feeling lusciously languorous but still definitely literary

darlings

it’s saturday in los angeles (09:42 am, precisely, as the Speaking Clock used to say in England).

we’re meant to be somewhere but we decided to stay here.

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it’s already hot and sunny outside – but cool in here by the vintage-looking fan (not shown).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

too hot to wear pearls or even earrings – the sun catches on the metal and singes slightly and why wear a watch? are you catching a Train? not today, no. 

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we could stay in bed and read.

we have lots of books. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we could pick up email and find out what everyone else is doing on a saturday. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we could look through the moleskine (#152 if you’ve been keeping count) and see what Happened the month-just-gone. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we could spend some time with Isherwood, Loos or Ms. Didion (she’s good for a languid saturday morning)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

nancy mitford is an excellent companion when the tea is ready-to-pour and the blinds are closed against the infernal bright sun (who knew we’d Ever Complain about the sun?!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sybille is always delicious – but only if one has food in the house because she writes so gloriously about Meals Abroad (we do, so we Might).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAor one could browse a 1928 Harper’s Bazaar – because we own one (thank you dear JC in Manhattan for that Gem).

or we could Write – but it’s so hot.

so we decided to read something we’d written a while ago and got Thoroughly engrossed (which only goes to prove that one doesn’t really Write – it is Written through one or it wouldn’t be so New each time one Reads it).

you would?

oh, we’d love to share it with you…….

do you have a cool glass of something potent or sweet?

then we’ll begin.

perhaps three extracts?

thank you ever so much for stopping by.

we were a Tiny bit Lonely before you came.

*winsomelooktocamera*

snuggle down.

(lovely tartan blanket – was it your Great Aunt’s? They always have the Best blankets).

Violet Ryan and the Placing Of Angels. 

She pulled onto the freeway going north and the faster she drove, the more her worries dissipated into the air like soap bubbles, gathered and rocked on the wind until, finally, bursting into a rainbow-tinged nothingness.

A retreat. That was what was ahead of her in Montecito. She had never been on a retreat before yet everyone she knew seemed to spend one weekend in seven hurtling up the coast road towards Santa Barbara to rest, rejuvenate and commune with nature. Since moving to Los Angeles, she was willing to try anything to attain that peaceful vibe so many there possessed. Sometimes she felt it was like they vibrated to a higher frequency.

She looked out of the window to change lanes into the fast-track and smiled as the car purred into obedience and approval at the merest touch of her sexy punk-pink painted toes. Violet drove barefoot, most people in Southern California did as soon as spring arrived, it felt truly delicious to have the coastal air stroking your feet with the sunroof open and windows down.

Apparently, according to the literature strewn all over the passenger seat, the retreat was a no-sugar zone. Violet was terribly nervous about being without sugar for seventy-two hours. In Los Angeles you mention you might, just might mind you, have a teeny problem with sugar and everyone whips out their Hindu-themed notebooks to give you the name of their guru of the month and their favorite chiropractor/acupuncturist genius that changed their life.

This close to Santa Barbara, every third car was a vintage beauty. Violet giggled in amazement as one well-known face after another pulled up beside her at each stop light and then trundled ahead, Louis Vuitton weekend leather bags thrown casually in the back of each convertible on their way to chic enlightenment workshops, nestled in the foot of the Montecito mountains.

The lanes were lush, verdant: a cathedral of trees meeting in a soft, blowsy arch overhead. In a land hallowed by the Native American Chumash tribe for several centuries, it was a place of eternal reflection and faith-filled recuperation. Violet drove past the last coffee shop for miles and then turned left into a long driveway. Right at the end, past winding lanes twirling up into the mountains, there was a small sign. This must be it, she thought. Huge, intricately woven ironwork gates opened very, very slowly, almost majestically.

It was just too beautiful for words; Violet was struck by the utter stillness of the retreat grounds. A large house at the top of the driveway, the old convent, now converted into the retreat’s main building. Stone statues from diverse religious and spiritual traditions heralded different pathways to dormitory buildings, chapels and meditation rooms. Vast oak trees, like living prayers, swayed gently over the surrounding buildings. A place of rest, recuperation, investigation and renewal.

She had not known how tired she was, how frustrated with her life and how much in need of a rest. She pulled the car over into a small outdoor parking area and gently placed her head on the steering wheel to steady her feelings.

There was a light tapping sound on her window, like a small bird was trying to get in. Violet looked up and saw a friendly face peering at her. She rolled down the window. The face smiled. Violet blinked several times, her eyes felt full, her mascara was full of tears. She took her forefingers and brushed her eyelashes carefully, droplets of Chanel’s finest brown-black mascara lay in little pools on her fingertips. The face spoke.

“Hello, I’m Catherine.”

Violet took a deep breath. “Violet Ryan.” The face smiled.

“Why don’t you bring in your bags and I’ll settle you in.” Violet opened her mouth but nothing came out so she closed it again. Catherine looked at her kindly. She was one of the very healthy women in a yoga-at-dawn sort of way.

Another car pulled in and parked next to Violet. Catherine smiled encouragingly again at Violet who obediently got out of the car. Catherine then walked purposefully over to the black Jaguar. The driver had a short crop of expensively dyed blonde hair and as soon as she turned off the ignition, Violet saw her sink her head onto the steering wheel.

Violet giggled. Ah. That must be what everyone did as soon as they reached this paradise. Sink into tearful resignation that it had come to this. They were at a retreat and they were exhausted. Exhausted from trying to be fabulous in Los Angeles for far too long.

a little further on (everyone’s arrived at the Retreat now and unpacked in the Dormitory)

Violet took out the black leather notebook she carried everywhere. She pulled her huge, warm pashmina around her shoulders as the sun dipped behind the oak trees outside giving a deep amber glow, like a benign fire snaking through the leaves. A very tall woman with a face wreathed in smiles was suddenly standing next to her bunk, looking directly at Violet.

“Writing a book?” she asked. Violet gulped, hoping the woman had not seen what she was writing about the blond in the other bunk.

“I’m not sure” said Violet, stammering, “I’m trying to make sense of being thirty-five.” Damn. Why did she have to say that? How stupid was that? What was she thinking? Why did she always say exactly what was on her mind?

“Thirty-five is an interesting time. Dante and all that,” said the smiley woman.

“Dante?”

“Yes. The opening lines of Dante’s Inferno are all about making sense of being thirty-five. Thirty-five is midway from birth to death. Three score years and ten and all that: Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself/In dark woods, the right road lost.”

“Oh.” Violet suddenly felt incredibly smart and in some way mystical. Dante. Good lord. Then she remembered her manners. Sticking out her hand, awkwardly, trying not to fall off the bunk and directly into the tall woman as she shook hands, she said “Violet Ryan, pleased to meet you.” The woman detected her accent.

“English? Which part? My family is from England.”

Violet repressed a sigh. The only thing more irritating than looking so Irish and being clasped to people’s bosoms as they joyfully surrendered themselves to memories of the Emerald Isle in years gone by was when people’s families were from England. Nobody seemed to have traced roots back to Thaxmead where she was from. They were always from somewhere posh and feudal and generally at the top of the society ladder in Gloucestershire or Wiltshire or some Shire or other.

“I’m from Thaxmead,” said Violet, briskly, knowing what was next.

“My family are from somewhere beginning with W, or, what is the name?” she laughed and scratched her glossy brown bobbed hair, tousling it and yet it felt perfectly back into place. She was born to wear a Twenties bob, thought Violet in admiration.

“Wiltshire?” said Violet, with a just a stab in the dark mind you air.

“No. Oh yes, oh yes, I remember. Weston-Super-Mare! I’m Elizabeth, by the way.”

Violet liked her already. Weston-Super-Mare with a sandy beach that turned to mud as autumn rolled in with dark clouds, an old Pier stretching out to sea and tea-shops full of old ladies gossiping something terrible with crocheted hats. Marvelous. Now that was a camp place to come from, almost camper than Thaxmead, thought Violet.

and this is when she meets the character known as the Rock God (think Leonard Cohen in blue jeans):

Violet was really warming up to the rock god. “So what’s on your mind, famous man?” She hoped he did not mind her admitting she knew who he was. It was too exhausting to pretend otherwise. She had read every interview he had ever given.

He pulled his knees up to his chin. Violet noticed he had the most beautiful hands, strong hands, a simple silver band on alternate fingers. Surprisingly elegant for a rock star. Sighing but not looking directly at her, he said, “I am in pretty much the same situation as you.”

“Ah.” said Violet.  Violet felt huge compassion welling up inside her. She was hurting, badly, she missed her ex with her whole being but he, the rock god, had to go through this pain in public. With every single journalist, friend, roadie, person who bumps into him on the street asking him about Her, making the pain more intense, searing.

“How do you know when love is healthy?” Violet said, feeling like she was on a late-night intellectual PBS special about love and its discontents through the poetry of Baudelaire.

He laughed, ruefully. “You know, I’m not sure love is meant to be healthy.”

“Ok, not healthy, but real. How do you know it is real? Not fake, not an addiction, not surface or just-because-we-are-both-lonely – but real?”

The rock god reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper on which was written a scrawled quote. He spoke so softly. “And we are put on earth a little space/That we may learn to bear the beams of love.”

“Isn’t that William Blake?” she asked. “from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience? ” Violet was in heaven discussing William Blake with a rock god from New York City’s lower east side. This, my friend, was what living in America was about.

Reaching into her bag, she pulled out her book and flicked through until she found Henry’s speech from The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard.

Clearing her throat she started to read. “Our lovers share us with the passing trade. But in pairs we insist that we give ourselves to each other. What selves? What’s left? What else is there that hasn’t been dealt out like a pack of cards? Carnal knowledge. Personal, final, uncompromised. Knowing, being known. I revere that. Having that is being rich, you can be generous about what’s shared – she walks, she talks, she laughs, she lends a sympathetic ear, she kicks off her shoes and dances on the tables, she’s everybody’s and it don’t mean a thing, let them eat cake; knowledge is something else, the undealt card, and while it’s held it makes you free-and-easy and nice to know, and when it’s gone everything is pain. Every single thing. Every object that meets the eye, a pencil, a tangerine, a travel poster. As if the physical world has been wired up to pass a current back to the brain where imagination glows like a filament in a lobe no bigger than a torch bulb. Pain.”

“That’s a brilliant description of love.” he said, “But I don’t think I have those feelings after it ends.”

“You don’t?” said Violet, wondering if men and women really were so different. She could not remember ever having a conversation like this with a straight man before. It was intriguing. “Is that what fuels your music?”

“What?”

“The pain. Do you channel it away from everyday life and into your music?”

He looked thoughtful. “Yeah, maybe. It seems to hurt less if you share it with a stadium. At least it has less of a hold on me then. So, Violet Ryan, how do you process the pain?”

Violet looked around her at the field, the trees, the setting sun, the peace and quiet. “I have never been able to do so. When a friend suggested this retreat, I came willingly, almost desperately. I wanted to try something different. I am no longer willing to sit in the pain. I have come to the point where – at thirty-five – I need a different way to live. The old ways came to the end of their usefulness. They stopped working.”

“Thirty-five?”

“Yeah. Yesterday, I was thirty-five yesterday.”

The rock god looked carefully at the English woman’s face, it was the face of a little girl, all big eyes, soft wavy hair past her shoulders and an open, frank, honest expression. In the fading light she could have been nine years old with that intense, yet wistful, gaze. Then he looked away, he was tired of looking into beautiful women’s faces, women who retained their younger girl-selves locked away inside like honey to a bee. Enticing. And this one was gay so no chance of soulless sex to take away the longing by destroying what might have been through a wordless night.

He had walked over the field because Lemon told him Violet might be good to talk to. He doubted that but he came anyway. His god spoke through other people; it might be worth a try. She had shaken him with the reading. No woman had ever read such nakedness to him before, such power in those words. He knew they were written by another man but the way she delivered them made him brutally aware of Violet’s utter confidence in words to deliver emotion that cut right through the bullshit.

*pausingforamoment*

well.

that brought it all back.

the Retreat.

and the feelings.

but Leonard Cohen wasn’t there.

it just felt like he might have been.

the rest is true.

or as true as one needs to be, darlings.

you know – on a hot saturday in Hollywood.

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Leonard Cohen, corduroy trousers and #drmartens at The House on Church Row

darlings

after our treatise into the worlds of cultural theory, despair and longing and Sixties photography (which we are sure baffled a few and probably could have become a separate sort-of-a-blog itself) – we’re BACK!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit’s 10:01 AM on a saturday in Los Angeles and we’re about to swim (bliss) and then go for a walk to meet friends-for-lunch and then tonight it’s the french film festival again – could life get any better?!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyes.

if the co-agent in NYC who is reading Emerald suddenly decides she loves it and wants to co-represent us (hint).

more of the present Novel (64,615 words!!)?

you are Terribly Kind!

Over at the Agency HQ just behind St John’s Churchyard there were some very angry conversations going on. Why wasn’t Marion O’Neal scared of them watching her? How come that English ghost had escaped again and not finished her task? Where was codename: Deneueve? Apparently she had gone back to Wiltshire on the last train out of Paddington unexpectedly. The Harden brothers had not cashed the check, which was deeply odd. And now there was a global movement building momentum while everyone slept in England because the bloody interweb was a 24/7 operation that had no leader and no controls and a surfeit of women-who-blog. It was all too much.

Time to call in the big guns. A message was sent to NYC by morse code. If the Agency could still use WHITley-1275, they would. They hated progress and the demise of the telegraph system was the last straw. Email was completely beyond the pale, naturally.

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

To the naked eye, all was well in Hampstead. The week passed fairly quietly at the creative advertising agency and the blog campaign overtook any and all other media. It was astonishing. Annabelle learned about writing good headlines and tagging and not forgetting to put posts into categories so they could be found easily. Libby had expressed so much anger about the destruction of the environment that Marion had given her a column to write and she was linking up with all the other disaffected teen girl bloggers around the world. Thanks to Google Chrome, she could even communicate with her newfound friends in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, with the auto-translate feature. It was glorious.

Simon had bumped into Lydia at the corner shop and found she was at a loose end. He went back to her house and had tea and admired (greatly) her talent for baking.

“You should set up a catering company!” he said, stuffing another slice of swiss roll into his hungry mouth.

Lydia was deeply flattered. She had tried to cook for the warlocks/students but they liked to say terribly thin (because they were mostly studying comparative literature and all their heroes were thin, tall and underfed like Stephen Spender). Simon raised a spark in her. She confessed she knew nothing about setting up a business and so he offered to help.

“I had no idea you were an accountant,” she said. And he paused, embarrassed. Nobody had asked him what he did before.

Together they went to Hampstead Town Hall and registered her new business and the Jones’ family became her first client. When Annabelle came home that night she was astonished to see Simon and the children tucking into a creamy chicken pie with an actual pudding to follow (sticky toffee pudding, with custard). And there was Lydia standing by the over, a little flushed and wearing a faded pink Cath Kidston apron.

After the washing-up was done (by the children – another astonishing sight for Annabelle Jones to see her daughter happily wiping down the plates), the adults shared a glass of excellent brandy from the Dordogne and talked over their day. Both Annabelle and Simon had grown up with cooks and a Nanny and realized how hard it had been trying to bring up children without help. Now Annabelle was working they could afford to hire Lydia a few days a week to cook for them. It was such a good solution all round. Lydia wanted to be part of a family and Simon felt useful mentoring her in business. Even Annabelle set up a catering blog so Lydia could publish recipes from her grandmother’s collection and link up with all these other doughty British women around the globe, eager to share wartime childhood memories and tales of school puddings.

Lydia felt that much closer to getting inside the house next door. She sent a text message to Charlotte and told her everything was in place. Charlotte instantly packed a small overnight bag and took the overnight train to Paddington. She was going to stay with Lydia, as she could not risk the displeasure in invading her son’s home again.

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

The next morning was a bright Saturday. It had rained during the night and everything looked fresh and shiny. Just like the day Marion had arrived, almost six months ago.

Mark rushed down the street holding a basketball and his parents, who were trimming the roses in the patch of front garden, looked up.

“Dad!”

“What’s that old chap?”

Marion opened her front door and automatically put her Tom Ford Aviators on to shield her eyes. Another late night working on the campaign and her head was killing her. Then she looked across at Annabelle who had also worked until the small hours and she looked as fresh as a daisy. Still wearing the loose scarf around her neck to hid the scar though, she noted.

“We’re playing basketball at school now, I need to get some practice in.”

Simon felt a sense of dread. If English prep schools were teaching basketball instead of cricket and rugby there could only be one answer.

“Our new head of games is an American!”

And there it was.

“Oh, hullo, Marion,” said Mark, shyly, blushing bright red and seeing his own reflection hideously beamed back from her reflective glasses. Marion grinned and blew him a kiss. He nearly fainted.

“Sounds like my people are invading the area,” she drawled.

Annabelle laughed. Her husband did not.

“Dad – will you practice with me? I’m rubbish at it.”

“Not really my game, old chap.” Simon wished he was standing tall in a pair of reflective glasses looking like that chap Tom Cruise flew against in Top Gun, not on his knees cutting back the roses in a smelly grey sweatshirt and unattractive corduroy trousers.

Marion instantly canceled her plans for the day. Exercise would banish this awful hangover, together with a vat of coffee.

“Give me ten minutes to get changed and I’ll shoot some hoops with you.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. But don’t expect to go easy on you because you’re a boy.”

She beckoned Mark into her house without asking his parent’s permission. Simon fumed. Annabelle felt strangely light-headed watching Marion with her son. There was something so capable about Marion. And deliciously sporty too – like that head of hockey she had admired at school. What was her name again? As Annabelle had a reverie of schooldays, Simon noticed his daughter leaning out of the top window watching them all. She saw her father look up and ducked into her bedroom. The next thing they heard was Leonard Cohen.

“Leonard – bloody – Cohen?” said Simon, exasperated.

“Marion brought over mummy’s record player for Libby the other night.”

So Marion had been hanging out in his house while he wasn’t there. He didn’t like the sound of that. Or Leonard bloody Cohen. All the cool girls at university had liked Leonard Cohen – and Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins and Depeche Mode. It occurred to him that he was attempting to bring up someone who scared him as much as the girls that wore Doctor Martens at university. It was not a good feeling.

His son disappeared into the house next door. Annabelle straightened up slowly and re-adjusted the scarf around her neck. He knew what was coming next. “I think I’ll watch Marion coach Mark next door,” she said.

“I’ll walk the dog then,” he said, wiping his muddy hands on the corduroy trousers. He looked down at his trousers and realized that this was the problem. He was the sort of man that bought corduroy because his father had worn such trousers. While walking Sally over Hampstead Heath he wondered how his son was getting on with the gorgeous American next door. For a moment he wanted his son to be the sort of chap that girls in Doctor Marten’s fell for.

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movies and music and mellow feelings

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sometimes you just need a small dose of Leonard to wind down the evening into mellowness.

we decided to make a new playlist tonight – just went through all of the teamgloria sonic possessions (including the splendid mix tapes given as gifts) – and selected all the songs we haven’t heard recently.

It became quite an eclectic melange.

(isn’t that a delicious word – sounds so good to say out loud, slowly).

so now we have a playlist of Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, Bowie, mixed with early Madonna (love the sweet poignant opening bars of Borderline. Brings it all back. Iron Lady lipstick from Miss Selfridges, scratchy lacy gloves and Breathless excitement, constantly), Chet Baker, George Michael, Carla Bruni and All About Eve. We toyed with Kylie. But decided on some less danceable moves before slipping in Tainted Love.

#memories

we saw a marvelous/marvellous/weepy tonight – the descendants.

Have you seen it? Superb. Clooney was magnificent. And very Real.

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Divine dragon at the movie palace.

Very appropriate. Chinese new year and all that.

What are you listening to these days?