checking in at The House on Church Row with Simon and Cake.

good morning darlings – 07:49AM on a beautiful tuesday gosh Wednesday! in sunny southern california.

we’re already writing – a large mug of finest french beans ground into a sumptuous dark roast with 1 per-cent milk from trader joes – and thought we’d open the door to Annabelle and Simon’s house on Church Row (metaphorically, of course) and peek inside……we’ve jumped ahead several thousand words so just a snapshot to keep up our momentum While We Continue On.

firstly a picture – now several of you will know that this is Not London (in fact, it’s Norwich) – but we always need to set the scene, visually, for ourselves before we write and we thought our American friends might appreciate a contextual image (and those, increasingly it seems from the “stats” from the middle east – good morning, chaps).

norwich

Simon felt cornered by his teenage mutant daughter. He had come home to catch up on some work and maybe read the paper from cover to cover in the kitchen. But Libby was sprawled out on the sofa, still in her sports kit, watching endless mindless television on a loop. He stood in the doorway and coughed, politely. Her head swung round like an alien in a horror movie. She stared him down. He moved back slightly into the hallway.

“Why aren’t you at work?” she said, exasperated.

He wished he had spoken first. “Why aren’t you at school?”

“I’m on home study.”

He had no idea what that meant so tried another tack. “Where’s Mum?”

“How should I know?” Libby looked sideways at the television, silently begging her father to leave.

“Did she say she was busy today?”

Libby looks at him astonished. “Busy doing what?”

Simon decided to leave it and avoid all confrontation until she left for university. When was that? He mentally calculated. It felt like years, because it was.

He walked into the kitchen and looked around for something to eat. He fancied cake. Did they have cake anywhere? It seemed not. He wanted to ask Libby if she knew where Annabelle kept the cake but he was too scared. His son would know. His son was still young, still liked cake, wasn’t on a diet or hated him. That time would come he was sure. Perhaps not the dieting bit. But maybe – young men appeared to be trying hard to impress these days.

Sighing, he sat down at the kitchen table and opened up his laptop and started to work. He would have an apple instead. Had life come to this? He could hear sounds of very loud music coming from the television next door. Then the door opened and Libby stormed in, grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl and tossed her hair sullenly. Simon decided to chance it.

“Do we have any cake in the house?”

Libby turned on him. “What?”

“Cake – do we have any cake in the house?”

“How would I know?”

Suddenly Simon remembered his wife was baking a few nights ago. He got up and looked hopefully in the fridge. Not much there. He tried the bread bin. There was something that looked like a rock cake and not appealing at all. Libby was still standing there.

“Are you eating on your feelings?” she said, glaring.

“Am I what?”

“We learned that in Psych.”

“Since when are you doing psychology?”

“I want to be a therapist.”

Simon stared at his daughter. He had not met anyone so lacking in compassion for years. Why on earth would she want to be a therapist? Libby crunched into the apple and narrowed her eyes at her father. “I’m going to work in the criminal justice system rehabilitating prisoners.”

The front door opened and his son swung in through the doors, throwing his schoolbag on the floor and kicking off his shoes. He stopped suddenly seeing his father and his sister doing a stand-off in the kitchen. Libby tossed her hair again and went back into the living room to watch television. Matt took out half a sandwich from the fridge and sat on the floor to eat it. Simon passed him a napkin so he didn’t drop food everywhere.

“Did you know your sister wants to work with criminals?”

Matt looked at him pityingly. “Libby wants to do whatever she sees on the television this week. She’s been watching those American shows again.”

“So I don’t need to worry?”

Matt finished his cheese sandwich and threw the paper napkin into the bin. “I’m not worried,” he said.

Simon felt better for a moment. Thank goodness they had two children.

“Where’s mum?” said Matt, grabbing his schoolbag to go upstairs and do homework.

“I don’t know.”

Matt shrugged. “I’m not worried,” he said, again.

Suddenly Simon was worried. Where was his wife? And would she bring some cake home from wherever she was?

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

Annabelle was standing outside Louis Patisserie on Hampstead High Street, her nose pressed up against the clotted cream pastries in the window. It all looked delicious and forbidden and wrong. Lydia opened the door and the little bell at the top of the lintel tinkled merrily. It was all so inviting, thought Annabelle. Lydia’s robes were more voluminous and darkest purple than usual and there was even a hint of gold thread throughout the bodice. She smiled encouragingly at Annabelle.

“They look lovely,” sighed Annabelle, nodding to the cakes.

“They look even lovelier inside on a plate with a pot of tea,” said Lydia, gently.

“I can’t eat them. They will go straight to my thighs.”

“I’m sure you have perfectly lovely thighs.”

Annabelle blushed.

“My tea is getting cold. Are you coming in?”

Annabelle hesitated, looked up and down the street, and then walked purposefully into the tearooms.

An hour later, Annabelle hurried down the street, fishing in her bag for her keys. Lydia was rushing behind.

“Don’t forget!”

Annabelle turned around, quickly.

“I can’t.”

“You can if you want to. These opportunities come along so rarely. Seize the day! Carpe Diem as the Romans said!” Lydia rushed on down Church Row towards the graveyard and turned left. Annabelle paused on her front doorstep. The door opened from the inside. Simon was standing there.

“I was worried.”

He looked down the street and saw the departing figure of Lydia floating past the church in her long skirts and flowing scarves. Annabelle silently handed him a box of cakes from Louis Patisserie and hurried inside. Gingerly he opened the box and sighed happily. Then he looked worriedly into the house. Why was she bringing cake home?

 

marion takes the Tube from Hampstead.

darlings

another thousand words into the Novel……and then out into the beautiful Los Angeles day.

It was barely dawn. The street lamps were still lit, not by gas these days, all re-worked to fit electric bulbs, but still within the original early 1800s encasements, black and forbidding, standing proudly to light the way home. A morning bird sang out in the trees at the end of Church Row. Apart from that, a car or two, heading into the center of the city, whooshed past, its headlights beaming quickly into the darkened streets, and then silence again.

Marion walked out of her house in full corporate drag – a tan Macintosh coat, navy Donna Karan shift dress and beautifully tailored jacket and expensive retro T-bar Cuban-heeled black patent leather shoes, the sort usually worn by dancers on a hot night in Havana. Marion had a thing about slightly inappropriate shoes. It always amused her to see how it threw people off when they checked out her outfit from suitably chic corporate attire to – huh? When they got to the shoes.

She shivered a little inside the coat. This place was constantly damp, she realized. A heavier coat was needed. Probably from that place the English called Peter – Peter – what was it called again, she wondered? Ah, yes, Peter Jones. Why was it called that? Was there a Peter Jones who had set up the business back in the day? And didn’t everyone know it was never a good idea to name the business after yourself if you wanted to sell it some day, because, in effect, you would be selling your name. As an advertising executive she had created many a new campaign to cover up the fact that there was no founder in place anymore. Who has the advertising contract for Peter Jones, she wondered, looking up and down the street, trying to remember where there might be a cab rank.

The street was silent. All the drapes in the windows of the houses were drawn. Not a soul stirred. She looked at the flower baskets hanging on the lampposts. There was actual dew on the blooms. Marion raised her eyebrows to the sky and shook her head. This place was beyond cute.

“It kills me,” she said out loud. Her voice, an American voice, here, in the midst of such almost-pastoral splendor, broke the spell. Suddenly a door to the left opened and Annabelle, in a very sweet dressing gown, came out of her house to pick up the bottles of milk on her doorstep. She noticed Marion, and stopped dead, pulling her dressing gown around her more tightly. They stared at each other for a second.

Annabelle’s breeding rose to the occasion. “You must be Marion,” she said, softly, aware that the street was still full of sleeping neighbors.

“Good news travels fast.” Marion did not want to be charmed, but the whole effect of sleepy-head-blonde (probably natural) hair and a pale blue toweling robe while picking up actual milk bottles from a step was adorable. She smoothed down her expensive Donna Karan tailoring and looked down the street again, wishing a New York taxi cab would just pull up outside the house, like now.

“Oh yes,” smiled Annabelle, “You’re an American, I forgot. Lydia did say.”

“Don’t know why you need the newspaper around here, with Lydia on call.”

“She is a terrible gossip,” giggled Annabelle, marveling at Marion’s outfit. She looked like a fashion spread from ELLE magazine. One of those shoots where bold women in brightly-colored skirt suits were always sticking out their hands to get a cab on Madison Avenue. Suddenly the Church at the end chimed six o’clock. Marion rolled her eyes at the cuteness of this place again. She found Annabelle’s presence slightly un-nerving. She was so innocent looking. She just wanted to get out of there. Get to the office. To a place that she understood: numbers, research, campaigns, order and lots of caffeine.

“Well. I must run.”

Annabelle looked down the road to the Church clock to check the time. “Good lord, it’s only six o’clock!”

“I like to start work early.”

“I almost miss it,” sighed Annabelle.

Marion just wanted a cab. She did not want to hear about the travails of the lonely housewife. Not unless she was working on a campaign that aimed to improve the lot of a lonely housewife through some new miracle product. But Annabelle did not need a cue to start talking.

“Somewhere to go everyday. Must be nice.”

“Couldn’t you get yourself a job?”

Annabelle bristled, slightly. Marion was not yet attuned to the cues and missed it. “I have a job.”

“But you just said,” Marion looked helplessly up and down the street. Not a cab in sight. Annabelle pursed her lip and was silent. Marion looked at her, quickly, realizing her mistake. “Right. Sorry. My mistake.”

“Diana said you’re living here alone. You don’t have a family do you?”

Marion never enjoyed this particular conversation. “Why do I feel judged?” she said, seemingly amused.

“I didn’t mean,”

“Yes you did.”

Annabelle was taken aback. She was not used to being challenged. Marion hoisted her expensive Hermes bag onto her shoulder and smiled brightly, but dismissively. “Now where do I get a cab around here?”

“Most people get the Tube.”

“The What?”

Annabelle pointed to the High Street and then motioned taking a left turn. Marion nodded her head and started to walk briskly. A man appeared as if from nowhere walking in front of her, a furled up newspaper under his arm, carrying an umbrella. He walked purposefully towards a building with a sign that said “Hampstead Station” in white lettering on a blue background and a red, white and blue circular motif with the words Underground. She followed closely behind him, watching as he bought a ticket at the machine and swiped it through the electronic gates.

It was nothing like the New York subway system, for a start, there was no one around; the platform was deserted, apart from the man with the newspaper. Marion started to make notes in her small black moleskine journal about the man’s clothing, the Edwardian tile work in the station and the advertisements pasted on the opposite wall.

She did not notice the man was doing the same thing, while glancing covertly at her from time to time.

BrightestLondon_web

better trickery: ordering Library Materials, blowing bubbles and Writing a new novel.

darlings

we were a Tiny bit Despondent earlier but after a Lot of Action and reading all your Clever suggestions at the end of that Post, we perked up no end and went online and ordered some Library Materials (so much more financially prudent than Ordering via Amazon and it’s all pre-1960 – can’t wait to share it with You).

miss Jules suggested blowing soap bubbles to engender happiness so we did…..

viewer

and Then the mysteriously-glorious writer-editor-minnesänger went one Further and brought our attention to the fact that bubbles-are-not-just-for-children anymore – look!

William said “commune with the waves” which is gloriously transcendent and very English (particularly if the Sea is Wild and Cornish).

George was singing a ditty from the Twenties and apparently that works – we just tried it – it Does!

Stacy reminded us to Just Begin.

Screen shot 2013-02-11 at 3.28.38 PM

and so we did.

having delivered Emerald to our lovely agent in New York (such a splendid phrase, non?)

we have Started the Next One.

Meet Marion, darlings.

Marion peered out of the window as the taxi swung into Church Row, Hampstead. She could not see much because it was raining. Of course it was raining, she thought, this is England. At least it made the grass green and the houses look freshly washed and brushed up.

Leaning back she pulled her gloves on tightly and tried to remember what her boss back in New York had said: something about the London office needing rescuing. She knew it was a ruse. But things had got just a tiny bit too much in New York and she agreed to this transfer. Besides, it was only a year. How bad could it be?

A few moments later the taxi pulled up outside a tall white house with casement windows and a brightly painted red front door. A woman in sensible tweed skirt and cashmere lilac sweater set was standing with a clipboard, barely sheltering from the rain, in front of the door. Marion sighed. The woman was wearing pearls and lace-up brogues. Seriously? Did the English really play their part to the hilt so convincingly?

Marion paid the driver and opened the cab door. The driver sprung open the trunk but did not move to get her luggage. She wondered if she had not tipped him enough. Perhaps they just didn’t do luggage removal here in England. She struggled with the bags a little and smeared some mud on her camel coat. The coat had been pristine when she left New York, but a few moments in England and it was soaking and had a mud stain. Great.

The woman with the clipboard called out, cheerily, “Are you on your own?” but stayed firmly inside the doorway. Marion lugged her bags up the front path and dumped them hard on the stone step.

“In a metaphysical sense or in reality?” she asked. The woman – whose name appeared to be Diana Knoll-West, according to her business card – was undefeated.

“We assumed you’d be bringing your family,” Diana said. “It’s rather a large house for one.”

After living in a Manhattan apartment for the past seven years, Marion thought the house on Church Row was rather large, but she was damned if she was going to say so. “I have rather a large life,” she said, and gestured for Diana to open the door so they could both get out of the rain. Diana was not a former Head Girl of Cheltenham Ladies College for nothing. She drew herself up to her full height, which was actually not that impressive, and looked at Marion with a tiny bit of condescension. “Gosh. I forgot how confident you Americans are!”

“Brash, I believe, is the word you Brits use, Diana” said Marion, and took the keys out of Diana’s hands and opened the door.

what do you think, darlings?

*nervouslooktocamera*

well, it seems that who we are in RL has just popped next door to apply mascara and head out into the World in her guise as Special (digital) Advisor to be helpful and gainfully employed.

of course we are going to stay in with an apricot face scrub and lie winsomely on the sofa with a pashmina loosely draped and a selection of British DVDs and continue with The House on Church Row (which is already a completed screenplay so writing the Novel is going to be dreamy – a Lot Happens in Hampstead – you’ll see).