darlings – lengthy blog post alert! bring snacks and a large mug of tea.
are you back?
here. we. go.
we’re Terribly excited because, you see, once we Arrive in Los Angeles (much) later today – our new Life shall begin.
in a way this is picking up the thread of a much earlier incarnation of a Life.
although we shall still Consult (and we are very much still a Special Advisor for the time being which is lovely and feels Rather Helpful) and use our 17 years of experience in digital (as who we are in RL) – it shall not be our focus from this day forward.
having stepped off the Corporate Ladder (the relief), we shall slip (most elegantly) into the role of Mentor, advisory board member, non-executive director, public speaker – and. so. on.
and now we get to go back to what stopped in the mid-90s (for reasons we cannot divulge and tis far too complicated a story that we don’t really know what truly happened – only that needs must and it was an Important break and change and re-fashioning of one’s personality and Time on this earth and the shaky economy and world of newspapers had re-configured itself – if we’re not being too dramatic – ahem).
we are going to write again e v e r y d a y.
just like Noel Streatfeild.
and Noel Coward.
we adore a Noel.
(you saw that coming, didn’t you?)
let’s “backtrack” as the Americans say (what does it mean? did one run backwards on the Track while at a “meet” to find a lost contact lens or a misplaced tennis bangle?).
it was while reading the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that we first realized one could let one’s Imagination run Riot and make up stories (or transpose the music of the muses via one’s trusty typewriter) and they became books.
and then we read Ballet Shoes (we really did Backtrack, darlings – we are guessing we were about 8 or 9 – a sweet fair questioning – don’t-come-into-my-room-i-am-READING sort of an age).
this was the cover of the edition we had (sadly we have not kept it all these years but we found it via the most helpful Interweb – we wanted to be accurate and to sum up yearning and longing and true memory which later versions, alas, of course, would Not Do.)
we finished the book with great rapidity (a trait we still demonstrate with books) and then put it aside with some Wonder.
there was an AUTHOR picture on the back.
we stared at it for AGES.
it all became clear.
somebody wrote this book.
she had a name – and a very nice one – Noel Streatfeild.
we went to the public library and saw that she had written quite a few, in fact.
we read them all.
a wide open vista of POSSIBILITY.
we asked the Librarian (we always spoke to librarians, ever since getting our first library card at the age of about 7) if Noel Streatfeild did this writing-business all-the-time.
the Librarian (who was very knowledgeable and if memory serves us well, had a nice line in Harris Tweed A-line skirts and cashmere sweater sets with horn-rimmed glasses), confirmed that yes, indeed, Ms (a new fangled and full of possible liberation word at the time) Streatfeild wrote all-the-time.
well that was that.
we staggered home under yet another armful of books and found out that it was a possibility to write all-the-time.
in fact there were MANY interesting humans that did Just That.
we were never without a small (not Brownie but small and 70s style with actual film) camera.
and we liked to ask people Questions all the time.
by tracking the career of Capote (by now we were obsessed that one could pass one’s Life in this writing-lark), we saw that one could also talk about people who were real as well as Pretend and if one was friends with Mr. Avedon, one could also talk about their portraits (we were Always stopping our parent’s friends to ask Questions and then subject their children to portraits).
we poured over this book for what felt like Hours.
it was all coming together: one could write and take photographs and ask people questions and get Paid for it.
we still had to finish school (a fertile place for the imagination and many character studies put into play over the years) but we already started to Plot.
we. would. write.
and we did.
it started small (and it won’t shock you to hear it was under a pen-name) at age 9 – bad poetry, some short stories – nothing published.
and progressed to starting a magazine (called The Aesthete) at University (London) and then working in a press office for a film company and writing press releases and seeing our words transposed sometimes entire paragraphs of such into actual journalist’s pieces so we thought sod that and started Pitching to magazines and getting published and then a job on a newspaper and writing and researching and Seeing Our Name In The Paper (not the one we use today – a slightly different version – long story – and not for this blog) and it became A Career.
but then it stopped.
today it starts again.
and we have quite a few assets (novels*) to start plundering and re-fashioning and giving-to-our-Literary-agent to see if they-will-sell and finding a West Coast (movies) agent (quelle fun) and doing Publicity for the book (contract being worked on now apparently – can’t tell you what fun it is to be the Talent for once and let Other People sort out the Details) – and all the while writing to You, here (which we love the most).
oh. yes. and setting up a photography business to do Portraits and ask questions and do short movies and……..more on that Soon.
a note on libraries before we leave you with something to read:
having just left soho in manhattan, we spent Many hours at the Hudson Park Library (built in 1906 and where, the lovely poet Marianne Moore worked part-time until 1925 – perhaps we’ll get a P/T job in a Library – we’d love that).
and so we wrote the Head Librarian a thank you note and slipped it under the large heavy wooden doors (with proper brass fittings) before we headed West.
before we get dressed and head into the utterly gorgeous Palm Springs day – a few opening lines from our novel “Running From The Rain” – perhaps we’ll end up publishing this under some version of a “Noel” pen-name in homage to those Noel’s that inspired us so much as we slowly realized one could write all-the-time and people would want to read-it.
It was a pleasant autumnal day in the south of England. The shady chestnut trees were just starting to turn brown and there was a slight breeze, but the sun still warmed bare arms and bestowed freckles on the younger ones. The boarders at Harcourt House were all returning from their summer holidays, some by train, and others by car and the more glamorous ones from abroad.
A VW Beetle, shiny yellow with a vast orange daisy painted on the side, drew up alongside the old Victorian mansion. Looking very smart in her new dark blue and burgundy uniform, Emerald consulted the closely typed pages:
“It says we should pull round to the back service entrance,” she said in a slightly quavering voice, “and unload the trunk and then walk through the garden to the first door where the housemistresses will greet the new pupils.”
Emerald’s cousin Dominic, pressed into driving duties during a weekend home from university, nodded and swung his car smartly into the nearby driveway.
From the back of the car, Emerald peered out at the long black cars dispensing tall, willowy blondes, their hair so straight and fine it could be held back with a single slim horizontal tortoiseshell clasp.
She paused with her hand on the car door handle that was still a bit rickety from Dominic’s last accident, and saw her own straggling ponytail was escaping from its rubber band. It was a nice sensible mid-brown and very thick but had an odd kink at the end where her hair was wavy on one side and not the other. Emerald licked her fingers and tried to smooth the top of her head where some escaped tendrils would frizz by lunchtime if not kept in check.
“It’ll be ok,” smiled Dominic, hoping his cousin was not already comparing herself unfavorably to the goddesses from the Upper Sixth, now seventeen and ready to launch themselves on romantic adventures as soon as they left the following June.
His thirteen-year-old cousin gave a brave, bright smile. “Dominic, I’m smart and funny and those qualities go a long way in today’s society.”
Dominic wondered how a forty year old had managed to squish herself into such a little person. Honestly, in his opinion, Emerald was a product of far too many summers spent reading books and watching old Cary Grant movies and none running around with friends of her own age.
He got out of the car and lifted out the heavy black trunk with the smart gold E.R.K initials on the front. He was relieved the Aunts had bought standard issue boarding school property. Had it been up to Emerald’s wacky mother there would have been a few bags in neon Sixties plastic.
But had Emerald’s parents lived, she would not have been sent away to Harcourt Hall to learn how to be a proper English lady at the age of thirteen.
Behind them a motorbike roared up and screeched to a halt. A rangy tomboy with scabbed knees and scuffed shoes slid off the back with a backpack and slouched off down the alleyway by the kitchens before slipping into the door leading to the gardens. She did not give a backward glance to the motorbike rider who sped off into the peaceful English lanes surrounding the school grounds and disappeared from sight.
Another town car entered the slow procession of vehicles dispensing young ladies to the school. A white-gloved attendant opened one back passenger door and an alabaster blonde emerged, very regally. The attendant handed her trunk to a waiting man in overalls while the blonde walked away slowly as if on air down the same alleyway as the tomboy on the motorbike.
“Dominic,” said Emerald, unwilling to admit she had quite lost her nerve and could not leave the sanctity of her cousin’s VW Beetle, “Do you think there are real princesses at this school?”
Her cousin snorted, “Quite probably, but I bet there are not many real old titles among the nouveau riche and the true aristocracy went broke after the first world war so could not afford the fees here.” Dominic was studying sociology at Warwick and had decided to become a Marxist next term.
………………(skipping forward a few pages, darlings)………………..
Emerald came to a screeching halt. She saw the tomboy from the motorbike being reprimanded in the large wood paneled hallway. Another woman in a scratchy gray suit and high-collared white blouse was telling her it was not appropriate to bring just a backpack to school – where was her trunk?
“My parents are sending it down from Scotland,” the girl said, and saw Emerald staring at her so she smirked and raised one eyebrow. This was something Emerald had seen her father do but she remembered not to think about her father or she might cry and she did not want to cry. The woman in the suit with the clipboard was asking her name.
“Emerald Katz” she said firmly. There was a pause during which Emerald stared defiantly at the wall.
“Ah,” said the woman, “Emma Rose Katz, Upper IV. Well, welcome.” “My name is NOT Emma,” said Emerald, steely-eyed, “It is Emerald.”
The tomboy was being dismissed and told to go upstairs to unpack what little she had managed to bring back to school in her backpack. She rushed over to Emerald and grabbed her hand, pulling her into the hallway. “I’ll take Emerald upstairs,” she said, grinning as the woman looked shocked and then shook her head in despair.
“Oh, Henrietta, please be respectful and don’t run up the front stairs, take Emma around the back then if you must.”
They did not speak for a moment as Emerald followed the girl down a maze of corridors and through a swinging door covered in green felt, up a steep set of whitewashed stairs in bad repair, passed a myriad of girls gossiping and giggling and shrieking as they saw friends again after the long vacation.
Suddenly the tomboy stopped and opened the door to a sun-filled dormitory room. There were eight teenage girls. They were all about the same height as Emerald and had that not quite fitting into their skin look that she shared.
“Welcome to the Upper IV dormitory, your new home for the next year,” said the tomboy with outstretched arms, “hello boys, say hullo to Emerald.”
A girl with red braids that clashed horribly with her burgundy tie walked up to Emerald and stretched out her hand primly. “I’m Myrtle,” she said, “how do you do?” Then she motioned to the others in the room. They were all unpacking small bags and putting teddy bears and pajamas onto what looked like very uncomfortable beds, white bars at either end and thin mattresses and small pillows. “This is Alice, Eglantine, Eva – I see you have already met Henry, that’s Jemima, Sarah I, Sarah II and Sarah III.”
Emerald noticed that she introduced everyone in alphabetical order. How extraordinary. That is exactly the sort of thing her Aunt Amelia would do. Myrtle turned to Henry with a stern look that made her look nothing like a thirteen year old and exactly like the women downstairs in the stiff gray serge skirts. “Henry, I am going to beg you again, once more this term, to stop calling us ‘boys’. Or we will start calling you Henrietta again.” Emerald grinned. This school thing was going to be fun.
…………………………………yes, there’s more. for another time! (did you like it? *shy_glance_nervously_to_camera*)