The Year Of Living Gloriously.

darlings

well.

it’s almost here.

2014 is *waiting* in the wings, adjusting its tulle wings and making sure the coronet is on properly and a list of Adventures to be had in the script – one last quick scan of its Lines – and a quick peek into the audience behind the stage manager’s left shoulder and a thumbs up at the guys hanging on the lighting rig, ready with the follow spot.

while 2013 wraps up its speech, takes a look at 2014 with a shy and quite weary, by now, smile, and Prepares to leave to go back, get recycled by all the souls up there who are busy-busy-taking-notes and getting ready to Inspire Writers and Directors and Actors and Animators (most especially those) all around the world to Immortalis/z/e what they have Absorbed and learned and found necessary to express in some Literary or Cinematic form (or perhaps a graphic novel or two, we adore those).

and You?

how do you wind up the year and make sure everything’s tidy and present and clean and neat and Complete?

do. tell.

over here at teamgloria towers?

mostly we’ve found that glitter is involved at some point – and of course a Collection of Moleskines.

what else?

*pauses*

shall we look?

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we spent some time this morning doing laundry and Packing for the Convent (we’re off to a Contemplatives Retreat in the morning in, yes, a convent). 805cd822709b11e383d012dabd1c8057_8

and admiring the sunbursting through the mesh that protects our sleeping form from night flying creatures (both mythical and related-to-the-fruit-fly). 844b38ea70ee11e38c8c12afb5ad8ea8_8

we had a (surprisingly large) cafe au lait with Mr. Dub Williams who is an Artist and gave us some of his latest work, which we are Delighted to put in the scrapbook. 
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while doing laundry we noticed a small bag on the shelf by the mailboxes (which are in a recess next to the laundry room you see) and Peeked inside – it was an abandoned set of glitter tubes (remnants of a christmas eve crafting?) – we knew it was for The Taking because that’s where we all leave stuff-we-do-not-need-anymore (it functions a bit like a lending library – funny enough – all the buildings we lived in NYC – apart from one – because there was no available shelf – had lending libraries of some sort of another in the Laundry room)

some of the glitter shades were not ones we truly appreciate, so we left those for Others.

and nabbed the silver, pale blue and French Navy.
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and now we have a somewhat nautical shimmering Feature on the windowsill. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we also sorted through the last year of Moleskines (some call it Memories – we call it Material ;-)
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then we gathered up all the delicious scraps not-yet-scrapbooked – YES! we made it to not just One but TWO contributors pages in 2013 (such a hono(u)r!) and put them in the plastic folder to be sellotaped (other brands are available as they used to say on the BBC) when the photographic prints arrive from mr. internet. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

pausing to slip down into the calmer waters that lie beneath fears and nonsense.
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more pausing.

then we looked Back again at the Moleskines 2013.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand took a few notes and made what started to look a Lot like a Table of Contents *shiver* for a new book…..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAall about how we went from This (yup, this was the View from who-we-are-in-RL’s office in 2011)

to – well – this:
hospitalbed
and decided to jump full-time into this:

teamgloriaimageand (asked OneStopNYC to) Pack up the Apartment (and Life) on That Coast while we took a train and a plane and a car rental and an apartment lease and a new drivers license and – well – Made it Back to This Coast.  

viewer2and we thought about What it had Taken (to do all that) and how Brave we had to be to jump off the (metaphorical) cliff and how Difficult (and scary) Setting up a New Life had been but then there was the LONG AWAITED GREEN CARD‘s arrival and MANY Adventures and writing every day and taking photographs and delivering the final book Manuscript to our Publisher (such a perfectly perfect Phrase) and seeing our First Technology Cover in over 17 *gulps* Years and Secret Consulting gigs and Judging (in a good way) in South Africa and hiring a Lawyer and transferring our Corporation to this Coast and – well – we had to take a step back and *smile*

looks like we might have Something to Share as a result.

so we’ve started writing it – the 2nd book (actually we’ve written a lot more than that but this is another non-fiction not the novels although we really do hope that our Agent can sell Those in 2014 as a result of the “buzz” or whatever they call it technically around the First)

anyway – it’s going to be called (for now)

The Year Of Living Gloriously: how to re-boot your Life

oh good.

we like it too. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAso do Please welcome moleskine #160; where we start writing it, darlings

NOW –

there’s a Strict no cellphone/laptop Policy at the Convent (as you might expect).

so we’ll see you back here – pronto – late Jan 1st 2014 – *wavingfromlosangeles*

thanks for being here throughout 2013 – it really helped.

*shylookoffcamera*

it really did.

we (seriously) could Not have done this without You.

 

the importance of video rental stores, secondhand bookshops and thirtysomething

darlings

how was your saturday?

ours was delicious.

and surprising.

we wrote the column for Los Angeles, I’m Yours (it’s about gelato, the Valley and Mr. Pierce Brosnan’s son’s former tutor-turned-entrepreneur) and sent it off via email (so Modern) to our Editor.

what’s that?

yes, you’re right.

due to the Americans celebrating their Independence from the British Colonial Rule *looksironicallytocamera* the column was on Hiatus (almost a small summer holiday in effect) since the last one here.

then we had Planned to see the latest Mr. Terence Stamp film (we adore Terence) but Forgot that it was a Saturday and all the other people in the world had decided to go-to-the-beach and there was not ONE parking space to be found.

so we kept driving and went back to where-we-used-to-live to do some more background ‘research’* for the new Novel.

*research being writing-in-cafes, watching people reading-the-actual-newspaper, lurking inside secondhand bookshops (more on That later – a Find Indeed), walking in the shady bits on 2nd st looking for Yard Sales – always illuminating and Vidiots (we shall explain, keep reading – get some coffee if you haven’t already – we’ll wait).

nice.

french roast?

*peersthroughtheinterweb*

lovely mug.

ceramics class?

we digress.

*putsonconcentrationface*

so we’re a bit stuck with the new Novel for a few reasons.

1. our first book doesn’t come until Feb 14th 2014 which means we sort of have to hold off publishing anything else until then considering they paid an Advance and will be doing all sorts of Publicity on the fact it’s our first-book.

2. our Literary agent (such a delicious set of words flowing together) hasn’t sold Emerald or The House on Church Row (yet) anyway

3. we probably need to get a proper job when summer’s over (which would be OK – human interaction, and all that, but we’d Rather Stay Consulting – because it’s just more Fun)

having said that, we spent the day in Ocean Park (which we called Donal Bay for the screenplay and the Novel) and suddenly all of the characters started talking again.

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Goddess of Donal Bay

INT. HALLWAY OF APARTMENT BUILDING – MOMENTS LATER John is putting his key in his apartment door opposite.

JOHN
I’m finding thirty-five a bit of a comedown to be honest.

LIVY
Have you actually told anyone you are thirty-five?

JOHN
No way. Did you?

LIVY
Of course. I don’t see the point of lying about my age.

JOHN
You really aren’t cut out for the cut and thrust of life in Los Angeles are you?

Livy opens her front door. Calliope is standing there with a manuscript in her arms, smiling. Livy cannot see her.

LIVY
Want to split a pizza?

JOHN
I haven’t eaten carbs for a decade.

LIVY
Since when did straight men diet?

JOHN
Since they moved en masse to Los Angeles to work in entertainment.

INT. LIVY’S KITCHEN – MOMENTS LATER

Livy sits down at the small kitchen table opposite Calliope and starts to make pencil notes on the manuscript.

CALLIOPE
Is it a play?

LIVY
Better watch another episode, just to check I’m on the right page.

Livy grabs the remote and turns on the kitchen television. A sitcom is on. Calliope looks at the television with interest as if she hasn’t seen one before. Livy laughs at an on-screen gag and makes another note on her manuscript.

CALLIOPE
You write for the machine?

oh GOSH.

and then we realized – we wrote TWO pieces that swirled around the idea of Turning-35 (yup, which we were about to do Then or perhaps we had just done – who remembers actual dates, darlings) because we probably picked up both Dante and Carl Jung (books – *coughs* we’re being Cerebral over here, love) in several secondhand bookshops (we shall return to this Theme) and became Intrigued by 35 (midway on life’s path – Dante) and the Psychology Of the Afternoon (Jung)

“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”

JUNG

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself/In dark woods, the right road lost.

Dante

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Violet Ryan and the Placing of Angels

Alistair winced slightly and strolled off down the long hardwood floor corridor to his room overlooking the courtyard. Thirty-five, thirty-five, how he wished he could remember what he was doing when he was thirty-five. Then he looked at the row of hardback books on his shelves, a considerable body of work for someone who could not recall any of the late seventies and barely string memories of nights let alone days until the mid-eighties. He smiled with satisfaction. Who cares what he did at thirty-five. Alistair lit some jasmine incense and picked up a racy magazine.

In the living room Violet realized she was still wide-awake. This was annoying, she really needed to sleep, especially as she vaguely remembered a deadline, or two, was looming. She sighed and walked off to the end of the long corridor. Her room was overlooked by the tall apartment buildings on Franklin Avenue, built for East Coast starlets in the Twenties who came for Hollywood screen-tests and never left. A few lights were still on. And at several windows there sat writers, staring at screens, or out of the windows, a single studio light and piles of papers by their sides.

and just as we drifted down main street in ocean park and Thought about this “coincidence” (are there really Any coincidences?) we stopped dead (figure of speech – not literally) outside a secondhand bookshop and there it was.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe scripts of thirtysomething with commentary by the Writers of the episodes they Wrote.

*gasps*

yes, we bought it.

and yes we read the Whole Thing this morning.

so here’s where we’re going with this.

picture the scene:

1988: University of London (yes, London, England)
two 19 year olds – one from New York, the other from Brighton –  make popcorn and watch (Avidly) thirtysomething on a weekly basis (we’re the British one, of course – the other one had her own apartment in the Town near University – we lived in Halls of Residence).

suddenly a Future opens up.

the American wanted to be the character Hope or Nancy (married, baby, Life, Love, creative, kind)

we wanted to be (depending on the week) Michael (writer turned ad exec), Elliot (creative turned creative ad exec), Miles (the creepy but extremely well-shod Agency Boss who goes to Japan when Nobody got to go to Japan apart from rock stars), Ellyn (independent woman, in business, Great Voice – husky and like a 1940s Bacall) or Melissa (neurotic but had her own photography business, took younger lovers, sometimes actually managed to make them a set of keys to her apartment, just before they broke up).

but the Most important thing about thirtysomething (for us, in 1988) was that we were Nineteen and so thirtysomething was a Long Way Off but due to the TV series – we felt Prepared – life was going to be messy but big, there were going to be compromises but creativity

and perhaps, just perhaps, we might get to write about it between working for people like Miles

*ironiclooktocamera*

and now we’re the other side (well, strictly speaking who-we-are-in-RL is now 44)

there’s something so touching about reading the Scripts (quotes below) and remembering EXACTLY how it FELT to watch thirtysomething each week.

the most important feeling was the Longing we had to be in America.

*looksaround*

voila.

that Happened.

and to Write.

*smallsmile*

happened too.

even the younger lovers (*coughs* they had keys only when we were Abroad though), photography business, great business-lady-executive wardrobe, sounded like Ellyn when still smoking-and-had-the-Flu, worked for a creative agency, met a few Miles characters along the way, even shared an office with someone who looked Exactly like Elliot – it All Happened…..just like on thirtysomething (and nope, we never made it to the status of Hope or Nancy – and sadly, the last time we heard, neither did our American friend)

but we also recall wondering what it would be Like to be perhaps “half-way-through” – to have had the struggle and the teen years end and the wilderness of the 20 something Climb and unknowing and strangeness and then be in the Middle of thirtysomething – hopefully achieved Something but in no way There (wherever There is – although Malibu just beyond cross creek looks awfully like it might be it).

and that’s what we’re Trying to do with the Goddess of Donal Bay (and perhaps Violet Ryan and the Placing of Angels but that one needs a Massive re-write and we just don’t feel strong enough to tackle some of Those themes, quite yet) – to talk about being in the middle (not midlife – that’s a foreign concept now with baby boomers still working for-like-ever) but looking forward to What’s Next.

one of the Writers who worked on thirtysomething is Joseph Dougherty and he talks (in the preface to his script “Michael Writes A Story”) about what is it to Write:

And there are prizes greater than an audience. You learn to write by writing, and in television you write day and night, inspired and blocked, on rainy winter days and on crisp October afternoons when you know you’d have Disneyland to yourself. The more you write, the less you censor, and the more comfortable you become trusting your instincts. You learn to get out of your own way, and start to experience that sense of spirit-writing where scenes create themselves and characters find their own voices.

JOSEPH DOUGHERTY

here’s our favo(u)rite bit from that script: michael writes a story

ELLIOT: You wrote a novel?

MICHAEL: Yeah, come on. Let’s go.

ELLIOT: First we raid the larder for cookies with lots of preservatives.

He heads into the kitchen. Michael takes the title page from Gary.

GARY: I remember when you were writing this back at Penn; drinking too much coffee and smoking Gitanes. You were so dark and moody you didn’t even reflect light.

MICHAEL: God, that was fun.

yes.

that was the moment we probably made a mental note to buy Gitanes (and that was a hard image to Quit years later).

alongside watching thirtysomething each week, our American friend from University used to take us to the video rental store – and we saw all the classics we had not hitherto seen – a most useful education.

walking back down the ocean road (yesterday, not in 1988), we saw the sign for Vidiots – do you know it?

it’s probably the last video (yes, they still have VHS) and DVD rental store left on the Planet.

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Vidiots was started in 1985 by two women – Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber – who were friends since childhood and always wanted to open a video store.

to say it has an incredible selection would be somewhat Understating the Matter.

it’s Heaven for cinephiles and lovers of TV-re-runs (yes, they have all the episodes of thirtysomething there) and anyone cool in this town (or lukewarm but still lovely) has a Vidiots card (of course we do, darlings) because you never know when you might want to spend an entire night watching something obscure and glorious – and they will have it – or at least you can have a Deeply Informed conversation with the (film-maker-writer-groovy-staff-members) and pick something Else. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vidiots is actually a lot like the interweb.

the same sort of people hang out there (but with actual bodies instead of behind-a-screen) and talk about the sort of things we all talk about Here. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhat did we rent?

well – we wanted to cheer up @tjenamoss (due to Jake’s passing to dog heaven) – so we got two choices – a weepy (and a Neil Jordan classic which we’ll be watching today because it’s too hot to go out and play until the evening-hours) and a surprisingly feminist tale of learning-who-you-are before you meet the one-you-want (we watched that one).

and at the end of the evening, as we drove back to teamgloria towers, we marvel(l)ed at how Life has turned out.

especially thinking how lovely it is that we still go over to friend’s houses and watch the Television and sink down into the cushions on the (Danish Modern with vibrant southern-asian-textiles) couch and get Rather mesmerized by the Screen and let it all sink in and inspire us and everything.

most delicious.

so who-we-have-become (thus far) is a direct result of everything that-we-thought and read and saw and experienced and learned.

and we just wanted to say thank you to thirtysomething

because it was seminal for us, in 1988.

just seminal.

back to Mr. Joseph Dougherty for a moment, in the preface to his script for thirtysomething:

Will Michael ever become that kind of writer? I hope so. If he does, he’ll find it was worth the depression and humiliation. He’ll discover something else, too. I believe the most satisfying work a writer does is that for which she or he feels the least conscious responsibility. It simply flows from somewhere. You don’t write it down so much as the paper is there to catch it. Ego is lost and you become transparent, something through which the story is seen and focused.

For a writer, this is a state of grace.

JOSEPH DOUGHERTY

ah, yes.

#grace

feeling lusciously languorous but still definitely literary

darlings

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

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

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

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

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we could stay in bed and read.

we have lots of books. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

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

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

or we could Write – but it’s so hot.

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

you would?

oh, we’d love to share it with you…….

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

then we’ll begin.

perhaps three extracts?

thank you ever so much for stopping by.

we were a Tiny bit Lonely before you came.

*winsomelooktocamera*

snuggle down.

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

Violet Ryan and the Placing Of Angels. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello, I’m Catherine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dante?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

“Thirty-five?”

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

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

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

*pausingforamoment*

well.

that brought it all back.

the Retreat.

and the feelings.

but Leonard Cohen wasn’t there.

it just felt like he might have been.

the rest is true.

or as true as one needs to be, darlings.

you know – on a hot saturday in Hollywood.

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