#howtostaysaneinacrazyworld having a delicious book tour – works well with small people and friends-with-fur

darlings

this is the MOST fun that one could have on a book tour – while staying at home in one’s satin slip.

firstly – a note from the Old (Boys – and now fully co-ed) School:

We’ve ordered a copy for the library!  You must sign it next time you are here!! x

*blush* Rather! *throws_beret_in_the_air*

sightingbrightoncollege

so that’s Brighton, England.

where else has the book appeared this week?

let’s see

*thinks*

*clicks*

gosh, well, everywhere!

diegosighting

diego had a moment by the fireside after reading his copy. dublin

Just Add Attitude gave us the 1st sighting in DUBLIN, IRELAND!georgesighting

George even took a copy to La Belle France on his recent trip to keep a copy of his own novel company (3rd in the series, we are not-so-patiently-waiting-for-the-4th)jamieequinox

the book got a workout with a Top Trainer at an undisclosed (although quite clearly overlooking the Ocean) Location here in Tinseltown.

sophiewhitstablemarguerite

because it slightly overindulged in a delicious High Tea at The Marguerite beach hut in Whitstable, created by sophiekarina_judithARoss_sighting

and then took a nap with Katrina at Judith’s house on the East Coastsightinginportugalwithapricotblossom

while Xana (the lovely stepmother to who-we-are-in-RL) held up a copy in a rural part of Portugal while shaded by the apricot blossoms. sightingMsDebb

we’re also very popular (it being mostly a Picture Book you see, and we did think of That when we made it) with small children – this small child is a delightful Resident of the East Coast too and her full name (because we were given permission to share it – is Marlo Paige Knowles and she is scrumptious. 
switzerland

and here it is in Switzerland today where it just arrived on a Cross-Continental Flight wearing dark glasses and a suspiciously expensive overcoat and just hand luggage because it has a full set of clothing duplicated in the cedar-lined wardrobes over There.

What an incredible world tour the book is On!

sometimes (because who-we-are-in-RL has one of those “familiar” faces) she gets asked:

are you somebody?

and the other day she smiled (sweetly) and said:

no. but I play someone online.

we Preened in a rather ego-puffed-up (but still pretty) way.

Back to the Post for today.

In Other News!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

there has been a bit of gazing-out-to-sea and dreaming-of-the-future going on….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand being silent at sunset. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

mixed with some Deeply Practical work sending out (100 to date) handwritten cards for The Digital Check UpOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand actually walking (not fast, but meaningfully) to the postal receptacles (there are two side by side not far from teamgloria towers and we split the pile into two each time, just for luck or something like that).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand then our latest article on Tara Kolla and the Silver Lake Farms came out in Los Angeles, I’m Yours which was ever so nice and well, fragrantly beautifully.

there you have it.

a world tour while we stay safely in Los Angeles (until April 3rd when we fly to meet it in London, Deia/Majorca, Ibiza and London again with Whitstable – yes, with William on the Way Back) when we go to Meet the book and see how it is enjoying the world.

the world is a very lovely place.

is it lovely where you are today?

do. tell.

and is the book happy in your house?

it likes ribbons.

just so you know.

and close proximity to roses.

Miss Vickie Lester has the right idea

about so many things, actually.

1st sighting in Brighton, England – and Bella Basks By The Book on the Other Coast.

darlings

the notes are Pouring in!

we feel ever so overwhelmed and grateful.

here’s the 1st sighting in Brighton, England!

1stsightinginbrighton

do you see how closely the book is nestling in between Ms. G. Elliot’s Middlemarch while looking slightly shyly over at J G Ballard (as many do)? *shivers* we’re Hono(u)red to be in such august shelf space.

thank you for this Sighting from Brighton from the splendid catherine with whom (alongside Viv and cat) we shared a House in a village while all students at London University (the house was called Cloud 9 – not after the celestial heavens but after the splendidly feminist play by Ms. Caryl Churchill)

and may we introduce you to Bella?

BellaSuggestsYouReadHTSSIACWas you can see Bella is already very fond of the book.

we had a feeling we might get some furry friends because the book’s cover has a little sheen to it which we thought Instantly was nice to brush up against on the way to visit the View over Manhattan or the city of your choice and Residence.

thank you to S on the Other Coast for the lovely shot of Bella Basking By The Book.

do send pictures when it arrives at Your part of the world.

it really is thrilling to see the book out there.

you are all VERY very very Kind.

*deep_curtsey*

signing off now – who-we-are-in-RL needs the laptop to as her editors in England and CHINA have just sent notes and she must Re-Write as all Writers Must.

what a delicious life.

isn’t it?

the unexpected strange melancholy of sense memory.

darlings

*specialquietvoice*

how was your wednesday?

oh good.

we had a strange one.

it started very early – 5AM actually –OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and there was a drive across town (into the sunrise) and meeting up with friends and then listening to someone who needed to talk (we just listen, we have no particular or even general training but it’s a nice human trait; to listen) and then a drive back and some work emails and who-we-are-in-RL had Plenty to be getting on with (the calls came back, the commissions from Abroad are here – we’ve not seen her much at All today) and – most Excitingly – there was a Pre-Recorded Radio Interview to do….6e5e3134942711e38f071285a6421f42_8and then we’re not sure what happened.

the rest of the day was shot (as the Americans call it – not literally – no firearms here).

you see…

*bites_lip*

the Thing (there is indeed a Thing) about making-a-living via one’s ImaginationOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and force of will and inspiration and ability-to-ask-interesting-questions and Spin a Tale and let the listener feel as if They Were There is –  – – – –

well

when we *do* that – we are there too, you see.

and if the Experience we are Recounting was at all painful (yes, Tobias et al) – which it often is – but delivered with a Light Touch (we are known for a Light Touch you see) – we, well, there’s no way to say this but directly –

we relive it all over again.

which is *gulps* painful.

so the day was shot.

we took an extended nap. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit’s now almost 10PM and we’ve managed to pick up the pieces of the psyche and get back to work (which will make thursday surreal we’re sure) for probably several hours.

all is well.

but we just wanted to let You know.

because – well – you Know.

and that’s delicious.

while being Rather Comforting.

*sweet_smile_to_camera_1*

(while picking up tea cup and taking a thoughtful sip).c0808128936a11e3b7090effa017eb17_8on a more Upbeat note (as you know we do like an Upbeat Moment), whenever we just Happened to be Passing a major bookshop chain, we like to pop in, use the (extra special) British accent and ask the Person in charge of Customer Service whether they have ordered copies of you-know-what (because although mr. amazon has been delivering copies early to our friends in the USA, bookshops are Much Stricter and Wait for the “on sale date” which is 18th Feb, you see).

the Nicest thing about doing this (and yes, we always buy something to be suitably grateful) is that one gets to show them that who-we-are-in-RL is Very Excited about (our) the book.

did you know that if you are Very Nice to booksellers and show up in Person they generally order more while you’re standing there?

2b5915e6937a11e3a7a90e7c491880f5_8true story (happened in 3 bookshops recently).

isn’t that glorious?

we are Very Touched.

if you’re anywhere near Santa Monica next Tuesday, do pop upstairs at B&N (yes, “self-help” or “self-improvement”) as there should be a nice stack up there.

or if you happen to be at The Grove (and there are a lot of nice movies opening so you might well be, if only in spirit) at, say, seven PM (19:00 hours if you’re a european), well, we will see you there.

apparently a lovely new book will be fanned out elegantly On The Front Table (just as you enter, before the International magazine stand on the right).

gosh, no.

not doing a signing. per se.

although they’ve asked us to sign a few at our leisure that they’ll have upstairs on the table with signed copies.

we just want to visit it.

to see what it looks like – you know – in a public space – on its own – enticing potential purchasers to pick it up and take a look.

*deep_breath*

it’s rather nerve-wracking all this, you see.

which is probably why we took an extended nap this afternoon after pre-recording the Radio Interview with the lovely Diane Ray (being broadcast at 11AM Pacific Standard Time on Monday).

just to “re-calibrate”.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwonder if Anne Scott-James did that when Sketches From A Life came out.

deducing from the signature (lovely flourish, non?) but no dedication we’re assuming that ASJ signed these for a bookshop (perhaps Foyles?) and then left them there in a neat pile while she dashed off to have tea at a chum’s flat on the King’s Road.

we’re certainly glad of her company right now.

as we write in the book (said airily and with a little cute smile): books *do* make good companions. Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 10.12.17 PMas do interior designers in fact (yes, we thought that was a neat connection too) we encouraged our Readers at Los Angeles I’m Yours to grab one this week and visit Mulligans. 

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 10.15.34 PMgosh. is that the Time?

*peersatlaptop*

hmm.

10.17PM in L.A (wednesday)

SO – that makes it 2.17PM (thursday) in CHINA?

where one of our Newest editors is sitting, waiting for our notes for a piece for their June issue.

yes, we’re now (also) writing for CHINA.

gosh.

together with the published pieces and commissions for publications in Australia, UK, Mexico and now CHINA………that means we can (most officially) say we are now:

A Foreign Correspondent.

at last.

*giggles*

dreams do come true.

and some of them take twenty years.

which makes them all the sweeter, sweeties.

gosh. guess who is in good housekeeping tomorrow?

darlings

such exciting news!

who-we-are-in-RL is going to be on Newsstands TOMORROW (not literally we hasten to add, but inside the glossy pages of a Very glorious British Magazine) in GOOD HOUSEKEEPING.

GHUKMarch2014the Lovely Editors at Good Housekeeping gave us a preview of our piece and we popped it on our other site and (due to the miracles of the h y p e r l i n k i n g properties of internet protocol) it’s here for you to read.

but – we hasten to add – do (if you’re in England tomorrow for business/pleasure) – pop into a newsagent and buy a copy just so we keep the print business flourishing.

*winktocamera4*

 

 

carpe diem and other splendid philosophical exhortations.

darlings

carpe diem!

6f6b2de4629411e3a7a90e7c491880f5_8

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
― Walt Whitman

790ef22662c711e3bc0312a9ca7b08c1_8

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …”
― Marcus AureliusMeditations 969c014a633911e3a87812e1281b6b8f_8

“Carpe diem.”

(Odes: I.11)”
― HoraceThe Odes of Horace

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“If a man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit.”
― Thomas MertonThoughts in Solitude OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“No day but today.”
― Jonathan LarsonRent f3c40140633b11e3b07312c17fb79e44_8

“Don’t live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.”
― Wendy WassersteinOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.”
― Edith WhartonArtemis to Actaeon and Other Verses OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence.”
― Marcus AureliusMeditations OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Audentis Fortuna iuvat. Fortune favors the brave. Virgil Virgil, Aeneid X.284

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe adore a parcel
– teamgloria.

the (new) teapot and cups and saucers?

yes.

they are lovely.

sent from Abroad by the Paternal Parent (most kind) and designed by the Terribly Talented Lianne Mellor.

do you have a favo(u)rite Quote?

do. tell.

or a particularly pleasing china pattern?

links, please.

*smilingviatheinterweb*

hullo, england!

darlings

we are in ENGLAND (again)!

and we made our way from cape town to whitstable and it took 24 hours and so now we’re completely e x h a u s t e d and william has made us a Very Nice cup of decaf coffee (which is delicious) and we must pause and say thank you (not just for the coffee, but for having us to stay and joining us for a splendid Fish Supper) and now here we are.

it’s ever so Strange that everyone speaks English – and Rather Nice.

6dfca6044e9e11e382410efa3e38c48a_8 b755192c4eb111e3a7ca12fa1061fde7_8 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyes.

a d r e a m y sunset.

don’t you adore a sunset, darlings?

wherever one is in the World a sunset is a fitting close to a lovely day. 

simon, tea, nancy mitford and the soothing sound of a ticking clock in the drawing room.

darlings

the last few hours in London are passing Most Pleasurably.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

meet simon. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

of the Very Intelligent narrowed eye expression. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and a great *lookofftocameraTwo* gaze. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

a splendid slump and a purr when finished writing in his moleskine. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we made tea (simon demurred in favo(u)r of a small sip of water for himself)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and gazed out into the very nice garden. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thrilled to see some good friends. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

simon enjoyed bits of cold comfort farm being read out while he snoozed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAseriously – if one HAD to travel all the way to South Africa (although it is a glamorous proposition, we’re Aware), there is Not a nicer way to spend the last few hours with a simon, tea, nancy mitford, stella gibbons and a ticking clock.

we’ve known a few simons in our time but this one has to be the absolute Best.

just saying.

ok.

so we’re about to leave.

don’t expect to hear from us until we LAND in Cape Town sometime around teatime on Friday.

mainly because we managed to break *sighs* the US-to-UK electrical adaptor which means we are r u n n i n g out of j u i c e as the Americans say and won’t be able to re-charge until we can plug in the (hopefully more sturdy) US-to-SouthAfrican electrical adaptor device.

travel does broaden the mind but sometimes threaten the intellect.

see you below the Equator*

*right, non?

Most Excited.

hello, london.

darlings

we’re here!

and quite MAD (in a funny way) from the overnight flight from NYC to London in 51H (don’t ask) with probably not-exactly-2-hours-sleep but the Virgin Atlantic staff were splendid – all perky british essex voices and a kindly way about them – especially when dispensing tea or hot chocolate (nobody was allowed coffee as we were all supposed to Sleep) and then the Lights Went Out and we all did, duly, sleep (sort of).

now we’re here!

gosh.

London looks lovely in the rain.

but there again, it always did….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we braved the Tube (must not call it the Subway) because, well, getting a taxi is just Foolish with London Traffic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we had a little snafu before we left Manhattan – our hostess for tuesday night suddenly got STRUCK down by a Flu Virus *shudder* and so we decided we had better NOT get sick as we’re en route to South Africa to do some important work (well, we’re not doing it, who-we-are-in-RL is doing that bit, but we’ll be reporting in Here).

so we had to ask Mr. Expedia if he had a last minute room and he did but we couldn’t check in until 2PM and the flight arrived at 7AM so we had an adventure (see pictures).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

this is the only thing that still annoys us about England – the private worlds of the privileged.

yes, yes, we *know* Los Angeles has many a gated community – but one doesn’t know about them unless one does know about them – here the private parks are on full display and one presses one’s nose up against the railings to no avail. *sigh*. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

but this cheered us up immensely. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

as did a breakfast at the Troubadour. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

that’s been on site since 1951 (which is not actually that long for an English Establishment but now we live in L.A we practically reeled with excitement.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

so many marvel(l)ous Mews around our hotel (Earls Court – decadent and threadbare but utterly perfect gentry-wise). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

more up-against-the-railings-shots. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ah – a sweeping Georgian Terrace. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

many Minis. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and the sort of places Vita Sackville-West would have visited when In Town. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

this is our little room in the eaves.

isn’t it sweet?

sort of Student Nurse in size. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

one could almost be in paris with a rooftop view.

and now we take a short nap.

before heading out into the night to thrill to the lights of soho and Beyond.

ta dah!

crazy with lack of sleep but remembering to use a Proper English Accent, darlings.

 

five photographs (ours) and a poem (from Sir. J. Betjeman)

darlings

we’re RUSHING out the door ever so soon – but wanted to leave you a moment of reverie  in the meantime – five photographs from the past day and a Poem that we read as the sun dipped behind the Palm Trees while sipping tea-with-lemon.

enjoy.

0c1dca5cc79f11e2986822000aa8062e_7 0662cc90c73e11e2ae6922000ae902d1_7 62332790c73e11e2bcd822000aa80037_7 e1158af8c74311e2b4bf22000aa80174_7 8cce9d0ec73e11e29dbc22000a1f9e59_7

A Subaltern’s Love Song

poem by John Betjeman

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament – you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.

By roads “not adopted”, by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

 

random thoughts with green card

darlings

we’re still Very much in a daze.

and *smiling*

so a few Random pictures – and thoughts – and let’s see what happens next…as we type (we didn’t mean In the Larger Sense – too early for such concepts and we’ve only just begun to slink into the dark embrace of the first cup of caffeine at 07:49AM in Los Angeles, USA)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we have manhattan to thank for the green card.

for tis almost impossible (legally) to get a green card (through employment) unless one has a grand Job with a large established outfit (the company, not the clothing one wears to the Office).

so we got one.

and it was intense and full of world travel and machinations and some very good moments and some not such good times during you-know-what

we learned to Compete and subsist on chutzpah and caffeine. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

but all with an english accent (this is the truly delightful Royal Academy) which helps a Great Deal in American Business (even if they are rarely listening to the Content of one’s impassioned speech). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

but England was always a slight pang of sadness for us – we never fit in there (and we hope to mine that rich seam through the novels and in some way Move On from the early pain of not having the right Background, true Accent or country pile with dogs and batty parents and some nice-pearls-from-aunt-charlotte).

yet the Americans have always found us charmingly british so we slid gracefully into something close to their perception and bought our own pearls (from a street fair in perry street in the village-of-greenwich)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

yet there was always France.

until our 25th birthday, we had a french passport.

and then the immigration rules changed and it was Taken Away.

we were Stateless for almost a year (we didn’t keep a diary or a blog – pre-interweb-days, darlings) until the Editor of the Newspaper we worked on (gawd bless ‘im) insisted that the Authorities Help (as we had to fly to Atlanta for the E3 technology conference and cover the launch of Lara Croft – original game – for computers – not the movie, love).

at that point, we became British – but we look Irish – (which if you know your history was always a point of tension – we’re not underplaying this – but this is Not the blog for that discussion *lookstocamera* #newblogs?) – because that’s where 50% of our blood comes from (of course we are a virtual-ness so have no sanguine-component but who we are in RL is very lyrically freckly with a sing-song voice).

3815462361_06b1a737f6_z

 

so when we first came to Los Angeles (on a Visit) in 1999 *looksvaguelytocamera* it felt like home.

one could be Anything one wanted here.

everyone had mixed blood (and amusingly many had it in the same combination – 50% irish, 25% english, 25% french) and everyone Wrote and made movies and music and generally wore great sunglasses and still admired the sunsets even after years of residency here. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

los angeles is also as verdant as a summer garden in england – and remains thus all year round. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

they also have magic places called SOUNDSTAGES which are delicious. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

not everybody reads here – but those who Do – have a Lot of Books (some of which they have written themselves). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we picked up a camera again around that time and realized that looking-through-a-lens was soothing to the soul (and fun to take pictures of people we love). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and it was here – in America – that we started to Write again – something we thought we’d never do – we had such grief about losing (? walking away? torching?) the career as a journalist 


IMG_0162

 

yet now we regret nothing.

we have had a Huge journey and travel(l)ed widely and met the Most Interesting (and beautiful) people.

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 7.20.49 AM

so, as Madonna sang:

now what?

gosh.

well, the first thing that who we are in RL went and did as soon as she had finished Squealing and crying-a-bit was pick up her camera and go next door and shoot some self-portraits (we put the kettle on and waited patiently – it took a while for her to find the right lighting and liquid eyeliner swoosh) so she could update her Headshot from serious-corporate-manhattan-lady to i-am-so-happy-now-in-los-angeles.

it’s adorable.

she can be very sweet.

as long as she realizes that we need to buckle down and finish Church Row because Charlotte Jones has arrived (and we had No Idea she was behind the door) and Marion goes on-a-date-with-Dovinda (who just appeared off a 1st class direct flight from manhattan without a by your leave).

may we?

*blush*

you are Most Kind.

The three of them walked slowly down the hill. Simon fuming, Annabelle being bossy and Marion caught between them, delighted.

As they reached Church Row, Marion unzipped her tracksuit bottoms to get her keys out. Annabelle helped her open the door but demurred at her offer of a coffee. Simon felt triumphant. Until Annabelle said, “Oh, darling, I forgot to mention, your mother just showed up, she’s in London to sell her house.”

Simon spluttered. “My mother is here?”

Annabelle was tight-lipped. “Yes, she said she had warned you she was going to arrive. Perhaps you forgot to leave me a note on the fridge?”

His wife was never bitchy – unless Charlotte Jones was concerned. Simon’s heart sank. His mother had emailed him last week but in all the excitement over the gorgeous American neighbor and the subsequent revival of his married sex life, he had forgotten.

“Jesus Christ,” he said, quietly.

Marion was amused. She paused on her doorstep and watched them walk slowly to the house next door. “What’s she like?” she asked. Annabelle turned round and put her hand on Simon’s arm in sympathy.

“A credit to the British Empire,” she said, sighing.

“I thought you guys didn’t have an Empire anymore.”

“Don’t tell my mother-in-law that,” said Annabelle as her husband almost smashed his foot on the new lavender and rosemary pots outside the front door.

The door opened from the inside and a statuesque older woman with the most magnificent ash-gray helmet of hair stood there, surveying the scene. Charlotte Jones was a British version of Catherine Deneueve. She had the steely backbone of a matriarch with the gorgeous curves encased in serious lingerie from the Queen’s purveyor of silk unmentionables, Rigby and Peller. Her dresses were beautifully cut, from Dior, the neckline set off with a single strand of pearls (inherited) and she wore low-heeled Gucci pumps in matching navy.

Marion was transfixed. If Annabelle was a sweet English rose, her mother-in-law was a vast and glorious bouquet from a country house weekend. She was magnificent.

Charlotte took in the situation instantly. Her son was bruised, emotionally, her daughter-in-law was flirting with women again (Simon was right, it wasn’t the first pash she had had) and the American next door was trouble, her grandson had already filled her in on that. Well she would sort everything out, she always did. She gave a cheery wave to Marion who was still standing in her own doorway.

“I’m Charlotte,” she said.

“I heard,” said Marion, with a significant nod to Simon who groaned.

“Come for dinner tonight,” said Charlotte.

Annabelle swallowed her fury. How dare Charlotte do this – come and take over her life without the slightest compunction. There was no food in the house, she was going to Lydia’s for a light supper anyway and Simon was taking Mark to Scouts. She appealed to Simon for help but he was hanging up his Mackintosh coat.

“Another time,” said Marion, “I have a date tonight.”

“I’m here for a week – we shall reschedule,” said Charlotte crisply and closed the door. Then she looked at Simon and Annabelle who were standing sheepishly in the hallway. “Seems like a little drama is brewing on Church Row, darlings,” she said, walking ahead of them to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Thank goodness she had arrived in time, she thought. Simon looked helplessly at Annabelle who mouthed “A WEEK?” and they both headed into the kitchen, both of them wondering who Marion had a date with tonight.

*******************************************************

Kelly grabbed the rolls of campaign sketches and her tablet computer from the back of the taxi. Marion paid the driver and marched into the showroom. She had not said much to Kelly all morning. Last night she went on a disastrous date with some American executive in town on business. It was an unwelcome reminder of her former life.

The woman asked her to meet her at the hotel and kept her waiting in the lobby for ages. She hated that. And then they went to a restaurant but the woman – whose name was Dovinda – probably not her real name as after a few glasses of wine she revealed a solid Midwest upbringing and there are not many Dovindas there – was very picky about the table, the menu and the music.

When the food finally arrived Dovinda ate nothing, of course, as she was on a perpetual diet. But she did pop a few pills not that discreetly before she pushed a lettuce leaf around her plate. Marion could not resist. “What are those for?” she asked, innocently. She wished she had not bothered. They were part of an interminably long story about allergies and pain medication and surgeries and despair.

Dovinda confessed that she did not even have to visit her many doctors’ offices anymore – they came to her. Marion had forgotten what a life divorced from any hands on self care was like. She had had doctors on call too. Her insurance covered it and her lifestyle demanded it. Funny how moving to England with just the local GP in his High Street cozy wallpapered surgery had changed her view on healthcare. She had gone once to ask about her sleepless nights, and he had patted her hand and told her to remove stress from her life and go out dancing. Dancing? She expected hot cocoa and a glossy magazine too, but that didn’t seem to be on the prescription pad. In fact he refused to take out the prescription pad at all. That was a first, for Marion. Leaving a doctor’s office without some shopping list for pharmaceutical candy.

So the date was a wash-out. Dovinda had an early call. She suggested Marion come up for a night cap but Marion got the distinct idea that if they had sex it would be the quick thirty minute and thank you version with no remote possibility of staying the night. Which was a pity, The Savoy looked glorious. So she kissed Dovinda (nowhere particularly interesting) in the lobby and drifted into the bar to down a few Jack Daniels before falling into a cab and going back to Hampstead.

yes *nervouslooktocamera* it IS getting a bit Fifty Shades of Laura Ashley over at The House on Church Row.

we had no idea, darlings, when we started writing it.

these things write themselves, of course.

(ahem).