Spring Gear

It is a mystery to me as to why I am writing this particular blog today, as what I actually should be doing is editing the play that I have written.  I have an uncanny knack for finding alternative employment.  Yesterday I cleaned the entire maisonette from top to bottom.  I even moved furniture about, dusting and hoovering , leaving no stone unturned, rendering our home into a fresh smelling, clean-sheeted paradise.  My play, however, was left, untouched.

The day before, I moved all my winter clothes up to the top wardrobe, which given the temperature today, I am much regretting.  I brought out all the spring/summer outfits and worked out new combinations.  I even managed to select items that either needed careful repair or disposal.  I practically made spring cleaning into an Olympic sport.  Dear little play was bereft on my desk.

The day before that, I felt the need to create a three course meal for the Captain.  Prawn cocktail sumptuously displayed on a bowl lined with iceberg lettuce.  Hungarian goulash comprised of prime beef with paprika and sour cream followed.  Strained poached raspberries formed into a deep claret jelly with red vermouth, topped with double cream completed my little project.  Yes, that’s right.  My little play sat, it’s pages devoid of any scribblings, a creation in search of an author.

I even painted my nails a wonderful spring pink, on the tenuous premise of trying to hide a nasty bruise under a thumbnail that had formed when the tube strikes had made me angrily bash a door against my hand, due to my lateness for work.  It became an unlikely priority to hide that bruise.  It was unsightly, and as I very much wanted people to look at my face when they were speaking to me and not at the bruise, it was a  necessary action.  By now, I almost thought I heard my play telling me that I was an uncaring friend, a nasty, neglectful fly-by-night. (It said it in a cockney accent, if you are wondering.  I have no idea why.)

Moving on, I have discovered a guilty pleasure that I felt like sharing.  I have no car and I have never possessed one.  I passed my driving test back in 1988 and have driven about three or four times since then.  It is not really one of my favourite pastimes, yet I have recently been enjoying watching Top Gear like someone possessed.  The cars they feature have a shiny, almost gooey texture so that I feel like a child in a sweetie shop.  The photography and editing is so expertly mastered that watching it provides me with a sensation of such abject escapism that for the length of the programme, I forget who I am.  What converted it from a cosy sunday night programme to such an opiate was aided by the appearance of Aaron Paul as one of Jeremy Clarkson’s guests.  There are now few people who will not know the name, but a few years ago, when I was one of the first to view Breaking Bad, he swiftly became one of my favourite actors.  His downward inflecting husky Californian drawl and self-effacing chuckle rendered me into a state of worship as he spoke to Clarkson.  During our time in L.A., we frequented a bar called The Misfits, where Aaron (oh, yes, I will call him by his first name) turned up, in a little black hoody.  As he patiently posed for several fans’ mobile phone cameras, with a casual “You’re welcome” here and a “Thanks for watching” there, he was about a two metres away, and would have reached my chest in height.  Some of these gorgeous Hollywood stars do come in tiny packages.

A second guilty pleasure is The Waltons.  If Top Gear is my Heroin, then The Waltons is my Crystal Meth.  Not that I have or will try or even condone the use of either.  But I am trying, rather clumsily, to demonstrate my awareness of the times in which we live, and our points of reference.  Top Gear’s Mr Clarkson, when referring to Breaking Bad, mentioned that crystal meth is not really a problem in the UK but a huge problem in the States.  He should do a little more research before making statements like that.  Crystal meth is reaching epidemic proportions in London with separate organisations from Narcotics Anonymous to Crystal Meth Anonymous having to cater for the growing number of addicts.  The fictional tale of Breaking Bad does use real research to indicate that it is sold and trafficked around the world, and unlike most other drugs is almost impossible to stop using, once it has been tried.  ‘Nuff said.  Back to The Waltons.  Since it has been on for thirty years or so, I don’t feel it will be a spoiler alert if I tell you that I have got to the bit where Grandpa has died.  Suffice to say that I was inconsolable.

The Captain and my property business continues in a positive manner.  The films that are on my list now are The Great Beauty, Her, Nebraska and Saving Mr Banks.  I enjoyed Captain Phillips very much and think Tom Hanks continues to be another one of my favourites.  Gravity, saving for the special effects, was a perfectly good film, but I am not sure I understand quite what all the fuss is about.  I remain an ardent fan of Mark Kemode’s awards in place of the actual Oscars and agree with most of his choices.

I have, thanks to my wonderful writer friend, been introduced to L M Montgomery’s Emily books, which are wonderful.  She has also lent me Lottie Moggach’s Kiss Me First.  The title implies it is a romantic book, but it is a very unusual and troubling book, worth a read for several reasons. It is a superb first novel, and while there are flaws it is provocative and imaginative.  One of the novels that stays with you after you have finished it.  A last minute addition to my recommendations is an old classic that everyone should read: The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute.  My mother lent it to me, my paternal grandmother lent it to her.  Read it.

So, off to Wahaca in Wardour Street to see some good mates.  Seeing a film with another good mate on friday at the Curzon Soho.  Off to Warwickshire on Saturday to see some more friends.  Spring really must keep springing.  A post script: on my father’s recommendation I have been watching Sky Arts’ documentary Great West End Theatres.  It is very enjoyable being taken to the venues by Donald Sinden telling amusing anecdotes along the way.  But I want to say, that I agree with Sam West’s point.  He felt that theatre should not be an elitist experience, somewhat like ballet and opera.  It should be accessible and affordable to the public.  The reason I agree is that while I do believe many things in life should pay for themselves, theatre like all the arts, is a way of maintaining our pursuit of civilisation as human beings.  It is a way of publicly encouraging philosophy, emotions and thought, all of which defines us from animals.  If we lose that ability and facility, we may well lose ourselves.  I have now stepped off my soapbox.  Relax.  Enjoy your week.

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Courage, Mes Braves!

I have taken the week off, with no firm excuse.  One of my few similarities that I share with Churchill, (not the Insurance company dog, the war time Prime Minister) is his star sign, Sagittarius, and like him, I suffer from “the black dog” from time to time.  In the past I have tried to find the reasons, and at this point I could list a few.  My office job has been annoying me, with no raise on its daily fee for over two years, a broken toilet door that had to remain slightly ajar in an open plan office for months, a boiler that is on the blink adding to a general monotony of the tasks involved.  It has unfortunately created a pitiful, joyless atmosphere among my colleagues.

The interminable flooding winter which ominous  soothsayers, forgive me, I meant, reporters are repeating has not happened in hundreds of years and will now never end has added to the anxiety, despite the facts that bad weather has been a predicament of this country, particularly in the winter, since I can recall.  So desperate are journalists to make a meal of this endless drama, that news footage is shown over and over again, with more and more desperate and unhappy victims being exploited, forgive me, interviewed, so that the journalists can know “how they really feel, in their own words, how they really, really feel.”  We seem to forget that whether real or not, Noah had to build an ark because of endless rainfall, Californians, Greeks and Japanese have to live under the constant threat of earthquakes and yet the news items about our historical disaster continues.

The tube strike just added to our misery, how were we going to get to work, how are we meant to function, how are businesses meant to continue, what’s become of this world, why are people so shitty, why are tax bills at this time of year, why do things cost so much nowadays, why are heating bills so extortionate, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.

Meanwhile, with all the time in the world to contemplate, the focus ends up being drawn to what it all means.  Speaking for myself, I wonder that an actress such as myself whose skill and tendency to make people laugh or at least bring a little joy into the world is being denied her, because of the lack of roles or her profile being too feeble, forcing me into such a self-indulgent funk that taking the week off was the only option.

I tend to treat the bleak sensations like a bad cold, wandering around in sloppy clothes and usually watching four or five re-runs of The Waltons in one sitting, having a cry over those, having a bath every night, and trying my best to be as nice as possible, within limits, to the Captain.  As the rain splatters like cups of sand against the window, I have a memory of landing in the UK after Christmas for my second term at boarding school, aged twelve.  My parents lived in Kuala Lumpur at the time and having been brought up with them until that point, this was my second departure from them.  (The first had been them taking me to the school while they were still on home leave in the UK, where they had escorted me to it, which I might add, was not a bundle of laughs).  The company my father worked for organised a car to pick me up and hail and rain splattered onto the windscreen of the car, while we made slow progress to the grey, bleak convent boarding school, where, at the time, I was being sent to Coventry because I “bugged” some of the girls.  Ahhhhh, happy happy days.

No news reporter can persuade me that we have never had it this bad.  This country is famous for its crap weather and laughed about in Europe and abroad, because all visitors have to pack four seasons’ clothing when they wish to visit.  Rihanna sang about her Umbrella for nine weeks one summer, it rained throughout the song being a hit.  Let us just ride with it, put up with it, grit our teeth, bear it, like the good ol’ Brits that we are.  This too will pass.  The greatest playwright in the whole world comes from this country.  He would not have been able to create the storm scene in King Lear without our weather:

Lear. Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world,
Crack Nature’s moulds, all germains spill at once,
That makes ingrateful man!

William Shakespeare

It is our people that make us the country that everyone wants to inhabit, our creativity, our language and our laughter.  A recent train journey left most of us in stitches, some passengers wishing to skip their stop, because the driver’s announcements became so funny.   Our journey began from Victoria where he announced that he was sorry for all the delays, but there had been a mix-up with the drivers, a fact he was rather unhappy to relate.  He then mentioned that he was not even sure the tannoy system could be heard, in which case it was possible that he was actually just talking to himself.  He sighed, muttered Hello, to any of us who might be listening, and as we arrived at the next stop, he declared it a miracle.  Arriving at a stop at all, under the circumstances was in his opinion, a miracle,and we should all join him in the jubilations he felt over this fact.  A few stops further, and sounding  like John Cleese in Fawlty Towers, he apologised for yet another delay.  This was due to the fact that the replacement driver who was meant to be driving the very train we were on had yet to arrive.  Long sighs down the tannoy led to him being fairly close to breaking into song, when the new driver arrived.  What other country, I ask you, would we get this priceless entertainment?  It is better than anything that I am watching on television right now.  Except of course for Justified, on Netflix which I highly recommend.

I have over the years, been trying to add to this creative impulse, and having written two little novellas, and forty thousand words of a literary novel and one sit-com pilot, I have written my first little one Act play which I am getting very talented mates to read for me in a secret place for no other ears than mine (and the Captain’s).  This huge favour is going to allow me the possibility of tweaking and re-writing it.  Or indeed, holding my head in my hands and wailing to the wind, depending on the result.  I guess the Captain needs to be ready for all possibilities.

Meanwhile, while I found the Olympics’ fever very slightly irritating, I now miss it.  Forgive me for disliking it so much, I wish for that tone back.  Let us just put up with the weather and win, win, win.  Courage, mes braves!

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Wanna Marrakech? Don’t mind if I do!

So the year was given a brilliant start with a trip to Marrakech.  The Captain managed to find a deal with British Airways so that we went Business Class for the four days, so that the holiday began at Gatwick Airport in the Business Class lounge, which was spacious and peaceful. There were friendly staff there who served up salads, club sandwiches, cakes, and any sort of wine or Champagne that we fancied, with elegant comfortable chairs and no sign of any irritant.

By irritant, I mean someone being ridiculously loud on there mobile phone or someone having the need to share their music on their headphones with the rest of the airport.  There was none of that.  Thank the Lord.  Since the Captain and I were at the end of our tether with tax bills to pay, property yet to sell, houses to hunt and a general post-Christmas horror, this haven of general kindness and luxury nearly pushed us over the edge, in terms of gratitude.  The flight was equally joyous, arriving three and half hours later in a warm Marrakech, with no time difference either.

Rasheed collected us, he and I passing the time in the car in French.  He explained that the King of Morocco was in Marrakech during our stay.  He expanded on the theme, explaining that the King was very keen to make Morocco a welcome destination for both travellers and entrepreneurs, with a five year tax grant to any who set up businesses out there.  Hence a growing industry in wine, leather, design, fashion was emerging.  Mostly, the French, who were only a couple of hours’ flight away, were opting to live out there to avoid Hollande’s eighty per cent tax.  I parried that, we too, in Fulham, had many French joining us.  Rasheed commented that he did not reckon the weather was half as good.  I agreed with him, of course.

We stayed in a Riad within the Medina, owned by Veronique and Pascal Beherec.  Their taste in fusing Colonnial French with Moroccan craftsmanship was so wonderful, that I was still being surprised by it on the last day of our stay.  We had our own private terrace where our breakfast was brought every day as part of the package, with a three course lunch thrown in as they wished to make us feel very welcome.  The sun shone every day except the Friday, but having read the weather forecasts, the Captain had booked a Hammam on the rainy day.  We were scrubbed and pummelled, lay on white marble that was heated for just the two of us in large marble rooms with pillars and arches.  We were moved from the hottest room to a less hot room, where we were pummelled and washed and conditioned, then placed into a cooler, very welcome pool.  We were escorted to a cushiony, silky room where we lay resting and drinking elderflower water.  After a sleepy pause we were coaxed to the beauty room where we were given full body massages, and facials.  Three and a half hours after this entire experience, the Captain and I were almost incapable of speaking because we were so relaxed.

We also visited an extraordinary emporium on the other side of town, owned, unbeknown to us at the time, by the same couple who ran our Riad.  It is called 33 Rue Majorelle, near the Jardins Majorelle.  The gardens are nothing much, but the emporium has designer-level clothes, jewels, leather goods, foods, and other lifestyle concepts.  If I had the money, or the know-how, I would buy the shop or set it up in the UK.  Congratulations to Madame et Monsieur Beherec whose creativity and recognition of style and art knows no bounds.

Coming back to the UK more refreshed has been fine.  I know I am not alone in loathing January, and I am equally not so sold on February either.  However, the play that I am writing has another three or four weeks’ work to be done.  I feel excited at what it may become.  The novel remains half way written and untouched as a result.  The Captain and I are investigating Fulham and Chiswick for property and feel very hopeful about it all. The Captain has done an advert for a well known chicken company and there may be more of that to come.  Watch this space.  Meanwhile, my relationship with my new theatrical agents goes from strength to strength, making me wonder how on earth I put up with so much rubbish before.


New Year, Bring it on!

While 2013 has been one of my favourite years to date, I was happy for it to come to an end.  If you read my last blog, you will know that the Christmas season began badly, with my loss of an expensive scarf for the Captain from Turnbull and Asser.  In case you are interested, you will not be surprised to discover that it has never resurfaced from the mystery back of the London cab where it was last seen that early evening on Friday 12th December.

Still, it is comforting to know that the Captain won’t be wearing Mr Saatchi’s favourite brand.  After all, who would really wish to be associated with someone who was once, simply dislikeable, and now is utterly detestable.  I do hope Ms Lawson beats him on every level,( and I do mean every level).  Since we have all been exposed to Mr Saatchi’s highly unpleasant personality, it would be a huge hope that this sort of bully should be punishable.  If I were Queen, I would insist that the punishments would fit the crime, so firstly, I would make it illegal for him to wear shirts by Turnbull and Asser, allowing him to sport British Home Stores and no one else.  I would insist that he was only allowed one and not 25 frappacinos per day.  I would bar him from his beloved club, Annabels.  He would not be allowed to mix with the opposite sex at all.  We would have to assess how this all goes after a year.  Or am I, perhaps, being a little too lenient?

Anyway, to continue with Christmas, I attended my drama school reunion, which despite the interminable rain and failed attempt to find a spot at Gordon’s Wine Bar on Villiers Street,(in thirty years of trying out Gordon’s wine bar, I have never once managed to get a table there), we stumbled on a pub, the Marquis in Chandos Place, where I spotted a table of innocent tourists whose departure was mildly interrupted by the physical swoop I made to grab the table. I am happy to say that no-one’s eyes were knocked out, to my delight, in fact there were no injuries caused at all.  We were next to a table that had  been reserved for “John”, who showed little sign of turning up.  I made a note to self to reserve tables in the pub under the name of “John” in the future.  We went on to Las Iguanas on the Southbank where I steadily dreaded the bill between all of us, and was overwhelmed when it turned out to be £10 per head.  Go there if you have a big party of people, stick to the tapas and you will not be out of pocket.  It was glorious to see the friends from my past and to laugh at our imitations of our teachers.

I was invited by a good mate to the press night of Fortune’s Fool at the Old Vic, which turned out to not be press night, because it clashed with one of the musicals opening in town.  The night was still being celebrated however, with drinks and food at the Rosewood Hotel in Holborn.  The play, directed superbly by Lucy Bailey and adapted brilliantly by Mike Poulton, was a tour de force for the lead actors Ian Glen and Richard McCabe.  I loved it.  The icing on the cake was the Rosewood Hotel reception, whose beautiful, cheekbony staff served delicious wines and food in such a graceful way, that it felt surreal.

To me, the lead up to Christmas always beats the actual event, hands down.  The storms had a nasty effect on my family, leaving my parents without electricity from the 22nd to the 28th of December. The Christmas eve dinner became almost impossible to reach at the Green Man due to rivers having overflowed so that the miracle of my brother and sister-in-law, parents, the Captain and myself being there on time was almost too much to bear.  On that evening, since the Captain had done the driving to the restaurant, my parents suggested we made our trip to the Captain’s mother that evening.  I felt very guilty leaving my old parents in the cold dark house, but they said they preferred two people to be miserabl,e rather than four. A six hour drive up, the following days were filled by the Captain’s Christmas dinner, cooked to perfection, followed by lengthy visits with the Captain’s mother’s neighbours and relatives.  A seven hour drive back down to London ended the festivities, a couple of days of visits to the gym and alchohol-free, leading to the New Year’s Eve party with two sets of friends in North London.  And now it is all over and I can actually begin my life again, THANK YOU JESUS.

We have booked a small trip to Marrakech thanks to the generous money gifts from my brother and from my father, which has made up the lion’s share of the cost.  When I return, you will hear all about it, I promise.  Then, I will finish the play that I am writing, and of course, my novel, sell my house in North London, by a flat in Fulham, and all will be well.  I hope.  Happy New Year to all of you.  2014 is going to be a cracker.

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Season’s Jollies and Follies

I celebrated my forty-eighth birthday in tremendous style.  The Captain and I had a quiet little dinner in the week and at the weekend, we invited close mates to share the joy at Joe Allens.  It has been such a positive year for me in terms of my own personal growth and the lessons the Captain and I have learnt have been welcome.  So as a result we felt we had plenty of reasons to raise our glasses and eat well.  It all went so swimmingly, that the continued ascent to Christmas has not felt it could really match it.

As an example, the reunion of Woldingham school was a disappointing contrast to the one last year.  I arrived at Westminster Cathedral, very much on my own, sat among people I did not know, enjoyed the choir but also felt some of the choices of material to be more miserable than necessary: in terms of music, Catholics, of whom I have tremendous fondness, being lapsed myself, have a pathological ability to relish misery in a way that I find hard to tolerate on occasions.  So having quietly wept to the haunting raptures, while surreptitiously searching for a familiar face among the thousands, I spotted one lovely class mate and in fact the person who had organised it both this and last year.  She too was shocked that in comparison to the heaps of class mates who had bothered to turn up last year, we were the only two who had managed it this year.  A third joined later, so that we three stood and spoke together at the drinks afterwards, with a sad acceptance that all the absentees must have all been just too busy.

My office job works do was very splendid, we dined at Nopi,(pronounced Noppi) Mr Ottolenghi’s sister restaurant in Piccadilly, having begun at 1pm with champagne at Kettners for at least an hour.  Our boss chose an extraordinary Pouilly Fume which flowed all the way through lunch until 5.00 p.m.  We decided that more champagne was necessary so went round the corner to the rooftop of the Sanctum Soho Hotel. Our team were made up of about fourteen women and one man, so I think we made a mark on various other guests.  One would hope it was a positive mark, but it not possible to be so sure.

I, of course, managed to ruin my evening at the end.  Earlier that day I had bought the Captain’s Christmas present, which had been a very expensive scarf from Turnbull and Asser on Jermyn Street.  It had been gift wrapped lovingly in the style that Rowan Atkinson may have employed in the film “Love Actually”.  It had been so expensive that it actually hurt to pay for it, but because I thought the Captain would love it so much I parted with the money anyway.  And I have lost it.  It’s dark coloured wrapping was not so visible in the back of the black cab, particularly after seven hours of alcohol consumption.  I woke at 2.00 a.m. suddenly aware that I had not had the bag with me.  I cried for the whole of the following day, as well as telephoning Kettners, Nopi and the Sanctum Soho.  The black cab that they had hailed for me was a standard black cab and therefore all lost property is dealt with by TFL(Transport for London), whose lost property offices open monday to friday only (thanks very much, TFL).  My Barclaycard Visa apparently no longer offers “purchase protection”.  If anyone has a better credit card, do tell me, as I have used Barclaycard Visa faithfully for exactly thirty years, and I do not think their attitude shows any sign of gratitude to my loyalty.

So, a drama school reunion awaits on tuesday, which sees the last day of my office job before the new year.  The play that I was writing has had to go on hold during all these insane festivities.  Meanwhile, our Christmas tree reminds me of a large fat bouncer at a nightclub who for argument’s sake I will call Colin.  He stands there, taking over most of our tiny living room, and seems to give me a grudging look as I enter.  So I have put more baubles on him.  I know he doesn’t like it, but it is Christmas so Colin is going to have to lump it.


FoMo? Um, no thank you.

I had the joy of rehearsing at the St James Theatre the other day, being directed by the brilliant James Albrecht, the Assistant Artistic Director.  The impeccable Emma Swinn who among her many talents as an actress and co-founder of The Philosophy Foundation has organised the event so well, that we are now sold out.  I have put the link below for your interest, simply because it may arouse interest in such a brilliant organisation and of course, it mentions that I am playing Nietzsche’s ethically challenged sister, Elisabeth.  My fellow actors are all superb, so the bar is pretty high, I am aiming to meet their level.

One of our team explained that he had been working with fresh young actors at the BBC Elstree training department (where I had the joy of working for about ten years on and off).  He said that a new word had entered our urban dictionary, FoMo: Fear of Missing Out and that it seems to be quite a plague among some people.  I reflected on how grateful I am not to feel that sort of anxiety. I think I did at some point in my late twenties and early thirties, but the advantage of growing older is that possible state of mind has left me, being replaced by the same drive, but an acceptance that the world will move at its own pace.

I have just returned from a long weekend at Grayshott Hall with my mother, an exquisite treat for the both of us, in order to celebrate my birthday.  I had a facial, a full body massage and on the last day an Indian scalp massage that sent me into such a state of release that it defies description.  Just go and have one, if you can manage it, just once in your lifetime.  My mother and I swam, jacuzzied, talked, slept and ate so as a result I feel like I am both spoiled and incredibly lucky.

My birthday will be celebrated with a handful of mates in Jo Allens, because I have my doubts that when I reach my fiftieth, my wish to party may be limited to just the Captain and me in an expensive hotel with good food.  I would prefer,this year, to be among the theatre centre of the west-end, in that busy, buzzy and atmospheric of all places.  I have been going to Jo Allens since I was about eighteen years old, and I suspect my friends will also have a similar statistic.  There is something both comforting and exciting about it, in an old-school kind of a way.

I shall also be attending my old girls school Christmas Concert at Westminster Cathedral, with drinks at the Territorial Army Headquarters afterwards, which might be less wild than last year, as it was about twenty-seven years since we last saw each other at that point.  However, being good Woldingham girls, I think we will manage to drink a successful amount of alcohol, just to test ourselves, so to speak.

I have invested just before our weather took this bitter turn in about seven glittery thermal tops from Marks and Spencers.  It will probably be all I wear from now until March 2014.  They work as tops with jeans, they work as tops over some Gap yoga trousers, they work as nightwear.  They are £15 and will keep you warm all winter.  You heard it here first.

The seismic change that I mentioned in my last blog, has, incidentally, taken place.  I will not go into its details, as I do not wish to speak out of turn, but suffice it to say that it has brought such a beautiful change of energy into my life, that I feel in every way in the right place.  The Captain and I will be undergoing some domestic changes over the course of next year, possibly selling our property and moving house.  He, too, has made some radical changes so that while both of us still suffer the losses of finance from our Hollywood Adventure, we have a faith in what lies ahead.  The Hollywood Adventure has, despite the financial cost, brought about most of those changes, in any case.  For that, I will be in its debt.

Christmas cards, need to be bought, but I have bought all the presents, so that is one less worry.  Christmas Eve lunch is booked at The Green Man in West Sussex, a wonderful gastro-pub in Partridge Green, with a brilliant choice in wines.  No doubt there will be a Sloe Gin and Sloe Vodka competition, since my father helped my brother pick them off the latter’s land before the deer ate them all.  Both father and brother scurried off to their respective laboratories (otherwise known as the kitchen) to make the sugary, mischievous, warming stuff, so I can’t wait to try both.  So, FoMo.  Don’t think so.



Apples and Art

Having visited the parents a couple of weeks ago and harvested their bumper crop of apples, I have arguably become apple-tastic.  I stewed some with the skin, sugar and lemon juice to liquidise into apple sauce.  I made others into Tarte Tatin, which tasted better than it looked.  I cooked more, so that I sieved them through a muslin cloth, added gelatine and created a jelly to enjoy with French cheeses, and finally, I made an apple crumble this weekend at my brother’s vineyard to enjoy after my version of Coq-au-Vin.  I have become slightly obsessed with the idea that if it is harvested now from our own earth, that there must be minerals and vitamins from within that we need.  As if I were correct on this point, my skin has followed suit, and seems to be glowing from the apple mania.  Perhaps I should try and make face packs from them?  Who knows, the pectin in the skin might have the same effect as alpha hydroxy acid which is all the rage in skin care nowadays.  Caudalie, the French brand, does it with grapes.  I might not be as crazy as I sound.  However there is not time.  There is only so much appling one can do in one month.

As promised, I saw Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, and thought that as it was such a direct a lift from Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire, it did not have the usual impact that a new Woody Allen script has.  After all, I wanted to see Allen’s annual take on life, but got Tennessee’s instead.  Kate Blanchett is always good, but crying and having too much mascara running everywhere does not automatically a tragic character make.  Sally Hawkins self-studied to such an extent that I almost felt like commenting on her own acting on her behalf.  Andrew Dice Clay was superb however, and I would like to see more of him.

The Captain and I will be joining a party of mates to see a mutual old pal in Raving by Simon Paisley Day at Hampstead Theatre next Saturday.  Funnily enough, I saw the original reading of it a few years ago at the Young Vic when Mr Paisley Day was trying to glean it some attention.  I will look forward to seeing the final product, as it has a rather exciting cast, and I found it very funny the last time.  Among the same bunch, we will also be attending a Halloween Party at Soho House by the same dotty hosts from the Seventies party which I covered in the spring.  I have purchased my expensive wig, and that is about all I will say about it.  I wonder if there are any prizes for the best male and best female outfit.  Not that I am competitive or anything like that.(!)  There is also a joint 40th and wedding anniversary party that we are attending, but there will only be normal dressing up for that, so I shall be wearing a black satin cocktail frock bought five years ago with birthday money.

A long while back I was part of a BBC Radio 4 series called Single Files written by Mark Trotman and Chris Tisdall.  Among our little company, my colleague was a marvellous actress called Emma Swinn.  Together we enjoyed all the female characters.  The only hardship was trying not to laugh.  Among her many talents, Emma runs the Philosophy Foundation, and is doing a reading of a play by Andrew Day called The Sister.  It is a fascinating, funny and disturbing piece about Nietzsche and those who surrounded him, including his sister, Elisabeth.  Emma has asked me to play Elisabeth, which I am delighted to be doing for World Philosophy Day at the Conway Hall at the 21st November 2013.

Lastly, I went to the Saatchi Gallery the other evening with another good mate to see an exhibition which included paintings by his friend’s father, John Alvaro Caldas.  The gallery who were showing his paintings is the Philips Art Gallery run by a lovely man called David Powell.  www.philipsartgallery.co.uk is worth a good look, as he has an excellent eye.  He mentioned why he loved John Alvaro Caldas, which hooked me somewhat.  He said it was because John was entirely self taught.  At this point, I stopped being a normal person and turned into my friend’s agent, who is an entirely self taught artist, and has been painting around the same time that he could write.  As a result he has a collection of haunting and brilliant work which he permanently undersells because he doesn’t believe they are as good as I do.  As a result David Powell gave my friend his card on the request to see his stuff.  That old mate of mine better send it or there will be trouble.

As a post script there was one other artist who took my attention, called Janet Shrimpton who Carina Haslam Art was representing that evening.  She has created these floral, Midsummer Night’s Dream type of scenery.  The result is that if you end up in front of one of her paintings, it is hard to pull yourself away, so mesmerising is the effect.  Probably as mesmerising as I wish my blog to be, which is why I shall have to say, Time, Ladies and Gentlemen, please.  This month’s blog is over.


A Heave-Ho Forward

I am so grateful to this summer.  Its warmth and sunshine have somehow instructed me to make decisions that have had a seismic impact on my life.  Maybe it was the forgiving warmth of the Tuscan sea water that allowed me to wade and wallow through them that relaxed my mind and muscles enough to force my own personal progress along.  Maybe it was the joy of wearing fewer clothes, hopping around in a charity shop dress with thin straps, barefoot and free, that brought it all about. Or maybe indeed it was the Captain.  Physically, it did make life easier to wander about with just a little basket or strappy hand bag, no coat or cardigan to drag about.  It made me feel like the little girl that I had been once, living in South East Asia, able to move around like the indigenous population of Thailand and Malaysia.

Whatever it was, some big changes have occured that I will not discover to you now.  Suffice to say, I feel light hearted and rather happy.  I do not resent the oncoming Autumn, since the summer has been too kind. In fact, I rather look forward to the Captain and me snuggling on our sofa which we have opened out into a bed size so that watching Breaking Bad and Justified has become a louche pleasure as we stretch out like Egyptian royalty on it.

The anticipation of Autumn began when I went to my local expensive pharmacist and mentioned (quite cleverly, I thought) that I was thinking of changing my brand of skin care.  After it was ascertained that I tended to prefer the French brands I left the shop with my original purchase of one deodorant and entire bag of free samples.  This indeed is the time to do it, as all brands appreciate ladies of a certain age find the summer does all sorts of dangerous things to skin, and the beauty industry provides an alarmingly large choice of remedies as a result.  They are keen to get you onto their as opposed to their competitor’s list.   You heard it here first.

I also love that London Fashion Week happens now.  It is like being privy to the bumper crop harvest of new ideas and thinking re what we plan to wear.  Having flopped about in flip-flops and shifts, suddenly the world of layers returns in ever changing colours, patterns and styles.  I am almost obsessed by it in a way that would make the onlooker believe I was studying it for a degree.  Every September edition of literary fashion dialogue is not left unaddressed by me.  Maybe I am sick.  But how I love it.  It makes me feel that we are reflecting nature harvesting our crops of ideas, the way a farmer does his food.  There are fires to be lit, windy sunsets with orange skies to be watched, full moons to be observed and leaves to turn amber before the naked slate grey stone of winter enters our lives.

Talking of full moons, the other night, I was listening to the soundtrack of Justified which has Gangtsagrass providing some of the brilliant tracks, and I stood with my headphones on, the pitch of the night lit up by the white orb in the sky.  It lit the whole graveyard below, altering my perception in a way that I found very stimulating.  It made me wonder whether that strange uneasy energy that emerges from full moons might be one that we should tap.  I shall try and write during it next time and see what emerges.

The Captain and I had an amazing evening through the German Prince.  One of his glorious mates was turning fifty, so he and his family who I will henceforward call The Waltons (because they are soooo lovely) celebrated by inviting brilliant people to dance and share a whole roasted lamb at their mansion.  We danced and ate all night, and because we were greedy for more love and warmth, we turned up the next day and forced The Waltons to host us again, all day, with more Champagne.  Which they happily did, because, as I have said, they are The Waltons.  Another good mate of that crowd, who will be known as The Amazon, let us stay at her house where she fed us endlessly delicious bacon and egg sandwiches with huge mugs of tea.  Her animals are as adorable as she is, made up of one Great Dane who is so huge that when you stroke her, she leans on you and you nearly fall over, one labrador whose eyes are those of a glossy seal, and two burmese cats who put their furry cheekbones against your face and sort of caress you by pushing, to prove their love for you.  I’ll have one of each, please.  How can I possibly lead an animal-free life again?

My list of films to see is numerous, but priority goes to Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (I believe loosely based on Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire) but I also want to see Le Week-End by the same chaps who did Venus.

I recommend a read of Ayad Akhtar’s American Dervish.  I am currently enjoying John Williams’ Stoner having recently been reprinted.  And so off to a dinner do tonight in Camberwell.  And I will.  Camber well, that is.

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Summer has entered our lives in a huge way.  We have literally shed our clothes and started moving slowly.  That is the part of it that I have enjoyed, I must say.  I, like most of the women in the UK, was not equipped over the last two months for the heat.  However, I managed to go to a charity shop in Fulham and buy three long thin dresses, one black cotton/viscose number from Whistles, one black cotton number from Gap and one colourful African print halterneck, each at £6 a piece.  I have been wandering around in them day and night, the straps even accomodating my bra straps. I am such a cheap date.

Summer began for me with news that affected me.  I cannot go into it, in case the wrong eyes read this, but suffice to say that I have been recovering from the news ever since.  Thus the Captain has had to put up with a wife whose moods have swung up and down like a yoyo, but he has been very patient indeed.  His temper has been good, because he has set up a separate business to his acting career and having just done a comedy for ITV,  the second business is filling his life with stimulus and excitement.  I have been searching for more strings to my bow, having found acting to be a wonderful career, when one is given the luxury of actually doing it, which is rare indeed.  One of the strings, as some of the readers will know, is writing, an equally problematic and generally unlucrative career, but hey ho.  So I have been working on my adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra, with a plan to have a few mates read it to see what changes will be necessary.  It is going to be a three-hander in modern dialogue and so far, while it is a massive challenge, I am feeling some form of progress.  The novel stands at 50 000 words, waiting to be continued, but it can wait a little longer, it has, after all, hung in there for six or seven years anyway.

There have been several hightlights over this period.  My mother treated both of us to stay for three days at Grayshott Hall.  We go about once a year and have done so for about a decade, but this was the best time to date.  It was the beginning of our mediterranean weather so the space opened out to us, enabling us to use the outside and indoor pools.  The warmth generated more enthusiasm in my mother to swim, which she and I so enjoyed.  The gardens were a their most beautiful, the trees enjoying the daily golden light as much as we were.  We ate like royalty, starting on my part with a glass of champagne every evening.  We played several games of our traditional Scrabble, suffice to say my mother won all of the matches.  We watched a film in their private cinema called at the time Song for  Marion but I have sinced discovered is called Unfinished Song with Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp and Gemma Arterton, which was brilliant but very weepy, and as a result hugely cathartic.  We were actually sorry to leave, but so glad that we went.

Other highlights include my visiting my dear friend in Rome.  She drove me to a secret destination in Tuscany along the coast, about a couple of hours North of Rome.  I am not allowed to say where, I promised her and she is reading this blog, so my hands are tied.  Understandably, it is, as you might expect, a slice of paradise that if discovered would be ruined by a type of tourist who does not respect or care for the environment.  So, you will have to believe me when I say that swimming through those glassy clear waters along the entire coast, walking through the sand along a breathtaking array of landscapes and eating fresh seafood salad accompanied by very beautiful Italian white wine was delightful.   I read some excellent holiday books.  I use the word holiday to naturally emphasize that the books are not life changing, simply well written enough to be page-turning narratives that remove you from your own life.  One was Gone Girl  by Gillian Flynn, which was not my usual sort of book, penned as a psychological thriller.  It had a curiously misanthropic edge so that I was glad I finished it, but once it was over, I suspected that I would barely remember it in years to come.  The other my aforementioned Italian friend gave me, was warmer in tone. The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’ Farrell was sweet, interesting and also quite compelling.

Since our mutual returns, (the Captain went on his golfing trip in Portugal which apparently was the best one to date, nothing to do with the fact that he won against the German Prince), we have picked up our life with more enthusiasm than we had before.  We had taken up our weekly watch of University Challenge just to check that our brains still work.  Our cultural nourishment is being provided by Netflix who have, for £5 per month, sensibly bought the remaining half of the last series of Breaking Bad.  I believe any faithful readers already know of my opinions on the god we call Vincent Gilligan, the modern Shakespeare/Webster of our time.  It has also bought Andrew Davies’ US version of House of Cards written specifically for Kevin Spacey.  As long as you accept that Spacey is occupying the screen in the groove of Laurence Olivier in his own film, Richard III by casting frequent asides directly to the camera, it is actually rather an intriguing programme to watch.

We are slipping off again for a last summer fling to Switzerland for friend and family reasons.  We have noticed that if we do not make our own entertainment over the period of the summer holidays, there would be nothing to do, since all our friends who have children are looking after them.  We know that come September, we will be meeting the parents/friends like refugees from a war zone, who will say how grateful they are that the school term has begun.  The Captain and I will glance at each other, knowing that years later they will think back to those summers with their children and shed a nostalgic tear or two, but we will be here for them when that happens.  For now, I will say Ciao, Regazzi and Regazze. Or would you prefer chaps and chapesses?  No, I didn’t think so.

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The Vicar

“I’m so glad I’m a vicar”, he said

As he brushed a crumb from his jacket,

“If I keep charging that rent

And nothing gets spent

I’m sure I’ll make quite a packet.”

“It’s quite a nuisance to keep having tenants,

But I suppose we must all pay our penance

And since I’m not short of a penny

And two tenants aren’t many

One can cope with the visiting peasants.”

“I do hope that they bring their own tea

God knows, they can’t look to me

God has told me to keep

All my money, life’s cheap.

I collect many things, don’t you see?”

Kate Terence 1997


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