrinkled up her (freckled) nose and said:
and we laughed all the way into the theatre and through the iced coffee (black) purchasing and finding-our-seat.
what was the movie?
we forgot to mention in the excitement about getting carded!
witty and winsome and dark (in places) and Very Understanding about being female and what-that-means-about-choices (Julianna Moore is a comedic genius – we had no idea and luminous and earthy) and Nathan Lane is GLORIOUS and it was a Romp!
and after the movie the director was meant to be there to answer our Questions but he just did a few moments Before as apparently there was a small person emergency at home and he needed to go and be a dad which was sweet and sort of refreshing actually.
so the husband-and-wife-team-of-screenwriters (how 1930s Hollywood!) stopped by to do the Q&A and it was funny because people who spend time sitting in a room with virtual characters are often quite Strange when they are allowed out into public venues to interact
and they had a nice Patter going back and forth between them – one could imagine their adjoining desks and bits of half-eaten toast and vast vats of coffee to sustain them and pacing up and down and shouting out bits of dialogue or running to the centre of the room to say “No! then This happens!” and acting out scenes.
it was fun.
and the movie was Most Excellent.
on the way back the twinkle lights and hummingbird feeders were all aglow.
and we stopped by the late night grocery store and carried our two brown bags (just like in Woody Allen films in NYC) back home and smiled a lot at the fact that we are Back Here.
and watching a lot of movies.
because That’s delicious.
we’re up to 75,000 words on The House on Church Row and can see the Horizon now (and we don’t mean the Literary Magazine edited by Mr. Cyril Connolly in the 1940s)
now we’d like to share a tiny snippet with you – we’ve been Very Careful about not revealing too much of how-the-plot-gets-worked-out with these little excerpts we’ve been pasting (and anyway, once we do the first Edit a Lot will probably change).
but we thought you’d enjoy this new character who only arrives towards the very end……..
He went down to the kitchen and saw his mother standing at the French windows staring out into the garden.
“What on earth are you doing here?” he said, half-hoping she had got up early enough to make coffee. His headache was splitting now. He searched in the kitchen drawers for an Aspirin.
Then he realized his mother was still staring out of the window and had not responded to him. He felt irritated by all the women in his life right now – either they were flakey, stunned, hurt or possibly queer. It was all too much. He slammed the kitchen drawer shut, took a cup from the coffee tree stand and poured some coffee. At least his mother had had the decency to make coffee.
He joined her at the window. And could not believe his eyes. There was a crater in his garden where the fence between his house and the garden next door had collapsed into a dark pit.
“What the hell were you women doing last night?” he said loudly letting all the frustration out of his body in a sudden burst of rage. Did they have any idea how much a fence cost to repair?
The doorbell rang. Simon left his mother in shock at the French windows and stormed into the hallway. He opened the door to the world’s press standing behind a group of men in white coats with the sort of visors and protective helmets he remembered from the film E. T.
“Annabelle!” he shouted. His wife and children appeared at the top of the stairs in seconds. They blinked as a thousand flash bulbs went off.
A man in a 1940s tweed suit stepped forward, ignoring the global press corp. and handed Simon his card. It said:
The Honourable Nigel Blackcastle-Jones-Smythe
Charlotte took the card from her son’s hand and studied it for a second and then looked up at The Honourable Nigel Blackcastle-Jones-Smythe and said, “Gosh, we meet at last.” Nigel looked carefully at Charlotte and realized it was Deneuve. She did look good in the flesh, he had to admit, a dashed shame that the Agency had cut back on lunching its operatives at The Savoy; they could have had a splendid time.
Simon stared at his mother as Nigel walked smoothly into the house, seemingly gliding on his bespoke Church’s lace-up Oxfords in Oxblood. “Who is that?” he hissed as his wife’s boarding school manners took over and she started rustling up a tea while the men in radioactive clothing swarmed into her house. She wondered if she had enough cups.
“That, darling,” said Charlotte, with a smile, “Is the last remaining member of The Establishment – and my boss.” With that, she followed Annabelle into the kitchen and started putting out Arrowroot biscuits onto Spode plates. Simon was dumbfounded. He closed the door firmly against the world’s press and sat on the bottom stair with his son and daughter. Two very strange pieces of information swam in his head – his mother had a job – and there was only One Man Left in the Establishment. Where did that leave him?
It all feels Rather Thrilling.
we’re going to make a second pot of coffee, snack on a few italian crackers and Get Cracking on the rest.
we maybe s o m e t i m e
did we mention how lovely you are to Visit?
and that’s a delicious hat.