view through the trees

darlings

we went to see friends up in the Hollywood Hills for a long moment of reflection and quietness on a sunday evening and just before we turned into the driveway we thought “let’s take a walk first”.

so we parked the car.

got out on foot (sometimes we Do think we’re the last of the walking-people walking in L.A) and took the trusty camera and swooned under orange blossom and peeked through trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyou see we spent Much of yesterday (after our lovely brunch at the Apple Pan with @mamzellev) WRITING and we needed to get back into corporal realm (we get quite dizzy and in-the-Zone when we Write).

we wrote 2 x articles (we’ll post their Links here when they arrive on the interweb at Los Angeles, I’m Yours during the week) AND (almost) 3000 words of The House On Church Row.

we’re Almost Done.

a mad trip to the Seaside and the whole plot will be tied up neatly as if it’s a brown paper parcel fastened with string and given to Mr. Postman as he does his rounds of the Village of a morning.

71,098 words!

a slim(ish) volume (we prefer those).

it feels astonishing to see the world unfold like this.

may we share a few lines?

you are Most Kind.

What could she do? You couldn’t interfere with the laws of the universe. When someone was dead, they needed to stay dead. But Elyse was so full of life and longing. It had never occurred to Marion that the chains of family could keep you close to the earth, not going, not leaving, not at peace. Distracted from her piece of paper, it started to unfurl open. Both Annabelle and Kelly looked at the same time, but Marion scrunched it up, lit it and threw it into the air.

It just hung there. Smoldering but oh-so-slowly. Not burning up. Not moving. Marion sighed and exchanged glances with Elyse who cheered up slightly for a moment. It wasn’t easy being metaphysical sometimes. She reached up to the paper and flicked it with her middle finger and thumb and then closed her hand quickly around it. By the time she opened her hand again a split second later it had gone.

“Was that a magic trick?” said Annabelle, admiringly.

Marion was irritated by that remark. “I don’t do tricks,” she said, shortly and broke the circle by getting up to find a bottle of Jack Daniels in the kitchen cupboard.  By the time she returned the mood was broken. Lydia had found the bit of paper with the closing incantation and everyone’s paper had burned up, rattles had been used to break up the energy and feathers piled on top of one another in the fire.

Rather pleasantly drunk, the seven women drifted into the garden to enjoy the full moon and a surprisingly large number of twinkling stars for Hampstead. Elyse hung back and noticed Libby watching them through the fence. She knew these were her last few hours on earth and she had a pang – one of the first in her life/death – that she would not get to know her niece. Libby pressed her hands onto the fence and thought she could still make out the shimmering ghost of her aunt Elyse. She leaned her forehead on the night warmed wooden slats and wished she could get to know Elyse. She seemed like someone who would understand what it was like to be Libby.

Leaning against the trunk of the largest tree, Annabelle felt full and beautiful and sexy and glorious. She smiled beatifically at Marion who looked wryly back. It was amazing how congenial straight women were when they were tipsy.

“It’s a beautiful night,” breathed Annabelle, looking up to the top of the trees and the stars beyond.

“It certainly is,” smiled Marion. She touched the trunk of the tree with the tips of her fingers and all the twinkle lights in the garden suddenly lit up.

Diana clapped her hands. “Oh! How pretty!” Lydia crossed over to Annabelle and Marion and put her arms around them both.

“Marion, that was very thoughtful of you,” she said.

“I can be,” said Marion, “When I want to be.”

“I don’t believe you are as manipulative as you make out,” said Annabelle, flirting openly now.

“Your naivety is most seductive,” replied Marion, catching Kelly’s eye across the garden. Kelly saw her looking and thought sod it, even if the English rose is hanging around like a bad smell, I still like flirting with Marion. Marion raised an eyebrow and grinned. Kelly walked over, purposefully and then suddenly stopped. She looked at the trunk nearest Marion. There was no switch there. Kelly walked back over to the tree on the left. She touched the switch and the lights went off, very briefly. She looked around at Marion who put her fingers to her lips.

The full moon ceremony went late into the night. They drank, they talked and they danced, a little (but not to Joni Mitchell – Marion drew the line at that, despite Diana’s plaintive pleading). They talked some more and gently sunk into the dewy grass as the dawn started to break. Dead Can Dance was on the vinyl turntable, very low and insistent and gorgeous in its tonal quality.

we have a Mixed day ahead.

1. a new doctor to get an update on Our Situation after you-know-what

2. some work-related tasks

3. a swoon-y afternoon at The Library with our Requested Materials from the Special Collections (couldn’t be Happier at the prospect of quiet hush, pencils-only, notebook, white gloves, archival materials)

and then a celebration this evening of a fabulous friend’s milestone in life by candlelight which is always delicious.

*smileshappilytocamera*

oh yes.

and we’ve decided to take Personal Responsibility for the curves.

the scared bitchin’ about the you-know-what-and-subsequent-curve-emergence has Got To End.

yes, yes, it was horrid (can you believe it was TWENTY MONTHS ago now?!)

and yes, the medication is nasty (better than the original two they tried us on – synthetics have never Been Our Thing)

but we ate a lot of Cake (bagels/toast/jam/butter/cream/) over our scared feelings and Day Job stress and do-we-have-cancer-waiting and can-we-get-back-to-the-Other-Coast and will-the-Green-Card-Ever-Arrive *waiting12yearslater* (yes! it did!)

and we’d like to admit that.

sort of (like is a strong word).

so here we are – *waving* with coffee cup with non-fat milk and looking forward to those Bran Flakes.

this shall not become a diet blog (we never diet)

and there may be Cake from time to time.

but not as a regular thing.

movingswiftlyon.

because we’re Here now.

Starting Again with life.

and that’s delicious.

the 3rd book is Almost complete.

and then we need to decide what to write next.

we heard about this Clever “app-ness” called Atavist where one can Publish one’s Short Stories and add in maps and pictures and so on and so forth.

because we have a lovely short story called “Malachy’s Inn” and we’re Ever so Keen to share it in a creative way.

maybe we’ll pop that one into this little app-shop-wonderland and see if people would like to buy it.

here’s how it starts…..

The bleak road to Belfast airport was the last place on earth you would expect to find solace. But there it was, an old-fashioned inn, white-washed on the outside and a lamp burning to the right of the heavy door.

Kathleen had woken up at dawn to leave that miserable hotel, driving faster and faster until she could breathe again at the edge of the world. Away from the lonely old-fashioned room with that flocked wallpaper, strange tasting milk, burgundy threadbare carpets and bad coffee.

She had flown from New York to Ireland for a wedding. But perhaps the wedding was just an excuse to get out of her life. The wedding was beautiful but she barely recognized anyone. Everyone had children under six who ran screaming. Labradors slumped, depressed, by the grand fireplace. Fiery burning torches lit the gravel driveway where she scraped her hire car door trying to park in the near darkness by the flint wall. Driving down the gravel driveway she noticed a decadent lane of writhing couples pressed back into the yew trees, watched by a growing crowd of small boys, their eyes open wide and mouths in a little red o.

There was one really touching moment. Just as she picked up her coat, the bride appeared from behind a long red velvet drape in the anteroom leading to the house. Swaying, lost in her own bliss, she tried to place Kathleen. With a heavy heart, Kathleen realized she was no longer part of this world.

ah yes.

we’re Very Fond of this story.

and we’ve been writing and re-writing it and sending it out and now it’s time (due to the shocking lack of response) to Publish it Ourselves.

most exciting.

have a beautiful monday, darlings.

we’ll be thinking of you most warmly.

 

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)

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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).

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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 


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yet now we regret nothing.

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

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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).

Annabelle dropped her croissant onto the pavement in shock.

darlings

we’re off to the hot, dry, Modernist architecture-land of Palm Springs!

just for a day and a night and a half-day.

viewerso we woke up Super Early – had coffee and strawberries and watched the sunrise over the Hollywood Hills to the north – and settled down to write for almost an hour.

may we share a little more House on Church Row with you?

you are Most Kind.

Kelly paused. No one had ever said that to her before. In fact in her house, if you looked like you thought you had it going on, someone would smack you down and say, “Who do you think you are?” and that would be the end of it. She liked what Marion just said. She liked it a lot. She nodded, like she heard that all the time. Marion knew she didn’t but that was ok. She understood. She ran down the stairs and out into the day.

Marion straightened up the bed and heard the front door close as Kelly left. Then she remembered what Annabelle had said about this being her mother’s robe. She picked it up and then something caught in her chest. She dropped it on the chair. She didn’t like the feeling she got from the robe. A troubled soul had worn that. The paintings on the wall were beautiful but full of yearning and sadness. Marion walked slowly downstairs. Her next-door neighbor had quite a story, she could feel it and it was all starting to make sense. Was that why she had been sent to England?

Annabelle was standing awkwardly in the hallway, carrying her coat. “Ready for breakfast?” said Marion, kindly.

“But you’re still in your PJs,” said Annabelle.

Marion grabbed her beautiful camel coat from the hooks in the hall and belted it up tightly, scooping up her hair into a high ponytail and checking last night’s mascara would get her through breakfast.

“Oh honey,” smiled Marion, “this is Hampstead. Half of the women here have daywear that looks like pajamas.”

“You have a point,” smiled Annabelle, shyly. She felt quite pink cheeked at being called honey.

They walked off down the street and the wind started blowing.

“The weather is certainly drawing in,” said Annabelle. Marion felt in her pocket and found her soft cashmere hat. She offered it to Annabelle.

“That’s so soft!” said Annabelle, shaking her head. She felt strange wanting to wear Marion’s hat. It hung off her hand, she did not know what to do with it.

“It’s cashmere. Just put it on.”

Annabelle did and felt instantly glamorous. “I’ve never felt anything as beautiful as this,” she breathed.

“You’ve probably never spent such a stupid amount of money on a hat.”

“I take the children’s old hats.”

Marion didn’t answer. She already knew Annabelle had no concept of treating herself well. Annabelle felt irritated by her silence.

“Are you sleeping with your secretary?” she blurted out, without thinking.

Marion didn’t look at her.

“I see.”

“No you don’t.”

Annabelle panicked. “Perhaps I should go home.”

“I wish you’d quit being so uptight.”

They had just arrived outside Louis Patisserie. Lydia was putting a sign up in the window. She waved cheerily at them, unable to hide her glee at Annabelle wearing a gorgeous cashmere hat at a rakish angle. It was not a hat that one usually saw in Hampstead. It was clearly Parisian. And it was obviously Marion’s.

“Saved by the dark side,” grinned Marion.

Lydia looked between the two of them. The tension between Annabelle and Marion amused her – she did a very non-priestess like chuckle. “I only use my powers for good, Marion.” She paused, looking directly at Marion, “How about you?”

Marion narrowed her eyes and scanned Lydia for clues. Oh, really? This was not just an act? Lydia felt something happening in the air. “What on earth are you doing?” Marion did not answer. She felt pale and exhausted and like she better go and lie down.

“Can we take a raincheck?” she said, suddenly to Annabelle.

“Are you ok?” said Annabelle, worried, taking off the hat, offering it to her worriedly.

“Keep the hat, it’s a gift.” Marion turned sharply and headed back down Church Row. This was not good, not good at all. She broke into a run and her camel coat flew open but she did not care. She ran all the way back to the house and grabbed her keys from the coat pocket. They must have dropped out when she ran. Damn! She did not know what to do. She had been busted. Lydia knew who she was – or thought she did.

At that moment, Simon emerged from the house next door. He was looking for his wife. He saw the glamorous blonde American in her PJs frantically searching for something on the ground. He saw her keys a little way by the lamppost and went over.

“Are these what you’re looking for?” he asked, trying to be all British and bonhomie even though he was late for the office and his wife was missing.

Marion swirled around and nearly bumped her head on Simon’s chest. “Jeez, you’re a tall glass of water, I didn’t know you people came in Tall.”

Simon was not sure of her grammar. It must be American syntax. But he guessed it was a compliment. He went a little pink-cheeked and Marion turned on her charm. This was the husband, she remembered seeing him through the French windows. He was lovely. Great energy. Slightly diffident, had no idea who he was, but nice. A nice man – definitely a good man – a kind man. “So we meet at last,” she said, holding out her hand, not caring that her pajamas were on full display beneath her coat and her ponytail had come free, her hair cascading over her shoulders.

Simon did a little bow and held up her keys, “Allow me?” he said, walking up to Marion’s doorway and putting the key in the lock. Marion was amused – he was like Cary Grant, for god’s sake. No wonder Annabelle married him. She walked into her house as he held the door open and then decided to be wicked. She put her hand on his chest and cocked her head into the hallway.

“The least I can do is offer you coffee,” she grinned. Simon was speechless. A gorgeous American who looked like Grace Kelly was inviting him into the house next door – which he had always been curious to see – and was offering him coffee. For a moment he felt bold and alive with a devil-may-care joie de vivre and a sense of excitement and deeply and wantonly free.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, sprightly, and followed her into the house.

Lydia and Annabelle were walking back down Church Row, nibbling croissants from out of waxed paper bags and talking intently. Lydia looked up from her delicate French pastry and said, “Isn’t that your husband going into Marion’s house?”

Annabelle dropped her croissant onto the pavement in shock.

see you later darlings!

we’ll check in from Palm Springs.

off to drive and sing loudly to mid-80s pop Tunes in the trusty silver steed Prius as we Drive East.

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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

a morning in bed, writing a novel, thinking of london.

darlings

happy friday!

we don’t have anywhere particular to be until Later so we decided to stay in bed and write (what a lovely sentence to be able to say) as we are writing a minimum (on most days) of 1000 words into (not of, but into) the new novel.

may we share a bit more with you?

firstly a few photographs we took before – on a trip to London – just to add Context – and get you in the right Feeling or mood.

oriel sloane square 20th Century Fox London BBC london ready? do you have a snack and some caffeinated beverage? it’s a longish read today (and may we say thank you for reading – we truly Appreciate it, darlings).

There is something quite lovely about an English early spring morning. True – there was still rain on a daily basis. But in between there were glossy bursts of sunshine, which brought out birds and children and dogs in a fit of activity. Annabelle stood at her kitchen window and watched the sparrows tussle with each other in the guttering. A door banged and shook the windowpanes slightly and the birds scattered up and away, onto the back garden shed and over the rooftops. Annabelle looked in the direction of next door. That must have been Marion leaving for her new job.

Annabelle took down a tea towel and started to dry the dishes, in something of a dream. Secretly she wished she had a job. It must be nice to have somewhere to go. She finished drying the plates and put the kettle on to make a pot of tea. A note from her son’s school was lying on the table. She picked it up and frowned. Mark was not doing well and she had no idea how to help him. Her daughter, Libby, was the smart one and, to make it worse, somewhat athletic too. But Mark was different: lost in thought most of the time, in his own world.

She picked up Mark’s textbooks and started to read about the Tudors and the Stuarts. It engrossed her so much she did not notice the kettle whistling furiously on the stove. Annabelle stopped reading and turned off the kettle then, without knowing why, she walked quickly into the garden and threw some seeds out for the birds. It was a few moments before she realized she could hear voices in the next garden.

“But why ENGLAND?” said a woman’s voice – an American voice.

Annabelle crept closer to the fence that divided the two parts of the house and sat down under the apple tree on a low bench.

“Why not PARIS?” said the voice.

There was a pause.

“They speak English, don’t they? Well, I’d pick it up.”

Another pause.

“You’re killing me. This is like something out of a PBS Masterpiece special with Dame Maggie Smith and her cohorts of strange village women in tie-dye robes and I just don’t see why I got punished. The numbers were great. You know they were great. They were off the chart great!”

Annabelle was fascinated by the woman’s voice. She realized it must be Marion. She sounded so brave, so present and so gloriously angry and defiant. It was exhilarating. Annabelle felt desperate to see what she looked like. She decided to risk peeking through a hole in the fence.

At first she could not see anything. Just a mass of newspapers strewn across the picnic table, which she knew was a bit wobbly because it used to live in their garden. There was a large coffee container from the American chain on the corner – that must have been why she heard a bang this morning – Marion leaving to go up into the high street.

And then she saw her. A woman with sleek blonde hair but not brassy blonde, expensive, high-end salon Hollywood movie star blonde – and she was running her fingers through it in frustration. The cellphone was clamped to her ear and she was wearing dark glasses. Annabelle was impressed. She had never seen anyone wearing Jackie Onassis large dark glasses in Hampstead, especially not in their own back garden, before nine AM.

But her clothes! Annabelle got as close to the fence as she dared to take a better look. Marion appeared to be wearing pajamas under a Macintosh raincoat. But not the sort of pajamas one found in John Lewis – those sensible ones in flannel with unflattering drawstring waist and saggy bottom.

Marion’s pajamas were white satin with a thin navy blue piping down the front and a monogram on the pocket from some fancy store in New York probably, thought Annabelle. And the way the trousers flowed was so elegant, just skimming Marion’s long legs at the top and occasionally touching her ankles gently as she stormed around the garden. She must be wearing some sort of silk tank top under the button-down jacket as the thin material glowed gently in the spring sunshine. She was a vision, thought Annabelle, quietly hugging herself on the other side of the garden fence.

The phonecall ended abruptly. Marion threw the phone onto the picnic table where it skimmed off the newspapers and fell onto the grass. She left it there and stormed inside, banging the back door loudly. Annabelle leaned back against the tree and tried to breathe evenly. She could not remember the last time she had been so exhilarated by someone.

The rest of the day passed in a slow rhythmic haze of tasks and chores and rather too much sitting down reading about the bloody battles of England in Mark’s textbook. Annabelle knew she should feel guilty for not really enjoying her life, but nobody knew she didn’t. The house was sort of tidy. There were meals and outings and she always showed up at parent’s evening at her children’s schools. She loved her husband. It was impossible not to. The whole of Hampstead appeared to love Simon Jones. And it was not as if there was something necessarily missing.

But ever since her family divided the house and rented out the other half and Elyse’s accident – she shook her head – the therapist had told her not to dwell on either matter so she would not.

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

Marion slammed the back door hard. She was furious. The office in New York was adamant. She had to stay here in England, at least for a year. She would much prefer Paris. It’s true, she did not speak French, but she would learn. Americans did so much better in Paris, everyone knew that. Why England? She fumed and stormed up and down the hallway, making the umbrella stand rattle and the rugs bunch up as her slippers scuffed on the tasseled hems.

Had someone been watching her from next door? She heard a sound when she threw the phone on that wobbly picnic table, a giggle and a shuffling from behind the fence. Where was her phone? She looked around. Still outside. She walked out into the garden again and grabbed the phone. Then she stopped and listened. Perhaps that person had gone back inside. Marion walked up to the fence and peeked through the slats, which were coming apart. Their garden was actually lovely. An apple tree, not yet in blossom, a small garden seat encircling the tree, a sturdy long table set with two benches and a stone flagged pathway leading up to the back door.

Marion wondered what their lives were like next door.

Her white pajamas had green grass stains on the bottom and her slippers were soaked from the morning dew where the sun – what sun there was – had not dried out the lawn. She turned around and leaned back against the fence, getting the back of her pajamas jacket stained from the mud-spattered wood slats. She closed her eyes and sighed. She must make the best of it here. They were not going to let her go back to New York for a long time after…………but best not to think about that now. Maybe if she did well they would let her go to Paris in a year. Was there even a Paris office? If not, she would open it.

Slightly less angry for a moment, Marion considered the damage to her pajamas. From what she knew about England, there probably wasn’t a twenty-four hour dry cleaning pick-up service. She turned back to look over at the eaves of the house next door, just where the apple tree curved over the roof. Maybe her next-door neighbor would know about the local cleaning services. What was her name again? Arabella? Isabelle? Annabelle. Yes, that was it. She would ask Annabelle about the area. It would be good for her to have an English person for research purposes. After all, if she was going to have to sell products to the English that they didn’t know they needed, she was going to have to tap into their psyche.

For a start, she needed to know what did people who lived in houses like this and had benches round an apple tree feel?

Pleased by her strategy, Marion decided to get dressed. Tomorrow was her first day in the office. Later on today, she would meet Annabelle from next-door. Excellent.

Her mobile was ringing. An American number but she did not recognize it. Not New York. Not a 212-area code. Where was a 310 number? Oh, right – Los Angeles.

“Hello?” she said.

There was a click on the other end.

Marion dialed the number back. It was engaged. She tried again. Still engaged. Odd. Then her phone rang. An English number this time. She picked up.

“Hello?”

“Marion?” said an English voice.

“Yeah.”

“It’s Diana Knoll-West – just checking up on you!”

“Everything’s great, thanks.”

“Oh, good. Well, if you need anything just ring.”

“Actually, there is something,” said Marion, looking down at her pajamas. “Is there a dry cleaning pick-up service?”

“A pick-up? Sorry, don’t quite see what you mean there.”

“A dry cleaning service that will come and take away my clothes to be cleaned.”

There was a pause.

“I do believe that Mr. Brown on the High Street is open tomorrow, you could ask him if he could dry clean your clothes for next week.”

“Next week? Wait. He’s not open today?”

“Gosh, no, I think he only works Wednesdays.”

“Let me get this straight – a dry cleaning service that doesn’t pick up and is only open once a week and takes a week to dry clean?”

Diana took a deep breath, she was equal to this; of course she had read all those articles about New York and its 24-hour delivery culture but, really, imagine. “Marion, this is England, remember, not New York!” she tried a gentle laugh on the other end but there was silence from number 28 Church Row.

Finally Marion spoke. “Where do you English people buy pajamas then?” she said. Only dry-cleaners in New York could probably remove grass stains from satin piping.

Diana was thrilled to help. “Oh, we always buy PJs at Peter Jones,” she said, “Do you have a pen? I’ll give you the address in Sloane Square.”

“You mean you people still go to an actual store?” said Marion, in disbelief, “Don’t they do online same day delivery?”

“Gosh. I have no idea. We’ve always gone to Peter Jones and had lunch at Oriel after, such a treat, delicious scones. Yummy Eton Mess and Pimms.”

Marion had no idea what Diana was talking about but it sounded like major carbohydrates. So this was England – no 24-hour dry cleaning pick-up service or online same-day delivery from whatever Peter Jones was. She wondered how long it would take Brooks Brothers to deliver from Manhattan.

“OK, thanks, Diana. I’ll ask my assistant at the office tomorrow to get me orientated.”

“An assistant? What fun!” trilled Diana, but Marion had already rung off and walked into the kitchen to find something to eat.

She opened all the cupboards but apart from some tins of treacle pudding – whatever that was – and the cookies in a plastic Tupperware – and some (she blanched) full-fat milk – that had to go – she poured it down the sink – and (white) pasta – there was nothing she could eat. She looked in the freezer. Several packets of frozen peas, some cheese topping pizzas and, she noted, no ice-cube tray. In a drawer by the stove she found some delivery menus for Chinese and Indian food. She put them back. Could not risk getting fat this year. Not if she was going to run the Paris office at some point.

There was nothing else for it – she would have to get dressed and head back up to the High Street to find a salad or something light. Marion would not admit it, but she was almost excited to explore the new area, but just until she could go back to New York or move on to Paris, and only in the name of research to study these British people without 24 hour dry cleaning services and a desire to still go to actual stores and buy things and then carry them home. Marion shook her head in disbelief and went upstairs to get dressed.

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

Annabelle was baking. She kept consulting the Nigella Lawson cookbook but was utterly convinced that whatever she was making would never look like the photographs in Nigella’s book. She was so absorbed by the food porn photography that she did not notice her daughter, Libby, poke her head around the door.

“Homework!” said Libby, quickly, and then clattered up the stairs, banging her schoolbag behind her.

Annabelle rushed to the hallway. “Not so fast, young lady!” she said. But there was silence from upstairs behind closed doors. Sally padded into the hallway to help Annabelle and looked up at her with her huge brown eyes. Annabelle crouched down to bury her face in Sally’s fur and stroke her. Sally started to lick her with some ferocity and clearly deep pleasure and Annabelle realized she was covered in cake mixture. Was that dangerous for dogs, she thought? Sally did not think so and Annabelle wondered again at her lack of natural ability at this housekeeping-children-and-animals activity. Looking up at the stairs again she decided to take charge and headed for Libby’s room.

She knocked tentatively at first and then more firmly until Libby answered, her face visible but the rest of her body covered behind the door. Annabelle had an inward panic. Full body tattoos? Piercing? Was her fifteen-year-old daughter wearing a slut-walk-outfit of something feminist yet ironically streetwalker-esque?

Annabelle and Libby did a stand-off from either side of the door. Ever since Libby had turned a teenager there had been little communication. Libby looked furious and with a pent-up anger that Annabelle remembered well from her own teen years. At least she had shared a room with her sister who got to hear all her angst. Libby just had a younger brother and he refused to do anything but lark around which drove Libby mad.

“I’m doing my homework, what do you want?” Annabelle could not remember why she had come upstairs. Libby narrowed her eyes. “Where’s my hockey kit?” she demanded.

Suddenly Annabelle also felt angry, but she did not know why. “Are the workings of the washing machine completely unknown to you?” she spat. Libby shrunk back, suddenly scared.

“You’re the mother.”

“Mother, yes. Slave, no.” There was nothing else to say.

Mark Jones, thankfully, chose that moment to come home from day school. He stood in the hallway and looked into the kitchen – nobody there – and heard voices. He knew his mother and sister would be arguing so he threw his dirty boots into the hallway cupboard and called to Sally, who came rushing down the stairs, thrilled at his arrival. They ran around the garden and waited for the storm upstairs to subside.

“The prodigal son returns!” called Annabelle from the top of the stairs. Libby closed her door firmly and Annabelle made her way back to the kitchen. Mark came in from the garden all scabbed knees and sweaty and seemingly taller than he was when he left that morning.

“What’s for supper, mum?”

“The cry of the disaffected youth returning from a hard day in the salt mines of education.”

Sally and Mark exchange glances and the dog slumped down onto the kitchen rug, looking hopefully at the cake mixture on the counter.

“My own expensive education is utterly wasted on you children. I thought we could converse about Keats and Milton.”

Mark was used to his mother’s plaintive wailing. He patted her arm and walked to the freezer. “Shall I put in a frozen pizza?” he said, realizing that there was nothing but cake mixture on offer right now.

“Do we possess such a product in our humble pantry of organic delicacies?”

Mark grabbed two boxes from the freezer, opened the Aga’s top oven expertly and popped two pizzas in. Annabelle looked suitably abashed, but grateful, and went back to staring at the photography in Nigella’s book and back at her cake mixture. There was the sound of the front door opening and closing and a cheery voice talking to someone on his cellphone. Simon Jones entered the kitchen and surveyed the scene, proudly. His pretty wife was baking, his son was suitably covered in mud from some sporting activity, there was a dog and – he checked the room covertly – the scary teenage daughter was safely ensconced in her bedroom and not snarling at him for once.

“Darling.” He kissed his wife

“Mark is rustling up a couple of frozen pizzas,” said Annabelle, nuzzling into her husband’s neck with happiness at his return from a business trip.

Simon looked at his son with pride. “We are sending him into the world fully equipped,” he said. He ruffled his son’s messy hair.

“You two are so weird,” said Mark, and took an apple from the bowl on the table.

“He even makes balanced nutritional choices,” smiled Simon as Mark started to bite into the apple, pause, and then offered him some.  Simon took the newspaper from his briefcase and headed to the table, grabbing a bottle of scotch from the sideboard. “Snifter, darling?”

“Not until I’ve finished baking,” said Annabelle.

He poured himself a generous measure of Scotch into a thick crystal glass that was part of their wedding anniversary set from his parents. All felt right with the world. “Baking? Haven’t done that for a while, darling?

Annabelle paused. “I’m turning over a new leaf.”

Simon didn’t really hear her. He read the paper. “Sorry, darling – leaf?”

“I’m re-embracing the female arts.”

Mark put his head in the fridge. He emerged with a stick of cheese. “What, mum?”

“The female arts,” said Annabelle.

“Mum’s acting weird again,” said Mark to his father. “Maybe it’s the Change, we learned about that in biology.”

Simon looked up from his newspaper, suddenly worried. His wife was not yet forty. “Good lord, where are we schooling our children? They only did rugby and Latin in my day.”

Annabelle wiped her hand on a tea towel and comes over to the table. “It’s got nothing to do with hormones. I just wanted to see if I could really do this.”

Simon put down his paper, walked over to her and looked into her eyes carefully. He really loved her. But sometimes she got the oddest notions in her head. “We are very happy with the creative chaos around here.”

Annabelle blushed. She really loved him too. “I met someone at the shops today.”

Mark puts his head into his hand. “You’re getting a divorce!” he cried. Annabelle laughed. Simon looks a bit shocked at his son, why would he think that so quickly?

“No – a woman,” laughed, Annabelle.

Mark looked interested. “You’re a lesbian!” Simon looked worriedly at his son. He was only eleven. How did he know about divorce and homosexuality already? Perhaps the day school was more liberal than it appeared.

He turned back to his wife. “Are you, darling? You can tell me,” he smiled, indulgently.

“You know her – Lydia James. She lives in the big house on the High Street.”

“The one with the flowing robes?” said Simon, absentmindedly, half-watching the clock. Mark saw him look and suddenly jumped up.

“The match!” Mark ran out of the room and Annabelle heard the television go on. Simon wrung his hands and looked guiltily in the direction of the television room. She laughed and waved him out with her tea towel.

Annabelle looked down at Sally on the kitchen rug and confided in her. “Apparently Lydia is the leader of a goddess cult,” she said. Sally raised an eye to the other room and wondered whether to watch the football match with the boys. “She told me that I’m about to have a big awakening.” Annabelle leaned in to look at the author photograph of Nigella Lawson and wondered if Nigella had had a big awakening at some point. Of course she had, she smiled to herself, she’s Nigella Lawson. And she finished the baking, put the scones into trays bought from Peter Jones in Sloane Square and slid them into the bottom over of the Aga. Then she poured herself a Scotch and walked into the garden, pulling a soft cashmere cardigan from Jigsaw, that she’d had since university, around her shoulders and looking at the house next door for a long while.

Jeannette Winterson's shop

yes.

well-spotted!

that *is* Jeannette Winterson’s shop, in Spitalfields, London.

(we thought the muses would approve and it’s ever such a nice shop too).

btw (as the young people say) we are Not comparing ourselves to the Terribly Smart Ms. Winterson (although we do admire her greatly) – we’re sort of aiming for the Genre of the Domestic Drama (isn’t that what Publishers call such things?) so well-explored by Shirley Conran and Jilly Cooper/slash/E.M.Delafield (helpfully there’s an article by Jilly – can we call her Jilly? on E. M here) – but with a twist (quite a few twists, actually – we Do like to slip magic into the Plot).

did you like it?

*nervouslooktocamera*

meet Marion’s neighbo(u)rs.

darlings

*excitedlooktocamera*

we woke up Before dawn to write……….

would you like to meet Marion’s neighbo(u)rs?

we wanted an English visual so here’s a Haberdashers shop in London to set-the-mood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(continued from before) The House On Church Row

“Brash, I believe, is the word you Brits use,” said Marion, and took the keys out of Diana’s hands and opened the door. Diana seemed distracted. Marion turned back to see a vision in flowing purple ceremonial robes approaching the front gate.

“Diana!”

“Oh hello, Lydia. This is Marion O’Neal, the new tenant.”

Marion was not sure what to make of the medieval priestess garment-wearing woman who was now bearing down upon the house. Marion looked at Diana, and back to the woman approaching. Diana beamed, “Lydia is a local celebrity,” she said, “She writes romance novels.”

“Set in the middle ages, I’m hazarding a wild guess.”

By this point, Lydia reached the garden gate and swung through without pausing. “I do! I do!” she boomed, “Clever Girl! Yes! Welcome to our happy corner of the world, Marion!”

Marion wrinkled her brow and didn’t respond.

“I feel sure you’ll have an adventure. This is a mysterious place,” said Lydia. Marion looked doubtfully at the house and backed away from Lydia’s overpowering patchouli and musk oil fragrance.

“Is that so?”

Lydia was not deterred in the slightest. “Oh! Do I detect an AMERICAN accent?” she beamed, “What fun!”

Diana could see that Marion was irritated. “Lydia,” she said, “Marion has just flown all the way in from New York so I think we’d better let her go inside and have a cup of tea.” Marion raised an eyebrow. “Or a large scotch?” said, Diana, with what she hoped was a winning smile. “I hope you’ll be very happy here,” she said, and pressed a welcome packet from the agency into Marion’s hand as the door started to close on her. “If you need anything our office is at the top of Church Row, on the High Street!” she said as the door shut.

“The neighbors are heavenly,” Lydia boomed as she swayed her way regally back down the garden path, closely followed by Diana, a little shaken. Behind the closed door, Marion could still hear Lydia’s voice echoing down Church Row.

“Arabella and Simon Jones! HEAVENLY!”

Marion leaned back against the door and looked around, suddenly exhausted from her trip. “I’m not looking for Heavenly,” she said to the hallway – something caught her eye to the left of the door – good god – an actual umbrella stand, she’d never seen one outside of shelter-porn magazines before.

The house was certainly grand. Eighteenth century, according to Diana’s welcome pack, which she read while gulping down a large scotch. Luckily she had bought duty-free at the airport, as there was nothing wicked in the house whatsoever. She had opened every cupboard door – just vast packets of tea and some uninteresting cookies in a Tupperware container with a sticker that said digestive biscuits in girlish handwriting. By the kettle was an envelope with her name on it. Marion walked over to the sink and rinsed out her glass and picked up the envelope, expertly slitting it open with her pinky finger in one motion like a mobster cutting someone’s throat.

Dear Neighbour!

Welcome to Church Row! We’re sure you’ll be very happy here. Do pop next door if you need to borrow some sugar or just want to say “Hi”.

Warmest wishes from Simon, Arabella, Libby, Mark and Sally-the-dog Jones

Marion crumpled up the note, threw it in the wastepaper basket and dragged her luggage upstairs. That was all she needed – heavenly neighbors with dogs and children. She shuddered and kept opening doors until she found what must be the master bedroom. It was actually beautiful – a bit Laura Ashley circa 1988 for her taste – but she could see that whoever owned the joint had done a good job.

There was a large bed with a sprigged roses comforter and four pillows. Two were very firm – reading pillows, she decided, knowing that the English were forever reading Jane Austen in those PBS specials. The other two were soft and yielding and had double pillowcases in the nicest thick worn cotton. Marion was very tired. She took one of the pillows and pulled it to her chest and buried her head in it for a moment. Then she started to laugh. Lavender scented cotton pillows. Of course an English house from the eighteenth century would have lavender scented pillowcases. And then she saw the worn copies of Jane Austen’s entire output on the small bookcase next to the bed and narrowed her eyes. This was an English Set, not a house. Did they put all this stuff in just because she was an American?

She knelt down by the bookcase. The Jane Austen books were not a branded set; but individually bought editions, some clearly from university years – cheap paperbacks with pages turned down – and then a sumptuous cloth-bound book from Penguin. Someone had written inside the front leaf. Marion realized it was a quote from the book itself.

The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself….

         Then underneath there was a smiley – an old-fashioned Eighties smiley not a modern tech-savvy using the keyboard effect one.

So watch out!

Best of luck with Finals

All my love, Elyse

And there, at the top, in loopy handwriting was the name “Arabella Montfort”. Was this the same Arabella that now lived next door? How many Arabellas did one street in Hampstead contain? And where was Elyse now?

Marion took the book back to the bed and pulled off her suit, leaving it on the chair, and slipped under the covers just wearing her underwear and a Donna Karan silk t-shirt. She shrugged out of her bra and tossed it on top of her suit where it lay, a slip of palest pink satin, just catching the light from the lamp. Marion slid down further under the comforter and arranged the pillows behind her head and started to read. It was almost heavenly. She swiftly banished that thought from her head and suddenly threw the book across the room. It hit the wall and made a dull sound. Marion snarled a little at the lamp trimmed with a blue cornflower shade and quickly snapped off the light. She lay there in the darkness for a long time, the jet lag descending like a bad case of the blues.

Next door at number 29 Church Row, Arabella Jones was lying in bed, unable to sleep. Her husband Simon was away on business and his side of the bed loomed large in the darkness. She wriggled over and pulled his pillow into her chest to hug it. The smell of Penhaligon’s Quercus was softly comforting. But she still could not sleep. Suddenly there was a dull thud against the wall. What was that?

She sat up in bed and looked at the wall. It was the shared wall between their house and the empty one next door, which used to be one whole house when her grandfather was alive. Property taxes and death duties and, she swallowed hard, certain family troubles, had meant it got divided in the late Seventies. She was still small when it happened, but she remembered feeling devastated that they moved into this side and lost the lookout tower. That now belonged to the house next door.

When she was very small, her grandmother would allow her to climb up the tall back stairs, to what were the servant’s quarters at the very top. Arabella would read up there for hours, curled up on the linen covered window seat, looking up from her Beatrix Potter book across the tops of the houses all the way to the church at the end of the road and as far down into London as the Post Office Tower.

She looked back at the adjoining wall between her house and next door and thought again about the thud. Was someone there? And then she remembered. The new tenant had arrived. Marion O’Neal – an advertising executive from New York – according to Lydia. Lydia worried Arabella – she was so indiscreet.

Arabella knew that anything she told her about her marriage to Simon would end up in one of those romantic fiction novels. It did not take long to work out that Tabitha Thomas in her latest oeuvre was a badly disguised composite of Arabella and her sister Elyse. Her late sister, thought Arabella, lying back against the pillows and sighing. She still missed her.

After lying awake for several more moments, Arabella decided to go downstairs and make some hot milk. Sally, the golden retriever, looked up questioningly from her dog basket in the corner of the room and got up to follow her downstairs.

darlings – even though we’ve already written this Tale (as a movie screenplay) – and so we Thought we knew what happens (and we do hope the basic plot stays the same as it contains Magic and car convoys-to-Brighton and all sorts of glorious Twists), the thud on the wall and the Jane Austen detail and even the ghostly appearance of Elyse are New – they just happened. We were writing along merrily, watching the sun come up over the powerlines outside the window here in Los Angeles and we knew it was 07.15 because that’s when the sun hits the right pillow and we have to squidge over to the other and turn our head just slightly to avoid direct sunlight (not complaining – very happy with the Southern California climate) and There it was – the THUD.

you see we write what we see in front of our mind’s eye – sort of a projection (in a non-scary way – *doubtfullonginglooktocamera*) – as we nestle back against the reading pillows (good for the back, Laura Ashley-bought) and pause occasionally to take a little sip of Cafe du Monde chicory-laced-New-Orleans dark embrace of caffeine.

sometimes we get surprised at the Plot twists or level-of-detail that we start to Imagine and then we look vaguely in the direction of the Hollywood Hills and wonder if Other Writers have this experience too – although we’re sure This One has a Lot of vast satin throw pillows and a Butler to bring in her coffee (black, no sugar, just a couple of Hermasetas and a swedish cracker, no doubt.)

and now who-we-are-in-real-life has to get showered and hair-brushed and mascara-ed for the day ahead to be all digital-media-consulting-ness and a Lunch on a studio Lot and quite a lot of driving.

we can’t decide whether to go too.

it’s so sunny here.

we Might just watch the television-DVD-box-Set we brought back from the Library yesterday and dance to the opening credits.

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.

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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).