morning radio show (by us).

darlings

trying something in the way of Audio……

be Kind.

yes.

that’s how we sound ;-)

you see we recorded this Years ago (strictly speaking, five years ago) in a Professional Radio Studio in Manhattan (it was ever so much fun) and we used it as an aide memoire, of sorts, to see if we still Could Do this*

*when Much younger we did some Radio Broadcasts for the BBC *doffsCap* and Loved it – sadly it was in the days before handing over a thumbdrive to the sound technician and asking him to “save us a copy, love?” so we don’t have any record of it.

anyway.

*blush*

we like to talk…..

so be kind and tell us what you think.

and just in case Sound isn’t your thing (we quite understand) –

here are some images from yesterday.

we were at a work occasion near the Ocean and snuck out after to take some photographs and then again when driving back through the Hills of Beverly #divine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand then we stayed up VERY LATE to continue editing The House On Church Row…….

3fd3a596c80911e2891f22000a1f931b_7 ab9c80f6c81611e2b2a722000aaa0952_7and finally pressed SEND at around 11PM to our Literary Agent in Manhattan (such a lovely phrase).

so today has been rather strange.

we feel a little Lost to be perfectly honest.

there’s some work to do.

some consulting agreements to Review with our attorney.

and health insurance forms to fill out (online – so modern).

Laundry (isn’t there always laundry? Oh, for a Jeeves!)

the Post Office (especially to send a Registered piece of Post to Milan – crossed fingers for that one).

more work.

then writing (but what?)

tea with a friend.

supper with more friends.

a twilight walk home………….

confession: we miss Marion and Annabelle and Simon and Lydia and Charlotte and especially Nigel (we became strangely fond of Nigel) and the rest of the characters.

*sighs*

quelle delicious and strange life tis this – the one of the Imagination that is.

feeling rather #AlexisColby this evening with our new #BeverlyHills attorney.

hurrah!

darlings – we’ve got an Attorney! a lady-attorney.

and in Beverly Hills no less (very swish).

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we are so relieved and intrigued and happy and ready-to-get-serious-about-business and all that – not that we weren’t before and we do have a NY based attorney but there was something so well – fabulous – about being in Beverly Hills and sipping mineral water and “talking to one’s attorney”. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

it feels sparkly and hopeful.

like this dress in the window of Brooks Bros.
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and a sample of “Beige” from the Chanel boutique on Rodeo Drive (they only had huge bottles and we’re more of a compact-cute-can’t-drop-it-on-the-floor size of fragrance wearer).

still.

a sample is always delicious.

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actually, this morning, before we met Our New Attorney, we felt a lot like Alexis Colby’s sister (in RL) or perhaps (because of our new cat’s eyes glasses) a bit like another lady novelist of some repute, because we were Editing The Manuscript while referring to our Publisher’s Notes (it felt GLORIOUS) and writing the Catalog(ue) Copy *blush*.

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and now we must WRITE more on The House on Church Row – and we feel especially inspired because our good friend Vickie Lester sent us this!

quelle serendipity!

so, we’re almost there……….

The roads were jammed all the way south to Brighton. Women were driving the new Harden cars from as far afield as Scotland and had been traveling all night, fueled on Thermos of hot coffee and cheese and tomato sandwiches. Marion was astonished. She peered out from the passenger seat as they passed through odd little towns with names like Pease Pottage and saw thousands of women putting their foot down and making time while laughing and playing music, windows open to the breeze. Most of the cars were full – two women in the front, one driving and two, sometimes three if they were especially slim, in the back. It was a party on wheels and it was heading to Brighton.

At Preston Park, Lydia stopped to get petrol and Marion stretched her legs. A woman at the pump opposite recognized her from the press coverage. Suddenly women crowded around her, asking for her autograph and (strange to say for a group of Englishwomen) hugs. Marion had never felt so overwhelmed. Especially by the hugging from bosomy ladies with optimistic printed cotton dresses and delicately scented with lavender. Everyone wanted to tell Marion how she’d changed her life. Most had a story about buying the car as a rebellious instinct – a need to run away – be free at last. Others talked about reading Annabelle’s blog and finding their own voice. Marion was embarrassed to admit that she had not kept up with Annabelle’s blog. How long had she been writing it? The connections made around the blog, the campaign and the cars themselves were astonishing. There had never been a marketing push like it. And yet – and yet – Marion had to admit that she had little to do with it.

The campaign was good. Of course it was good. The graphics were excellent, the picture of the car suitably alluring and enticing and adorable, the copy promised more than a consumer product ever should. But that wasn’t why they bought the car. These women told her that reading what each other had said about the car sparked their imagination. Marion knew the boys in New York liked to talk about WOM (word of mouth, if you didn’t guess that one) but this more than people talking up a product. This was a movement.

Maybe she had not put any magic into the campaign at all. That was a bit galling. Marion had been feeling secretly proud of herself for doing it all over again. She wanted to taunt the boys in New York and Beijing and Moscow and force them to come after her. She was thrilled (not that she would admit it publicly) that Nigel himself, the last member of the Establishment, had decided to come out from behind the anonymous plush walls of his private club to teach her a lesson.

But what if none of this was her doing? What if it just happened at the right time? Well that changed everything.

Kelly managed to rescue her from the crowds of adoring women with a disgusted look and a swift pull on her arm. “Quite the working class feminist hero, aren’t you?” she sneered. Marion looked at her astonished. It was a team effort, she tried to explain, but Kelly could see that Marion was the only one they wanted to talk to.

By the time they reached Regency Square, Marion was dozing in the passenger seat. Lydia stopped the car and turned off the ignition. She pointed to Dorian in the back of the car. “We need to disguise you,” she said, darkly. Dorian nodded, he knew exactly what she meant.

“Radical red or brassy blonde?” he asked, digging into his huge bag and pulling out two wigs. Kelly laughed. The blonde wig looked exactly like the English movie star, Diana Dors. She tapped that one and he slipped it on expertly, applied some false eyelashes and bright red lipstick. “What about my outfit?” he said, looking down at his drainpipe jeans, Doctor Marten boots and skinny shrunken boy chest t-shirt. Kelly took off her leather jacket and gave it to him. He now looked like a blonde Stockard Channing from the movie Grease.

“Just keep the jacket open so no one can see you don’t have tits,” said Kelly, tapping Marion on the shoulder to wake her up.

“Huh?” said Marion, dozily. She looked back and saw Dorian and did a double take. “You look like Stockard Channing but with blonde hair,” she said, “When did you get changed?”

“You’ve been fast asleep since we left the petrol station at Preston Park,” said Lydia, “Come on, we’re here.” She got out of the car and stretched in the late afternoon sunshine. She loved Brighton. It was one of those places that her mother thought was beyond the pale – such a naughty little seaside kiss-me-quick town.

Regency Square was a 19th century development that was once very posh and had now fallen on hard times. A few grand rooms remained inside multi-person flats as memories of what was. But many of the houses were now hotels for drifting tourist trade. The view of the sea though, was glorious. Twinkling in the six o’clock sunshine, the green railings stood proudly with a seagull perched on every one, looking out to sea like statues.

Lydia consulted her notes and knocked on the basement door of one of the once grand houses. There was no answer. She looked worriedly around. Her phone rang. It was Charlotte. She had not enjoyed the journey south – the buffet car was closed and smoking was banned, even out the window of the loos (she had been caught by the conductor and let off with a warning because she terrified him so much).

“Where the hell are you?” said Charlotte. Lydia was plaintive, she read out the address from the piece of paper. Charlotte was merciless. “It moved! A Decade ago!” she gave her the new address in Cambridge Grove. Lydia piled everyone back into the car and drove just under two miles east. They took ages to park and finally found a spot adjacent to Cambridge Grove, a small mews street, with garages at street level.

“So this is Brighton,” said Marion, looking around.

“Hove, actually,” said Charlotte who was standing just inside the double doors of a mechanics garage. She quickly motioned for them to follow her and went through the garage and out into a tiny back garden and through a door in the fence. They were now inside a mews house on the other side. Some very serious-faced women in overalls (or dungarees as the English call them) were sitting drinking mugs of tea in the kitchen. It felt like an underground meeting of modern suffragettes.

 

twinkle lights on laurel avenue, a screening of #TheEnglishTeacher and somebody Important arrives at The House On Church Row

darlings

happy sunday!

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isn’t sunday just a lovely day?

we won’t see much of it until later because we have Lots to Do (column to write, the last section of The House on Church Row and a fresh copy of a magazine from the languid and luscious South has arrived) – but we shall venture out around 5PM for a light supper and meeting up with friends in the Hollywood Hills. 95594e7ac02611e2a73822000aaa08a0_7

so last night the Light here was Luminous.

we left the car and took a walk up steep’ish streets and slipped into quieter back roads and got Quite exhausted but happily creatively enhanced by looking at all the nice houses….

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some were Very Roman.

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and others had slightly sad threadbare and troublesome histories (the one at the top straight ahead was the last apartment of a certain Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald at 1403 North Laurel Avenue, Los Angeles, California) – an ignominious end – although he did not expire here, he ended his hours with us in this world not far at another apartment owned by his lover of the time Sheilah Graham – an English writer who had come to America to find her own fortune with a Life in Ink.

The curriculum for my College of One was lost. I discovered its disappearance in 1954 when a magazine editor visited me in Beverly Hills and suggested I write the story of my life. He knows, I thought. “What you really want,” I said, “is an account of my time with Scott Fitzgerald.” In recent years editors had approached me about this, and my answer had always been “No.” “We want to know aboutyou,’ this one assured me, “an English girl who came to America. Why did you come and did you find what you came for? Of course”—casually — ‘anything you’d write about Fitzgerald would be interesting.” I would think about it, I promised.

I had been thinking about it ever since I had read Arthur Mizener’s biography of Scott, The Far Side of Paradise, and Budd Schulberg’s unsympathetic portrait in his novel The Disenchanted. It seemed to me that both books had given the wrong impression of Scott as I knew him in Hollywood. Perhaps the time had come to tell my story.

When the editor left, I went into my garage, lifted the lid of the trunk, and for the first time since I had placed it there in June of 1941 I held the bulging brown manuscript envelope marked Scott. It contained the visible fragments of the three and a half years we had spent almost continuously together, until his fatal heart attack in my Hollywood apartment on 21 December 1940. I carried the package to my desk, untied the thin brown ribbon that barely held the flaps together, and, with some apprehension but more curiosity, sifted at random though the material. Ah, here were the two acts and the prologue of our unproduced play, Dame Rumor. His letters and poems to me. I had forgotten how beautiful they were. Scraps of paper with scribbled messages in his loose straight—up handwriting. The recording he had made one evening of “Ode to a Nightingale”. Some short stories I had written, my fictional account of our meeting and falling in love. I had titled it Beloved Infidel after his poem to me. I had forgotten the story and his severe editing. Here was the entire lecture he had written for me. He was on the wagon, or so I thought, when I made the tour, and I had kept the telegrams he had sent to the various cities, humorous but also intended to reassure me that I was capable of lecturing and to convince me he was sober.

But where was the detailed curriculum we had called my College of One, the twenty—odd closely typewritten pages that had absorbed us and given us so much satisfaction in the last two years of his life? I searched through the envelope again. I went back to the trunk to see if they had fallen out. Incredibly they were missing.

we have Requested these materials from the Library Service of Los Angeles County so we may well Return to this period of Hollywood lore (especially as we’re sure we’re going to write at least a short story about 4 x girls in 1920s Hollywood with a backdrop of the silent movies – it’s all starting to gel in the Mind’s eye you see, in a most delicious way).

unlike Sheilah, we’ve never had a relationship that had a curriculum of Improving Oneself  therein.

*looktocamera*

oh. right. there was One (maybe two). but that’s for another blog and probably ought to remain entwined and enclosed in fiction………

movingswiftlyon.

no. you see. Our Curriculum comes from books and movies and Director’s Q&A post-film-screenings (we adore a director’s Q&A) and last night was a TREAT!

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it was at the Sundance Sunset (started by that nice Mr. Robert Redford) which is a 21+ movie theatre (because some people – like Mr. Robert Redford and his friends – prefer to watch films without screaming children or teenagers and with a glass of a potent beverage – they certainly do a very strong and glorious Iced Coffee – black – which is what we sip there).

because it’s a 21+ theatre – they “card” as the americans call it.

and we got carded last night!

we *giggled* massively.

who-we-are-in-RL raised a (well-groomed) eyebrow and handed over her driving license (they won’t give us one because we’re a Virtual character, you see, so we hung back and looked out over the chinese lanterns and waited) and the sweet young man on the door did a double take at her date of birth (1969 – she’s not shy about her age, we can tell you – we are among friends here) and said:

“god, you look Good.”

and did a sly French/Irish smile and wrinkled up her (freckled) nose and said:

“thanks ;-)”

and we laughed all the way into the theatre and through the iced coffee (black) purchasing and finding-our-seat.

what was the movie?

gosh!

we forgot to mention in the excitement about getting carded!

TheEnglishTeacher

It was SUPERB!

witty and winsome and dark (in places) and Very Understanding about being female and what-that-means-about-choices (Julianna Moore is a comedic genius – we had no idea  and luminous and earthy) and Nathan Lane is GLORIOUS and it was a Romp!

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and after the movie the director was meant to be there to answer our Questions but he just did a few moments Before as apparently there was a small person emergency at home and he needed to go and be a dad which was sweet and sort of refreshing actually.

so the husband-and-wife-team-of-screenwriters (how 1930s Hollywood!) stopped by to do the Q&A and it was funny because people who spend time sitting in a room with virtual characters are often quite Strange when they are allowed out into public venues to interact

*lookstocameraironically*

and they had a nice Patter going back and forth between them – one could imagine their adjoining desks and bits of half-eaten toast and vast vats of coffee to sustain them and pacing up and down and shouting out bits of dialogue or running to the centre of the room to say “No! then This happens!” and acting out scenes.

it was fun.

and the movie was Most Excellent.

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on the way back the twinkle lights and hummingbird feeders were all aglow.

and we stopped by the late night grocery store and carried our two brown bags (just like in Woody Allen films in NYC) back home and smiled a lot at the fact that we are Back Here.

and writing.

taking photographs.

and watching a lot of movies.

because That’s delicious.

we’re up to 75,000 words on The House on Church Row and can see the Horizon now (and we don’t mean the Literary Magazine edited by Mr. Cyril Connolly in the 1940s)

now we’d like to share a tiny snippet with you – we’ve been Very Careful about not revealing too much of how-the-plot-gets-worked-out with these little excerpts we’ve been pasting (and anyway, once we do the first Edit a Lot will probably change).

but we thought you’d enjoy this new character who only arrives towards the very end……..

He went down to the kitchen and saw his mother standing at the French windows staring out into the garden.

“What on earth are you doing here?” he said, half-hoping she had got up early enough to make coffee. His headache was splitting now. He searched in the kitchen drawers for an Aspirin.

Then he realized his mother was still staring out of the window and had not responded to him. He felt irritated by all the women in his life right now – either they were flakey, stunned, hurt or possibly queer. It was all too much. He slammed the kitchen drawer shut, took a cup from the coffee tree stand and poured some coffee. At least his mother had had the decency to make coffee.

He joined her at the window. And could not believe his eyes. There was a crater in his garden where the fence between his house and the garden next door had collapsed into a dark pit.

“What the hell were you women doing last night?” he said loudly letting all the frustration out of his body in a sudden burst of rage. Did they have any idea how much a fence cost to repair?

The doorbell rang. Simon left his mother in shock at the French windows and stormed into the hallway. He opened the door to the world’s press standing behind a group of men in white coats with the sort of visors and protective helmets he remembered from the film E. T.

“Annabelle!” he shouted. His wife and children appeared at the top of the stairs in seconds. They blinked as a thousand flash bulbs went off.

A man in a 1940s tweed suit stepped forward, ignoring the global press corp. and handed Simon his card. It said:

 The Honourable Nigel Blackcastle-Jones-Smythe
 The Agency
Hampstead
The Empire
 

Charlotte took the card from her son’s hand and studied it for a second and then looked up at The Honourable Nigel Blackcastle-Jones-Smythe and said, “Gosh, we meet at last.” Nigel looked carefully at Charlotte and realized it was Deneuve. She did look good in the flesh, he had to admit, a dashed shame that the Agency had cut back on lunching its operatives at The Savoy; they could have had a splendid time.

Simon stared at his mother as Nigel walked smoothly into the house, seemingly gliding on his bespoke Church’s lace-up Oxfords in Oxblood. “Who is that?” he hissed as his wife’s boarding school manners took over and she started rustling up a tea while the men in radioactive clothing swarmed into her house. She wondered if she had enough cups.

“That, darling,” said Charlotte, with a smile, “Is the last remaining member of The Establishment – and my boss.” With that, she followed Annabelle into the kitchen and started putting out Arrowroot biscuits onto Spode plates. Simon was dumbfounded. He closed the door firmly against the world’s press and sat on the bottom stair with his son and daughter. Two very strange pieces of information swam in his head – his mother had a job – and there was only One Man Left in the Establishment. Where did that leave him?

It all feels Rather Thrilling.

we’re going to make a second pot of coffee, snack on a few italian crackers and Get Cracking on the rest.

we maybe    s o m e   t i m e

until then.

did we mention how lovely you are to Visit?

and that’s a delicious hat.

 

hello from the business lounge at LAX

darlings

*yawns*

so we’ve been up since 0400 hours but we’ve still not left This Coast due to delays at the Airport.

the good news is that we’re already on NY time, due to the earlier-than-usual-start.

and the Other delicious bit of news is we got a magical-mysterious UPGRADE! (which we don’t qualify for at all – no credit card-miles or frequency-flying-ness – Nada – don’t believe in them).

so maybe the gods-at-Delta are just regular visitors to teamgloria (wouldn’t that be ever so sweet?)

the other good thing is that we got to see our First (in – ahem – many moons) Music Review go live at Los Angeles, I’m Yours!

potent. materials.

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here’s a taster of our prose:

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*looksaroundbusinesslounge*

well.

we’ve done a Surprisingly vast amount of work considering how little sleep we’re operating on.

luckily we’re up the Front of the plane and so can

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all the way over the USA.

and write a little more of The House On Church Row, of course –

we’re now up to 66, 639 words (which is Such a Lot of them, non?)!

here’s where we’ve left off and we’ll be picking up the Threads somewhere over Chicago with a large mug of tea and a small snack.

“Are they all here to buy the cars that we did that campaign for?” he scratched his head under the wig and re-adjusted it as a woman from the Home Counties (in a remarkably similar outfit) smiled at him.

“You’re a man?” said Anthony, horrified.

“Last time I checked, love, yeah,” said Dorian flashing his best Doris Day smile and flirting ever such a tiny bit.

“What do you mean, blood’s thicker than water?” said Marion, remembering what Anthony said. Then a camera crew from the BBC arrived and started to film the women in the showroom.

“Looks like we’re famous, Kel,” said Anthony, his chest puffing up in pride. Kelly took stock of the situation – she’d always wanted to be on camera. She looked hesitantly at her boss who smiled and made a gesture of stepping aside. Being interviewed by the BBC was the last thing on Marion’s wishlist. Not if she wanted to stay alive. The Agency hated it when its agents spoke without going through official channels. She slipped out of the showroom and cut through the alleyway past the Vidal Sassoon’s training school and the chandelier stores and then saw the car with its blinkers on and Charlotte waving madly out of the back window.

back to Church Row – and a drag night at the Black Cap, Camden.

darlings

we’ve been writing FURIOUSLY for a few days now and we’re up to 55,500 words of The House on Church Row and Ever such a Lot has Happened (much of which surprised us, in fact, but we’re just the one that “sees” the movie unfolding in front of our mind’s eye and get to transcribe it, with a modicum, one hopes, of skill).

firstly a photograph from England to put us all in the right aesthetic frame:

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anyway – we’re a little Beyond this bit (below) but wanted to share it with you and sort of it send-it-out-into-the-world.

such fun.

isn’t being creative just the most joyful experience ever?

With great reluctance, Kelly got into the cab too and scooted over to the middle of the back seat. Marion got in and told the driver to get going. She looked down at her beautifully cut Donna Karan pants and silk blouse and knew instinctively that she wasn’t dressed properly for a drag night in some bar. And then she looked over at Annabelle who was pulling her cashmere mix threadbare cardigan from Jigsaw around her shoulders over her summery dress. They were going to be quite a threesome down the Black Cap.

Simon could not believe what he was seeing. His wife had just got into a taxi with that American woman and the younger one with the leather trousers and driven off. “Oh, mother, now look what you’ve done!” he said, exasperated, storming back into his house. Charlotte pulled out her mobile phone and clicked a few buttons. She was tracking the cab.

“Get your jacket, Simon,” she said, “We’re going out.”

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

The line stretched around the block as the cab pulled up. Clearly Dorian had quite a following in Camden Town. Marion looked at the faces of the people waiting. They all looked so young and fresh – despite the general state of disorderly drunkenness most were in already. What must it have been like to grow up here?

Marion had grown up in Manhattan. It was all she’d ever known. It had been an orderly childhood, mostly spent at boarding schools in Vermont, shivering under not-warm-enough coats and playing sports to get rid of the rage. What would she have been like if she’d gone to school here? Would she be one of those hanging out in the line at the Black Cap on a school night, heavy with mascara and full of pints of beer, smoking a Camel cigarette?

She looked across at Annabelle who was staring at the crowd as if she had never seen anything like this. Maybe she hadn’t. It was becoming clearer and clearer that Annabelle had been so sheltered and overlooked, in her family (Marion had heard about Elyse, but not quite the details of how she died), at school (a prefect, but not anything important, barely scraping by and then working at the last minute to get decent A’ Levels and off to University) and now her marriage. Annabelle had never just been Annabelle – she had always been the support, eternally connected, with someone stronger with a larger personality.

Kelly jumped out of the taxi, expecting Marion to pay, which she did. She rushed to the head of the queue and talked to Danny on the door. He nodded and then raised an eyebrow when he saw the silk shirt and trousers from Manhattan and the threadbare cardigan from Hampstead over a cotton dress. Kelly just shrugged. She wanted them in the pub as soon as possible so she could find her mates and lose the lovebirds.

Unfortunately Danny had other ideas. He stopped Annabelle at the door and looked her up and down with a not-so-kind appraising glare.

“What on earth are you wearing, love?” he said.

Annabelle looked to Marion for help. Marion took the elastic band off Annabelle’s ponytail, grabbed her cardigan and tied it around her waist and slapped her on the ass. Danny was so taken aback (Annabelle swooned inside a mixture of fright and fascination at what-just-happened). Then Marion reached for her own silk shirt, undid the top two buttons, reached over to Danny and kissed him lightly on both cheeks, slipping him a twenty pound note without anyone noticing.

They were in.

A few moments later another taxi pulled up and Charlotte emerged, regal in her Dior, with Simon in a sad old leather jacket he had found in the back of the cupboard from his university days. Charlotte dispatched Danny at the door with a crisp fifty and they headed to the bar. Danny looked astonished at Charlotte and slowly but surely took in all the details. She was his new inspiration. Danny was the headliner at the Black Cap on a Wednesday night. He had a wicked idea for a new regal female persona.

Inside the pub, Annabelle stared up at the gorgeously camp chandeliers and the red-flocked wallpaper and mock leather padded seats. She perched awkwardly at the bar and sipped a white wine while Kelly did shots of tequila off a woman’s stomach on the tables at the back. Marion was in heaven. This was London, at last. A seething Bacchanalian mass of wildly dressed highly individual characters, singing along to all the words of Doris Day’s Que Sera Sera, with her Creative Director, Dorian, up there on the tiny stage, directing the crowd.

She heard that New York had parties like this but she was always working and there were no clients to be found at bars with drag acts, so she never went to one. In fact, towards the end, she just went to conferences and mixers and award shows and got take-out from the gluten-free Asian emporium in SoHo.

She had sat in there one time and had chicken soup with rice noodles but it was so depressing eating alone, and she was terrified someone would see her – and pity her – that she always got two days worth of take-out as if she was having people round. She wasn’t. Dinner parties were not a feature of her life downtown. She heard people did that on the Upper East Side or took over restaurant back rooms on the other side of the park, but downtown was different.

Downtown was away from the families and weekend celebrations and bar mitzvahs and engagement parties and the Looking for Mr. Goodbar single women perched prettily and desperately on barstools. Single straight women were not seen much downtown. Because there was not much point looking for a rich man downtown. If they were male, and rich, downtown, they were gay.

Talking of gay men, Marion smiled and looked around. This was a very mixed crowd, very young, no one apart from herself – and Annabelle – was over thirty.

Where was Annabelle?

And then Marion saw that Annabelle needed rescuing. Charlotte Jones had just sailed into the Black Cap, followed sheepishly by Simon, wearing a not-old-enough-to-be-retro leather jacket. Kelly was nowhere to be found. Marion guessed that the night was over. Or that she had found someone else to play with. Dorian’s act had finished and he/she stumbled off-stage, pulled off the white blonde wig and disappeared into the crowd.

“Can I buy you a drink, Charlotte?” said Marion.

Charlotte swirled around to see who had touched her arm, but not quickly enough to hide the device blinking red from Marion. So she was being tracked. How disappointing. But by Charlotte Jones – or, Deneueve – her codename – why?

Suddenly Marion was tired of the game. If in fact it had ever been a game. She knew the Agency had done a background check on her. Of course they heard about the other campaigns at the smaller places she had worked before. Of how they became a giant success overnight and how everyone said it was the “numbers” or the “strategy” but nobody really knew. They just knew that Marion knew.

She got Charlotte a Jack Daniels and handed it over with an approving nod; impressed that she was drinking Bourbon and not something sparkling. Of course she wouldn’t be drinking any cheap sparkling wine that much Marion knew, it would be some grand cuvee, no doubt. But even Charlotte Jones would be hard pressed to find a decent bubbly at a dive like the Black Cap.

Would she let Charlotte knew that she knew about her being Deneueve? Hell, no. Let them chase her for a while. She had great plans for the Harden brother’s car campaign. She wanted to have some fun. Especially if this was to be her last gig. Who knew that the last job would have been in England, though?

Oh to be in England, now that spring is here. Was that the line? She remembered reading it at grad school. But who was the poet? She turned to Charlotte and said the line out loud. Charlotte knocked back her Jack Daniels, put the glass on the bar and opened up her arms wide, declaiming:

Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England–now!!

 

And then from nowhere Dorian was suddenly standing on stage with the microphone, beckoning at Charlotte to join him, which she did, and they finished the poem with a rousing finish, joined by a surprising number of the punters at the Black Cap.

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops–at the bent spray’s edge–
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
–Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

The last three lines were punctuated with excited shouts at the words “gay” and “gaudy”, being both particular favorites at the pub, especially with those who had a decent education before turning to drugs, drag and despair, like Dorian.

“We adore Robert Browning,” said Charlotte, quite out of breath, her arm interlinked with Dorian’s, as they approached the bar.

“Another glass of Jack for my friend,” said Marion, laughing, and whatever Dorian is drinking.” Dorian gave her daggers. He was still in a lemon yellow housecoat and court shoes with matching handbag. “Sorry,” nodded Marion to his outfit, “Whatever Doris is drinking tonight.”

“I’ll have a BabySham, Mike,” said Dorian, cocking his head to one side with a 1950s housewife benign smile.

happy monday!

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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).

roses and sunrises and migraines but more marion.

darlings

we write to you from within a darkened room.

we awoke early – very early – with the sunrise – and realized the whole of the right side of our head was compressed and tight and painful – tis a headache – possibly a Migraine *sighs*

so we went back to sleep after drinking a large glass of water from the jug in the fridge with the slices of blood red oranges (we do like to live well) and hoped it would pass.

it is – slowly.

why is it here?

we have been Thinking too Much, we fear.

never a good idea.

a little action, some tasks, a few goals and then Whoosh! the whole thing tumbles into What Now? and What if That doesn’t Happen? and Panic ensues.

when actually all in good Time, of course.

migraines are a pause button.

as are roses and sunrises.

both of which we enjoyed this weekend – – – – – – – –

and we present for your humble inspection right now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdid you enjoy the moment of a chandelier?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe did a tiny Art Project this weekend.

in one of the vintage magazines we saw a car advertisement with, bizarrely, a vast chandelier, so we cut it out carefully, painted a small canvas frame with gilt/bronze paint (which we Just happened to have lying around) and then mounted it with decoupage paste.

not sure where to put it but it will do nicely while we wait for the future purchase of our very own chandelier….

*lookstocamera*

we need Much higher ceilings for a chandelier.

perhaps the novel will manifest a chandelier.

here’s hoping:

a little more?

you are Too Kind *blush*

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

On Sunday mornings, Hampstead was divided into those who got up early and went to church (wearing hats and gloves and matching patent leather handbags and polished shoes) and those who lay in bed and then sleepily walked up to the high street to buy the papers and croissants and doze away the afternoon listening to a play on BBC Radio 4.

The Jones family used to be the former sort of Hampstead residents until Libby reached the screaming-in-church nightmare toddler stage. Gratefully they succumbed to the family that drifted around the house most of the weekend until Mark became sports-mad. Now Sunday mornings were precious, but the afternoons saw Annabelle getting mud-spattered or rained on at the side of a football or hockey pitch. She didn’t mind. Her family had been sports-crazy growing up so it was rather nice.

At the corner shop, Annabelle looked at the odd mix of tins of vegetables, small bottles of milk with silver tops or blue and silver stripped tops for skim. Shelves of women’s magazines promised new lives or modern updates to Greek dramas in the lives of the famous and the infamous. Lydia was there in the corner thumbing through the classified advertising section of The Lady, looking for gossip from the Shires.

“Hello, Lydia,” said Annabelle.

Lydia peeked over the top of the magazine. “Shall I tell you your fortune?”

Annabelle looked nervously around the empty shop. “Alright, go on then.”

“What’s your star sign?”

“Pisces,”

Lydia looked carefully at the magazine. “Pick another. Gemini is having a better week.”

“But I can’t pick Gemini if I’m a Pisces,” Annabelle was disappointed. She really thought Lydia could tell her what to do about her future, such as it was.

“You need to expand your concept of the universe, Annabelle.”

Annabelle, disappointed, fussed with the magazine shelves, straightening them and wondering whether to buy a copy of the glossy interiors title featuring a French country farmhouse. “I thought you meant you could really tell my fortune.”

“I can,” said Lydia “but not in the local corner shop. You never know who might burst in.”

At that moment Libby burst in through the door. “Mum!” she said, irritated that her mother drifted through Sunday mornings when there was important clothes shopping to be done.

“Libby, what’s your star-sign?” said Lydia.

Libby sighed when she saw her mother was talking to the weird lady. And then she remembered the weird lady had seen her smoking so she better be nice.

“Gemini.”

“Excellent!” said Lydia, handing her the magazine. Libby stared at the portrait of the late Duchess of Windsor on the front and gave it, doubtfully, to her mother.

“Are you really a witch?”

“Libby!” said Annabelle, putting The Lady back on the shelf and trying to hustle her daughter out of the shop before they got excommunicated from Hampstead.

“I’m a high priestess,” said Lydia, a bit too loudly for the comfort of the nice Hampstead mummies doing their weekend magazine browsing.

“Isn’t that the same thing?” asked Libby, by now quite interested in the distinction.

“I wish I had the Gift, but I don’t,” explained Lydia, sneaking a bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate and slipping it into Libby’s hand and putting a pound coin on the counter. Libby knew she was being bought but chocolate was chocolate. The shop door opened and the bell at the top tinkled merrily. Marion was standing there, wearing large dark glasses and a drop dead gorgeous chocolate brown floor length coat. Libby stared.

Annabelle looked sideways at Libby and checked her watch theatrically. “Gosh! Is that the time?” she said and tried to get safely past Marion who would not budge. Libby looked between her mother and this vision and worked out it was the new neighbor.

“Do you live next door to us?” Libby said.

“Depends on where you live, sweetheart,” said Marion, smiling behind her dark glasses.

Libby had been trained never to give out her address so she did not know what to say. She appealed to her mother silently for help. Annabelle was waiting for Marion to move and was very distracted by the whole situation. Lydia came to the rescue. She pulled the door open wider, thrust a copy of The Lady into Marion’s hands and pushed Libby out into Hampstead High Street. Annabelle slipped through gratefully and rushed off in the direction of Louis, Libby rushing to keep up, unwrapping her chocolate bar hastily before her mother told her to save it until after lunch.

Marion wordlessly gave back the magazine to Lydia and slipped the dark glasses down over her nose, looking at the tiny newsagent –slash-grocery store with amusement.

“Quite taken with your lovely neighbor, Marion?” said Lydia, dying for gossip. Marion took a bottle of Evian water from the fridge, looked at how much it cost and put some coins down on the counter. As she went to exit the shop she smiled from behind her glasses at Lydia, “That way madness lies, Lydia,” she said.

Lydia was not that easily defeated. She followed Marion out of the shop. “Did she ask you about the full moon ceremony?”

Marion did not need to ask what a full moon ceremony was. She knew what Lydia was dabbling in. Early stage magic, clearly. But she was tempted to get into the life of the community.

“Why do you want to use my house?”

“Because there’s a direct view of the moon through your oak trees.”

“Of course there is. I can’t believe I even bothered asking.”

 

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

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

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

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

norwich

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

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

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

“I’m on home study.”

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

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

“Did she say she was busy today?”

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

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

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

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

“Do we have any cake in the house?”

Libby turned on him. “What?”

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

“How would I know?”

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

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

“Am I what?”

“We learned that in Psych.”

“Since when are you doing psychology?”

“I want to be a therapist.”

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

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

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

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

“So I don’t need to worry?”

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annabelle blushed.

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

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

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

“Don’t forget!”

Annabelle turned around, quickly.

“I can’t.”

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

“I was worried.”

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

 

marion takes the Tube from Hampstead.

darlings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well. I must run.”

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

“I like to start work early.”

“I almost miss it,” sighed Annabelle.

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

“Somewhere to go everyday. Must be nice.”

“Couldn’t you get yourself a job?”

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t mean,”

“Yes you did.”

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

“Most people get the Tube.”

“The What?”

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

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

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

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