Knights of Sappho (An Homage to Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale)

Knights of Sappho by Kate Terence (2003)

As she took a slug of beer, Digger pondered over how long she had run the family courier business.

“What’s on your mind, Diggs?” Amelia asked, looking up from her opened bag of dry roasted nuts. Her willowy figure and blonde hair were the only genetic indication of her sibling relationship to Digger’s partner Josephine.

“Amelia, you know why Josephine sent us here. Your sister doesn’t think we’re getting on together.” Digger kicked her legs out in front of the fire.

“Well, Diggs, as this is my first visit with my sister in quite a few years, it’s all come as a bit of a shock, you know.” Amelia lowered her voice.

“Why?” Digger paused for emphasis “Don’t they have lesbians in Australia then?” A few of the men at the bar raised their eyebrows. One of them gave Amelia a look, which she returned nervously with a smile. “It’s alright, Amelia, it’s not contagious. I just ask you to be tolerant if you are living under my roof.”

“Look, would it be easier if I helped with your business? I could do with the extra cash anyway, and obviously you could pay me less than the usual rates instead of rent.” Amelia blinked a few times whilst awaiting Digger’s response.

“Are you absolutely certain, Amelia,” Digger leaned her elbow on the table, “ that you would be able to cope with an army of lesbians. I mean, I didn’t rename the firm Dykes on Bikes for a joke you know.” She pointed at Amelia’s glass, “Top up, young lady?”

“Don’t insult me, Digger, of course I can manage.” Amelia flicked her eyes from Digger towards the barman, “I’ll take another rum and coke please.” She turned swiftly back to Digger “I mean, let’s face it, Digg, they’re only women, after all.”

*

“So how long have you ridden bikes for, Fab?” Digger was reading a paper napkin that was currently doubling up as a CV.

“Do we have to do this, Digg?” Fab grinned boyishly at her, her blue eyes sparkling with confrontation. “After all, you were the one that taught me to ride a bike in the first place, so just give me the job, will you?” She stood up and leant her body against one of the walls in the room. She fulfilled the very image of lesbian chic in the 1920’s, sporting a waistcoat and tie, which matched her glossed back Eton crop.

“If I take you on, it’s only fair that I do the same with Toni, and I’m not sure that I trust you both together.” Digg smiled. The door of the office startled them both by swinging open.

“Sorry I’m late Digg. Only got back from holiday this morning.” Toni, glowing brown, a chestnut ponytail pulling her exotic eyes upwards hugged Fab like a brother. She shook Digger’s hand. “So what did you need to see me about?” Toni flung her leather jacket off her strong torso and sat straddling the chair.

“She’s worried about giving us our job back.” Fab purred, placing a cigarette into a black holder, slipping it into her mouth and lighting up.

“Oh, come on, Diggs.   We’ve learnt our lesson.” Toni’s face flashed with a cool passion.           “Ladies, please. The jobs are yours, of course.” Digger grunted, “But we will have to write contracts stating that you work for me and me alone for twelve months.”

Toni and Fab paused. They looked at each other, and then back at Digger.

“Take it or leave it, girls. The choice is yours.” Digger rose, stepping towards the door to open it. She watched her two riders glance once more at each other in an attempt to gauge what the other was thinking. As she opened it, Toni spoke.

“All right, Digg, you win. It’s a deal. Are you with me, Fab?”

Fab nodded, Toni recognizing the familiar expression of her good friend. She did not doubt that Fab would say more once they were in the pub. They both turned towards Digger whose tough exterior belied how moved she was by their easy understanding of each other’s ways.

“Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got some work to do.” Digger beckoned them out of the room, “ I’ve a new receptionist who’s only started today. She’ll be taking the bookings so it’s likely that she’ll be the one that speaks to you regarding what jobs are going. Her name’s Amelia and she reports directly to me, so behave yourselves.”

If Fab knew how much her life was about to change the moment Digger’s office door shut behind her, she would probably have remained in the room, refusing, at all costs, to leave. Toni would have done the same, although as far as she was currently concerned all was well. As soon as they were out of the room, Toni did what she always did when she came to this office. She occupied herself with the notice board. She was too immersed in advertisements for spare rooms and lost cats to notice that her best friend was transfixed by the fleeting presence of Amelia. When Toni turned away from the board to face her friend, there was no indication that anyone else had been in the reception area.

“Well, I think a visit to the pub is in order, Fab, don’t you?” Toni patted her friend on the back as they left the building. “I haven’t even told you about my holiday yet.” Fab did not respond. Finally she spoke.

“Did you see her?” Her eyes stared into space, her voice a pale echo of what it had been a few minutes earlier.

“Who, Fab? Are you all right, mate? You’ve gone very pale. It was that talk with Digg. She can be a right bitch sometimes. Come on, let’s get you a whisky.” Toni led Fab into the pub and went up to the bar for the drinks. On her return with a whisky, a pint and two bags of crisps, Fab turned to her.

“Toni, you’re not going to believe this. I have never in my entire life experienced this. But I have just fallen in love at first sight. When I looked at her, I saw my life, my past and my future life all rolled into one. When I had the chance of seeing her face I could see her and my soul in an instant.”

“Jesus, Fab, you’re not talking about Digg are you? She’s spoken for. Josephine would murder you in a second.”

“You didn’t see her. She came in from that back room and was checking something at reception. She went back in after that. God, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so beautiful.” Fab’s eyes had become liquid.

“Hold that thought, Fab, I’ll be right back. I left my jacket in Digg’s office.” Toni strode towards the office in order to catch the doors before they closed for the day. As she got to the front, she noticed a delicately framed lady beginning to lock up.

“You must be looking for this jacket.” Amelia picked up Toni’s leather and handed it over to her.

“Thanks.” Toni replied. She was unable to say anything else. Her heart was beating too fast. Words seemed trivial. The way her rose bud mouth had spoken “this jacket” had sent her blood rushing into her face. A horror of the situation was beginning to dawn on Toni as she returned to the pub. This could not possibly be the same woman that Fab had talked about. They did not share the same taste. But who else could it be? There was no other receptionist working at Dykes on Bikes.

Toni sat herself back down in front of Fab, distractedly opening a packet of crisps. She gulped at her beer and glanced over at her friend whom she had known and loved for so long. Fab was looking towards the door. Toni wondered whether Fab was contemplating returning to the office to see if she could have another taste of heaven. Toni herself began to wonder whether Amelia was going to walk through the door, so strong was the force of both their emotions. Fab did not turn to Toni, but with her eyes fixed towards the exit she addressed her.

“Was she there when you went back?” Fab now turned her pale face towards Toni, who could not prevent a guilty blush spreading over to her face. Holding eye contact with Fab became too difficult so she cast her eyes down to her beer. She hoped the golden colour would distract her from the image of Amelia, but it only reminded her of the wispy hue in her hair.

“Yes, I saw her. She gave me the jacket.” Toni answered as flatly as she could.

“What did she say to you?” Fab’s spoke through gritted teeth.

“What do you want me to say, Fab? That I don’t want her? You won’t hear that from me, I’m afraid. Besides, you have to understand, she looked after my jacket for me didn’t she? There’s some chemistry there, I know it.” Toni plunged her hand into the salty crisps and shovelled a couple into her mouth.

   “That’s where you’re wrong, mate. Because we’re not talking about chemistry here, we’re talking about love. And I love her. She’s mine.” Fab’s voice had turned utterly cold towards her friend.

“I don’t think you can make that sort of claim. Besides, as I said, she spoke to me, not to you.” Toni felt the aggression rising from within.

“I saw her first, Fab. Now you are either a friend or not.” Fab’s face was inches away from Toni.

An hour later, catalysed and fuelled by several beers and whiskies, Toni and Fab were shouting at each other. The manager, who had known them for a long time was forced to ask them to leave. Outside, the two women were incapable of dispelling their mutual feelings of passion and betrayal. Drunk with both alcohol and adrenalin, they did not notice that Digger was approaching them.

“What in Christ’s name is going on here?” Digger shouted

“A betrayal of friendship, that’s what.” Fab responded, slurring. “This stupid cow has decided that she wants my girl.” Fab swung her arm in Toni’s direction.

“She’s not your girl. I think you’ll find she picks me.” Toni retorted, flushed with intoxication.

“Girls, you’re both drunk. Who are we talking about?” Digger asked.

“Amelia.” They both answered.

“Well, I hate to upset the applecart but she’s not for either of you. She’s my sister-in-law, and she’s straight. So, go home both of you and sleep it off.”

They watched as Digger got into her jaguar to drive herself home. As the car sped off into the distance, Fab turned to Toni.

“I don’t care if she’s straight or not, you bitch, I’m going to get this sorted. I don’t care what it takes.”

“Fine. Here’s an idea, you butch cretin. You want to fight this, we’ll do it. We’ll race to Brighton on our bikes. The first one to reach the pavilion wins.” Toni stood like a character in a western, her body poised for action.

“Good plan. Let’s do it.” Fab spat back at her.

The bikes were parked nearby, and as they sat on them, they held each other’s gaze for half a second. Fab started her engine, as did Toni and then they were off, screeching desperately into the night.

*

Toni wept as she held Fab in her arms. Wrapped in so many bandages it was hard to recognize her. The machine helping her to breathe made a consistent rhythmic sound of air being pushed in and then out of her friend’s lungs. The door opened, and Amelia stood in the doorway. Toni looked at the golden haired girl. She turned back to Fab, wishing her out of her coma.

END

 

Sunday Trains

So latest news, I will be playing Maureen in a rehearsed reading of Elizabeth, Peter and Me at the Union Theatre on Monday 27th February 2017, written by Vincent Rawding, adapted from the book by Mark Baxter.  Maureen is a very interesting character indeed.  That’s all I’m telling.  Meanwhile, below is one of my stories that I wrote years ago, probably about a decade or more.  For your entertainment:

Sunday Trains by Kate Terence

Charlotte got out of her father’s Jaguar while he pressed the button to open the boot.   She took out her suitcase, leant back into the car and kissed him goodbye. As she made her way slowly through the dank tunnel that led to Platform One at Pulborough station, she tried to curb her mind from heading into the Sunday night blues that plagued her since childhood.

She sat down on the available space of the bench next to a couple who were contentedly mulling over the sections of the Sunday papers. A cool Autumnal air brushed against Charlotte’s skin making her shiver. Why was it that, at the age of thirty-seven, she could still feel like a lonely teenager?

She knew part of the problem was that whenever she visited her parents she always allowed herself to regress in age. This luxury was particularly delicious on Saturday mornings when her mother would bring her a steaming cup of tea in bed. However, it definitely produced its drawbacks when returning to London on a Sunday evening. The weekend of behaving like she was the young, single daughter seemed to have the effect of compounding her awareness that in fact the situation was the exact reverse.

She heard the isolated clatter of the rails in the distance as the train loomed into view. She stood back waiting for it to pull to a halt, taking advantage to view all the carriages in order to pick an emptier one. She hated listening to the animated chatter of travellers returning to their busy homes.

She had to admit to herself that returning to her abode did not fill her with glee. With some help on the deposit from her parents, she had bought the two bedroom, end-of-terrace house in Tooting when property was at its cheapest. She knew for a fact that the property had more than doubled during the time that she had owned it, but somehow the financial triumph felt hollow.

Charlotte clambered on to the train, finding herself a free space to spread herself out. She hung up her splendid Burberry coat, put her Mulberry weekend bag that she had bought in the summer sales up on the rack and sat down, pulling her large, satchel bag close to her.

She got her portable CD player out. As the countryside through the windows began to move past her vision, she immersed her senses in the dreamlike sequences of John Barry.   It was going to be about an hour and fifteen minutes before they arrived at London Victoria, so she let herself relax.

She was not looking forward to going to work the next day. She wondered at her own laziness in terms of why she had never really bothered to look for another more suitable job. She had wanted to work in TV production and had ended up working as a business development manager for a small advertising company. She could forgive herself that particular choice, but what Charlotte found intolerable is that she had continued to work for the same organization and irritating group of people for over ten years.

What seemed like seconds passed by before she felt a tapping against her shoulder. She had been dozing, and gasped as she opened her eyes to notice that the train had stopped. The lights were still on, and all the passengers had left the train: all except one man, who was standing above Charlotte, looking at her face to see if he had managed to wake her.

She removed her headphones because he was talking to her. She looked quickly out of the window, assuming that they must have arrived in Victoria.   Unfortunately, there was no signpost in her vision to confirm her guess.

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear what you were saying. Were you saying something to me?” Charlotte found herself speaking like a schoolteacher, partly out of an unexpected awkwardness, although partly because she was still half-asleep. She felt as if she was struggling to conduct herself properly. Perhaps she was thrown by the fact that the man had disarmingly kind eyes.

“We’re at Horsham. Sadly, there’s engineering works going on so apparently they’ve laid on a bus service that goes to Three Bridges. I thought I better let you know before I got off myself. You looked like you were fast asleep.” The man answered her, smiling as he then got off the train and began walking towards the yellow WAY OUT sign.

She hurriedly put on her coat, pulled her handbag strap over her shoulder and grabbed her case. This typical inconvenience would have added insult to injury, as journeys go in Charlotte’s book. She would usually have whipped herself up into a fully blown melancholy regarding her bad luck when it came to travelling, if it hadn’t been for the noticeably warm way that man had spoken to her.

As she walked towards the exit, she wondered whether he lived in Horsham himself. She assumed he did, otherwise, surely, he would have accompanied her to the bus. Although he might have left in order to prevent her from feeling uncomfortable.   In any case, as these thoughts dashed swiftly through her semi-wakeful brain, her question was answered as she saw his elegant profile on the bus.

She felt a rush of blood to her cheeks as she stepped on board, which was packed with passengers from the train. Everyone had been forced to sit closer to each other, which was usually her idea of a journey from hell. But to her own surprise, she looked directly at the man who had spoken to her. She raised her eyes to heaven, as if to mock herself.

The man’s face broke into a wide, dimpled smile. He moved his hand with subtlety to indicate that there was a space free next to him. Charlotte’s heartbeat felt loud enough for everyone to hear it, but no one seemed to be paying her any attention. So she moved towards him and sat down.

“I’m just beginning to wake up.” She hoped that this might break the ice.

“Do you mind my asking what you were listening to?” The man asked her casually.

“John Barry, do you know his work?” Charlotte asked, a little embarrassed that she could not boast of more fashionable tastes.

“Now, isn’t that uncanny. We’ve just completed a proposal for a documentary on modern composers, and he is on our list.” The man answered, genuinely interested.

Charlotte did not seem to notice the lurching forward and backwards of the bus, the slowness of the journey or the proximity of the other passengers. She barely noticed one of the mothers screaming at her three kids to sit still.

“What do you do, then, as a job?” she asked, knowing the answer already.

“Me, oh, I’m a TV producer. I run my own TV production company. I should introduce myself, shouldn’t I? I’m Adam Hill.” He put his hand out and shook Charlotte’s. She blushed as she gave her name. One thing was for sure, she decided. She did not mind Sunday travel. She did not mind it at all.

 

 

God and the Wind

Latest news, I am in rehearsal for a show called Femage A Trois with Loquitur Theatre Company.  We perform on the 5th and 6th February at Theatre 503 in London, in addition to three dates in May at the Brighton Fringe, and for three weeks at the Edinburgh Festival.  Within Femage A Trois are three small plays which happen to be monologues, I perform in the first one, as Cathy in Safe to Shoot by Polly Churchill.  Perhaps I will see you there.  In the meantime, here is another story.  I wrote it back in 2000.  Enjoy.

God and The Wind

Smuggington was not an exceptional village.   It boasted a newly renovated non-smoking village hall where fêtes were held, when it rained. It grudgingly allowed three public houses, despite some vain attempts to keep the village dry, and one medieval church. Mr. Cecil Wind frequented the latter almost permanently. He was confident this would endorse the commonly held view, that he was a thoroughly religious member of the local parish.

Mr Wind was terribly pleased with the way he had prepared the old church. As an ardent member of the choir, he wanted to make sure there was every possibility that large donations would be made this time. He was particularly disappointed that despite his pinning a notice on the local news board, no one had shown any interest to help him. He stood up to survey his work, keenly aware that the vicar was watching him.

“No, need to overdo it, Cecil. You’ve done more than enough.” The Reverend Edwards tried to hold a tight reign on his own impatience.

“But, Reverend,” Cecil Wind spoke in hushed tones, “there’s never enough any of us can do for the church.”

“Oh, I think you’ve broken the record, Cecil. Now, go home. I’m sure you have plenty to do there.”

“Are you sure you can spare me, Reverend?” Cecil’s nostril’s flared pleasurably.

The vicar responded with a wintry smile. “I’m really not one to rush anyone out of the House of God, Cecil, but I really do have to ask you to, to, to…take what God has given you here and put it into practice at home, for heaven’s sake.” Reverend Edwards’ face flushed as he spoke.

The vicar watched Cecil Wind march purposefully in the direction of his castle, which comprised of a two up, two down semi-detached box that Margaret, his wife, and he had bought two years ago. Cecil decided he would brew himself a pot of tea before studying the garden for any stray growths. The geraniums were continuing to triumph in their beds, as indeed were the roses. Cecil was convinced that his recent horticultural success was entirely due to the special compost that he had been developing.

Standing at the edge of his garden, he was always hoping that his neighbours would notice his arduous efforts. Often, when they did finally look over their fence, as if by sheer coincidence he would start singing hymns. Some had been known to say their own private prayer to the Almighty entailing that if indeed Mr Wind was so close to his maker, could the All Powerful One do everyone a favour and shut him up.

No one particularly wished to associate with Cecil Wind. Even the regular churchgoers found him offensive. The main cause of this universal contempt was the fact that when the vicar would lead the prayers, the response to “The Lord be with you” would always be bellowed out by Cecil, pointedly annunciating every syllable in “And also with you.” He tended to do this accompanied with a fanatical smile, leaving the rest of the congregation in decidedly bad spirits.

However, these petty observations were not the only reasons why most of the village did not associate with Cecil. There was indeed a more mysterious cause that played upon their psyche. Margaret, Cecil’s wife, had disappeared six months previously.

By contrast, she had been well liked in the community, always providing spontaneous visitors with plenty of biscuits and tea. She even offered spirits, occasionally when she knew Cecil would not notice. She was fickle in terms of her church attendance but the vicar did not mind. When she did care to appear, it always seemed as if the sun had decided to shine through the recently renovated stained glass windows.

For the first two months of her absence, people made polite inquiries as to where Mrs Wind might be. They were greeted with monosyllabic responses from Cecil, who would occasionally expand, saying that he had been praying that God might know the answer to that question.

Cecil Wind’s neighbours were confounded by the idea that he seemed completely unperturbed by his wife’s disappearance, and it was at that point when Bunny Atkins from Number 36 made an unnerving observation. Over a cup of coffee one morning with Dora Bond from Number 40, she mentioned a casual fact regarding the state of soil in cemeteries.

As she bit into a piece of rather dry Madeira sponge, she alluded to an article she had read in the gardener’s section of the Smuggington Gazette entitled, “How Flowers Flourish in Graveyards”. Bunny Atkins had wondered what that had to do with the price of bacon, but Dora had qualified her comment by adding that Cecil Wind’s garden had blossomed in such a way since Margaret’s absence that it was impossible not to suspect something morbid. Bunny was still unclear, so Dora clarified her deductions further by stating that she would not be surprised if Cecil Wind had murdered his wife and buried her in the garden.

The news spread through the village like wildfire. Even Reverend Edwards had begun to believe it to be possible. It was therefore quite a remarkable day, when Margaret Wind appeared at the gate of her house in a golf cabriolet, a young, handsome man by her side. She waved at Bunny and Dora, who stood open mouthed as they pinned out their washing, temporarily under the impression that they were seeing a ghost.

“Hello, Dora, Bunny. This is my friend Carlo.” Margaret glowed over the fences.

“Margie, where’ve you been?” Dora shouted back, feeling irrationally cross with Margaret’s golden tan.

“Oh, Dora, did Cecil not mention? I’ve left him, darling. Moved to Italy. I’ve only come back to pick up some things. You haven’t seen Cecil, have you?”

From inside the house, a pair of net curtains moved imperceptibly against the window. Had anyone cared to look, they would have noticed Cecil’s beady eyes watching with malice. If it was revenge he was after, now was his chance. After all, God would forgive him.

A New Life

I am aware that I have not written my blog for exactly a year now, but I have been busy improving myself over 2017.  In particular, I have been performing comedy sketches that I have written with the very talented Emma Swinn at the Hospital Club Co-Lab events and I have spent three months on a course at Faber under the expert guidance of Rowan Coleman, in order to propel my novel writing which is 40 000 words in and due to be finished end of March.  I plan to join a sit-com writing course at City Lit once that is done, in order to proceed with my all female cross-cultural cross-generational idea,  a slice of which was performed by me and a handful of wonderful actresses also at the Hospital Club a couple of years ago.  In addition,  I had the privilege of joining the dynamic and gifted Wolfpack Productions to feature in one of their filmed comedy sketches for 2017.  The rest of this blog today will be  A New Life , my short story I wrote years ago.  I thought it might suit the new year.  Love to all.

A NEW LIFE BY KATE TERENCE

“No, I’m afraid he’s not here, would you like his voicemail?” Hilda tried to prevent the tone of her voice from sounding bored. She would not have blamed herself if she had become slightly monotonous. She had been employing the same excuses to the callers of this company for seventeen years.

Red lights on the switchboard had started to flash persistently which tended to demarcate the time when Hilda’s back would begin its perennial afternoon ache. Her bladder felt uncomfortably full, but she was damned if she was going to give the rest of the company the satisfaction of knowing how many times Hilda Winthrop went to the toilet.

She sighed as she thought back to all those years ago, when she had started at

Schneid, Finchwade and Swallow. The office manager, a young, enthusiastic trainee lawyer had shown her around. It had been clarified that as a receptionist, Hilda’s job was to answer all calls to the firm and deal with any visitors. When Hilda enquired about the breaks that she could take through the course of the day, the junior article clerk assured her that there would be ‘no problem with that at all’.

To prove it to Hilda, she proudly demonstrated how to use the Tannoy system. That way, she repeated to Hilda, if she ever needed to take a pause, she was to announce this requirement to the entire firm of sixty employees, and succour in the form of one or other work colleague would soon follow.

As the weeks progressed, Hilda became part of the everyday furniture that the company possessed. It soon became apparent that the rest of the workforce did not seem particularly concerned about Hilda’s minimal, if not modest need for toilet breaks. It seemed to escape their attention that they themselves made frequent trips to answer the most human of all needs.   Never having to suffer the indignity of announcing it to the world, their ability to empathise was limited. In fact, to her extreme humiliation, despite their regular and unnoticed ablutions, they also found it mildly amusing to casually tease her about her allegedly numerous visits to the lavatory, especially at Christmas parties.

Hilda took some comfort from the fact that it was only another ten minutes till the end of the day. Six hundred seconds before she would switch the board on to night service and head straight to the loo. She continued to answer the calls, maintaining as precise a tone as possible, as she clenched her legs together. As the digits on the screen hit six o’clock, Hilda pressed the appropriate buttons, grabbing her handbag and practically hobbling in the direction of relief.

Sighing with momentary solace, she just had enough time to wash her hands. As she drew a pinkish stain across what was left of her lips, the reflection in the mirror worried her. The unflattering lights shed a grey pallor across her face. What had once been laughter lines around her eyes and mouth appeared to be deeper crevices now, and the whites of her eyes had developed into a jaundiced shade.

As usual, the twenty-past from Kings Cross was disturbingly crowded. Hilda was sure she could feel varicose veins cropping up every minute as she stood, her lower back relentlessly throbbing into her spine. She put her left arm through the leather straps of her bag, placing her hand onto one of the metal rods to grip as if her life depended on it.

She felt her handbag as its weight pulled into the crease of her elbow, cursing herself for the unbroken habit of packing it so densely with unnecessary objects. Why she thought she needed small jars of coffee and some spare Marmite, only the heavens knew. Her spare hand dipped into her handbag, letting her fingers search for what she liked to call her lifesavers. After popping a barley sugar in her mouth, she did not feel so resentful, finding a sweetened world in the romantic novella she had started.

The train, almost out of spite, Hilda felt, drew into Kings Cross. She had just reached the part of the story in which the hero had decided that he had to declare how he felt to the leading lady. Hilda had naturally decided that she identified in every respect with the heroine, excepting of course the age. She gripped the book menacingly, marching purposefully towards the underground where the Victoria line would take her up to Walthamstow. Eyeing the carriage with intent, she spotted a seat, and like one possessed, ran to grab it.

As soon as she sat down, she joyfully re-entered the rosy world of the love story. After soaking up as much satisfaction as she could squeeze from the cheap words that decorated the page, Hilda took her nose out of her book. Looking up, a photograph of a young man and woman with back- packs grinned back at her from the wall. The advertisement advocated to “Live Your Life.” Below it was the name and logo of a well-known credit card that would supposedly help the individual to do so.

Hilda felt irrationally captivated by the picture. Before she could stop herself, a tear began to trickle from one of her eyes down her cheek. She lifted her book quickly up to her face to hide any further embarrassment. Somehow, though, she could not force herself to continue reading.

It was as if reality, in its harsh entirety had stared her in the face. Those two seemingly real people who had smiled from a photograph appeared to be enjoying themselves. The characters in her cheap fantasy novel were being portrayed as living their lives at the height of their emotions. Hilda, on the other hand, was worried that fellow passengers would see how she truly felt.   People on the tube always seemed to react to emotion so perversely. But she could not stop the tears.

All those years ago, when she first joined the firm, she had thought that Mr Swallow had shown an interest in her. She was not unattractive, and although she had one failed marriage behind her, she was certain that Charles Swallow did not find that a stumbling block. But after a brief, uneventful flirtation, it had become clear that Charles was friendly to everybody. It was just his way.

As Hilda walked along Edward Road, she looked up at the various little cottages. Lights warmed the insides of these happy homes. She pictured the contented faces of the couples preparing food for each other, after their hard day’s work. Although she herself smiled at the thought, her face felt stiff, unyielding in its movement. The pit of her stomach was as hollow as a cave.

As she placed her key in the lock, the pile of post shifted against the door. Slowly, she bent down and picked up the stuffed envelopes and flyers, heading upstairs. Spring had produced a gentle light to the marshes, so for a minute Hilda gazed outside dreamily. Every motion her body made was slow as if it had decided to stop completely.

Out of the freezer, she pulled one of her frozen food packs of steak and kidney pie, placing it in the microwave to defrost. She filled and switched on the kettle. Having removed her shoes with difficulty, she padded her way into the bathroom and turned on the bath taps. She did not bother with the bath salts. What, after all, was the point? Back into the kitchen she went, to pour out her tea.

In her bedroom, she removed her clothing, folding each item carefully onto the bedside chair. She sat on the end of the bed as she painstakingly pulled her tights off, the aches in her back persisting. Housecoat on and semi skimmed milk added to her tea, she took out the defrosted meal, and placed it in the oven. Mug in hand, she moved back to the bathroom and immersed herself into her beloved bath. She wondered what was on television tonight. She hoped it would be something funny. Hilda was in the mood for something funny.

*

Hilda sat up and gasped. The sitting room was baking hot. She had a terrible crick in her neck, and as she adjusted herself to the fact that she was in the armchair in front of the television, she looked at her watch. It was ten past three in the morning. After switching off the gas fire, lights and television, she dragged herself to bed.

She woke about eight hours later, the morning light already pouring through the gaps in her curtains. She continued to rest her head comfortably against the crushed feathers in her pillow, as she tried to work out what day it was. After a moment, she established that it was eleven o’clock, Wednesday morning. She was going to have to call the office to explain. Somehow though, the world felt good today. She was not going to panic.

Hilda picked up the receiver next to her, and dialled. After a considerable time, a flustered voice answered. To her own amazement, Hilda found herself saying that she was ill and that she did not know when she would be able to return. The voice on the other end of the telephone asked what she meant. Hilda repeated what she had said, her voice the same nondescript tone that she had used for work.

After putting the receiver down, she reached under her bed. She felt something like solid aluminium, and started to yank at it. As its top slid from under the bed, Hilda laughed in delighted recognition of her old stepladder. She quickly got up, dressing in some old clothes that she used to use for work around the house. She carefully positioned the ladder in front of the loft panel that led to the attic.

After making sure she had a torch in her hand, she braved the climb as if she had decided to pioneer entirely new territory. Ten minutes later, she descended, slightly dusty but jubilant with her ex-husband’s army backpack in her hands. The khaki coloured rucksack felt moist and was covered in mildew. Hilda looked at it and started to laugh. She felt no pain in her back, no weariness in her soul and a mild sense of euphoria began to overwhelm her.   This old, foul smelling bag was Hilda’s happiest sight for years. Tears accompanied her laughter but she didn’t care because nobody could see her, and so what if they did?

*

Charles Swallow, one of the senior partners of Schneid, Finchwade and Swallow, sat at his desk. A bemused expression was playing across his face, as he read his morning post. His secretary brought in his coffee and croissant.

“Did you see the one from Hilda, Mr Swallow?” His secretary watched Charles’ face for a reaction.

“Yes, I did, thank you, Susan. Better alert Human Resources to get hold of a temp whilst we look for a permanent.” Charles’ expression remained blank.

“Right, Mr Swallow, I’ll do that right away.” As the door closed behind her, Charles started to chuckle. A close observer would have seen some sadness in his eyes.

“Good for Hilda.” He said, “I’ve often wondered what Australia was like myself.” Charles muttered under his breath, as he read her letter of resignation for a second time.

 

Bali, Bollinger and Chiswick

C25C8646My last blog rabbitted on about my big birthday, which when it actually came on it’s real date, felt as if I were in mid flight and about to crash into a wall.  It was not aided by my expectation of some form of recognition of this big day from work colleagues, the head of the company having known me to work for her over a period of twenty years, interrupted obviously by various acting jobs.  Sadly for whatever reason, they did not remember, only realising it three quarters of the way through the day.  Perhaps something else was occupying their minds.  But I know how it made me feel.  And I will never repeat that expectation.

I have learnt a major lesson from this, although on the day itself, I was unable to stop crying when I returned home.  The wonderful Captain had prepared a Christmas tree in our new tiny cottage, the best Champagne on ice, and my loveable neighbours, who incidentally have only just met me, brought me some Bollinger Grande Annee.  Bouquets of flowers were waiting from the Captain and an old dear friend, so I began to feel soothed.  It is, if you have not been there yet, a daunting experience to reach half a century, with the sensation that any of the dreams one had wished to accomplish had not yet even begun.

But before I get maudlin, and start to morbidly discuss the recent tragic losses of the historic figures of David Bowie, and the charming and kind Alan Rickman, let me tell you about Bali.  We flew with KLM from Amsterdam, stopping in Singapore for a confusing hour, but I was enchanted with the flat bed system on business class. You sit in a cot that turns into a bed, any film at your disposal and running alcohol and food brought to you at your demand.  What’s not to like?  Despite my cold that I had caught at Christmas, I managed to sleep for about five hours, so that arriving at the Legian Hotel, Seminyak, Bali was memorable.

We had a suite that was larger than our own home, welcoming the air conditioning as the heat was even higher than I had expected.  The next evening, despite the spaced-out jetlag we dressed for a Shanghai 1920’s night to celebrate bringing in 2016.  Having been brought up in South East Asia, I was expecting it to be like Malaysia, but it was much hotter, so that the Captain and I literally dripped with sweat all over our faces and bodies.  We didn’t care, though, because the mere occasion gave it a sense of another world and another stage in life.  We blew loud paper trumpets as we watched the awesome fireworks display by the sea, and I felt I could face 2016 and being old after all.

The service was permanently brilliant, the Balinese are utterly unique, both proud and kind, mindful and individual.  Their faces are highly expressive and disarming.  The way they move about a space is like watching a slow, languorous dance.  Their hot, spicy food and too much sunshine on my third day sent me into a sunstroked haze for 36 hours during which I slept like a character from a fairy tale, awaking with a new kind of vigour to my step.  We waded against the powerful current of the ocean, we swam in the three layers of infinity pools, we visited Ubud with its rice fields and astounding glass and wood creations.  I chatted with some of the Balinese in the hotel and they explained that there was more likelihood of a baby being able to paint or carve before they had even taken their first steps, so natural to them was the  creation of art.

It must have blown the mind of the German artist, Spies, who discovered Bali’s artistic culture a couple of hundred years back.  I reckon if Gauguin had arrived in Bali instead of Tahiti, he would have produced even more extraordinary paintings, so violently different is this island.  We returned via Singapore and Paris, by Air France, and I watched and enjoyed Out of Africa having read my little writer friend’s lovely  Christmas gift, Circling The Sun by Paula McClain about Beryl Markham who was also part of the world and real life characters in Out of Africa.  I also watched Meryl Streep again in Music from the Heart which I thoroughly enjoyed, as well as her performance in Ricki and the Flash.  I basically had a Meryl Fest, while flying, and she is definitely a comfort on a long plane journey, no question.

The Captain and I are beginning to settle in our Snow White and the Seven Dwarves terraced cottage in Chiswick.  A few little things need to be completed ranging from the second little leak in the join on our new roof, the utility space and the dining and soft furniture.  But it is home, the new added building that makes up the bathroom is a triumph, the loft and ladder a boost, and our bedroom and study are as quiet as if we were not in London at all. Having decided that whatever downtime we have in the future should be spent in Italy, (I can already imagine my Italian oldest school mate laughing) we have decided to have Italian lessons, and have Italian nights with food and films and podcasts, so that we immerse ourselves in it.  I shall be looking to develop my massage skills again, with female clients only, as well as my voice over work.  I will also be keeping my ears and senses on full alert for acting work.  I feel poised to dive.  The board is springing under my pointed feet.  My arms are in the air, the deep water below awaits me.  A breeze brushes over my face.  I’m  ready.

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Champagne, Moves and Journeys. This is the age of Terence.

IMG_4471Well, we’ve moved house.  We packed for a good two weeks, left the rented flat in Fulham, and I left the Captain with Gentleman and a Van (yes that’s their name and they are cost effective, professional and brilliant) and scadaddled off to join my marvellous parents, for a few days, ending it with the mother at Grayshott where we saw Vanessa Redgrave looking distinctly cheekboney and immaculate.  All of which sounds rather smug.  It should.  We had a great time.  Massages, great food, a glass of champagne every night with our customary game of scrabble by the fire.  I noted how stress shows itself, because on the first night I was very anxious about the game, trying really hard to win, but on the second night it did not matter a jot, as by that time I had been pummelled to within an inch of my life and felt like I could breathe again.  Besides which, I never really beat my mother at scrabble, she is a wordsmith par excellence, while being German, her knowledge of English vocabulary is peerless.

We chose to watch a film in our room, since the nightly cinema ( a plush room with luxurious armchairs) had a choice that did not appeal.  So I borrowed Sunshine on Leith from their library, and we wallowed in the brilliant direction of Dexter Fletcher.  I had watched him play Baby-Face in Bugsy Malone, as well as his stints at the RSC and ensuing television career, but it was Alan Parker‘s influence that came across during his interpretation of this film.  One of its most wonderful points was that while set in Edinburgh, with the music from The Proclaimers, the gap between talking and breaking into song was seamless, which it so often is not in most musicals. I thoroughly recommend it if you have not seen it already.  I hope poor old Mr Fletcher wasn’t traumatised when as a schoolgirl on one of our school trips, I insisted on kissing him twice as he came out of the stage door.  A whole coach of giggling school girls watched as I placed my lips strategically on his face  and then ran before the coach sped off.

When I arrived at the new home, the delays that had taken place,( based on the one and only unhelpful neighbour insisting that he appointed the least helpful and most expensive Chelsea based quantity surveyor he could find) meant that the building works were about two weeks behind.  The other neighbours had rallied together and helped in a way that took our breath away.  One set insisted that while there were no tenants, we could use their place to stay in while the works were finished.  The others offered their empty garages to store all our moved belongings.  Without this exceptional assistance, we would have been well and truly stumped.  In twenty-five years of living in London, we have both not come across such kindness before.  This pocket between Chiswick and Hammersmith is proving to be a dream come true.

My journey to work takes me from my house, passing our local pub and across the A4 onto the glorious Chiswick High Street with its glorious cafés, antique shops and dangerously expensive pharmacies, which if you know me, you will know must be considered as perilous as an opium den to an addict where I’m concerned.  I am a toiletries junkie, and have to control it.  In fact I might start a group… Toiletries Anonymous. Hi, my name is Kate, I’m a toiletries addict… Anyway, I digress, so I leave for the city for my consultancy job via Stamford Brook.  On my way home, I get off at Hammersmith so that I can walk along the Thames back past my local pub and home.  I now call it my river, as I watch the tide ebb and flow, as the various moored boats tinkle and the light plays across it, the buildings at dusk silhouetted around it, I feel unspeakably lucky to live in my favourite part of London looking at the very water that the likes of Shakespeare and Hogarth and King’s and Queens saw.

Outside our bedroom window is a huge tree, perhaps forty yards away.  I have silently greeted it most mornings and it silently nods to me.  I know what you are thinking.  She’s going mad.  Well perhaps, but it is a nice way of doing so.  Especially as a significant birthday takes place this week.  I am spreading my celebrating of it right across the entire space of December.  I began with a lunch with an old friend at J Sheeky’s Oyster Bar in the west end, with my favourite food, half a lobster and a glass of Champagne.  In fact I had two, come to think of it.  Sponge pudding followed, while my friend had cheese cake and I had coffee, and he insisted despite already having bought me a cashmere jumper, (a delicious soft cowl neck in taupe) to pay for the bill.  I’m just a huge spoilt brat.  We strolled around the west end, and I finished the day watching a fascinating homage to Gore Vidal, who now strikes me as the Bernard Shaw of his time.

Among all these events we attended a fiftieth birthday of the German Prince’s as well as a Spectre-themed party at the Gore Hotel courtesy of my brother, Ferris Bueller.  We had the Captain’s mother to stay for a few days, as her birthday fell over those dates, which was a challenge, given that we had barely moved in, but we had arranged some brilliant outings with her, including dinner with all the neighbours at the local pub (I was offered and am now in love with our local gin, Sipsmiths), and her birthday was at the Villa di Geggiano which was so good, we have booked for my birthday this week, just for me and the Captain, as it is pricey but glorious.  They have promised me a free Negroni and I’m going to hold them to it.  We also went to see Lady and the Van in which Maggie Smith was at her best.  That said, it is not the choice of anyone who is easily depressed.  I cried throughout it, and did not feel joyful as a result of watching it.  So you have been warned.

I also attended press night of the RSC Wendy and Peter Pan as a good mate invited me to see her husband, also a good mate, in it.  My agent represents the good mate (I introduced them), and also two other actors who are at the RSC, so it was a tremendous night of both theatrical splendour and great chats.  I had the pleasure of meeting many sparkling industry people and then stayed at the good mate’s cottage, directly opposite the theatre.  I think he has a one minute commute to work.  Puts the District Line to shame, really.  One of my favourite parts of this whole event was the Brief Encounter sensation of meeting the good mate at Marylebone, which retains its old fashioned and sweet little nature as a station.  The train journey was stuffed but we ran into a kind agent acquaintance who happily gave his seat for us to natter, only to discover that our natter had to be on the “down and low” as we were in the quiet carriage.  A few giggles later we all disembarked at Leamington Spa.  I am trying to think of the collective noun for agents, producers and casting directors but Leamington Spa was full of them.  A Darling of Luvvies?  A plethora of Darlings?  Anyway, you get the picture.  We all piled on to the chuggy-train to Stratford, having connected with my brilliant agent and a rather groovy producer, and chuckled our way along.  Tremendous fun, all in all.  Just what the doctor ordered when acting work has made itself a little spare.

Champagne has been the theme, it seems.  My boss bought me a bottle to celebrate my move which was a joy as well as a surprise.  It simply never loses its attraction, as far as I’m concerned, especially Veuve Cliquot and Pol Roget.  Funnily one of my new young colleagues decided that I was very “Champagne” as a person.  Remind me, if you see me soon, to do my Audrey Hepburn “Champagne Darling” imitation homage.  I’m told it works.  She also said that she really thought I should be in a Baz Luhrmann movie.  I asked what made her observe this delightful fact. I suggested it was because I was possibly capable of being camp.  She said I was more than that?  Grotesque, I asked.  More than that she said.  So Baz, if you are reading this, give us a job.  You heard it here first.

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A French Exit

I was on the brink of making a French Exit from this blog, until yesterday, when I noticed that I had acquired several more followers on Twitter, on the blog itself and from Linked-In, so as a duty to the new followers, I feel I owe them a blog or two.  Those faithful readers who have stood by me for the last three years, I thank you, and my still possible French Exit was with no disregard to your fidelity.  It is just that I began to bore myself.

Some readers have perceived my musings as the real interpretation of a person who lives the life of Reilly. On reading some of the blogs that I have written, I can understand this misconception, so I hope you will allow me to correct this.  It has not been explained properly, by the author, myself, that is, that I heavily edit my musings, heightening the drama and events in order to make it entertaining.  I avoid actual names of real people, and I work hard to avoid my very personal issues, so that I can retain parts of my life to be private.

The events of this blog are sometimes true but not always the whole truth.  I reserve that as my privilege.  If that offends, stop reading or stop following right now.  That is your right.  Essentially this blog has selfish purposes, to stretch my writing muscles by learning how to put stories across within the boundaries that I set myself. I am the CEO of this blog, and its mission statement belongs to me.  So if I choose to write a pile of lies or a pile of truths, this country’s freedom of speech allows me to do so.  But it is important to be warned that it is entirely up to the reader as to whether he or she believes the events in it are real or entirely my invention.

With that pompous speech out of the way, I will now try to entertain any of the remaining readers of the blog.  I’m not sure I’ll manage it, as it has been a funny old summer. The Captain and I tend to become child-widow and widowers through most of July and August, while every friend of ours dedicates their life blood to their children’s school holidays.  They emerge in September, eyes wide with fatigue, unable to string adult sentences together, catatonic with exhaustion.

Knowing this, the Captain and I decided on a holiday in August instead of the usual cheaper June, since August was always devoid of work and our friends. We travelled round large portions of Andalusia, Spain, idiotically thinking we could naïvely turn up in various places and stay. Suffice to say it was permanently scorchio, but the shortages of rooms surprised us.  Here are the good bits: the supermarkets were fun, with glorious cartons of gazpacho and mammoth hams hanging for incredibly cheap prices.  I could have sat down on the floor and pretty much have eaten the lot.  We visited Vejez de la Frontera, where the food was delicious and I learnt that Sherry was called Sherry because the Brits, being the brilliant linguists that they are, felt that was their best attempt at saying the word Jerez, where the aforementioned fortified wine originates.

The Andalusian scenery on the long drives was fascinating in terms of its utter similarity to Arizona in California.  It was as if the landscape had originally been two identical brothers who were split at birth, except one was much larger.  It became clear why Sergio Leone kept using it for his Western films.  The Captain introduced me properly to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when we got home, to see if we would recognise bits, since Mr Leone brought Mr Eastwood to film it all in Spain fifty years ago.

A highlight was Seville which due to it being low season was cheaper than everywhere else. The city was architecturally very beautiful, the hotel still having old fashioned windows that you could open and watch the world wandering on the cobblestone streets, so it was romantic as well.

Ironically August has seen both the Captain and myself being very busy when we were not in Spain.  He has had a series of adverts, and as I write this he is returning from Budapest where he was dangling from a harness that the aforementioned Mr Eastwood had to wear for a previous film.  The Captain has a new couple of projects this next few weeks, whilst he oversees the renovation of the new home in Chiswick.  We move into it at the end of October, despite the delays, it will not be quite ready, so I, the Princess, will have to tolerate the Pea.   To my surprise, I was offered role of a bent copper whose love was unrequited in a German telly job, filming in Cornwall, thanks to my brilliant agent.  That proved to be tremendous fun, although I don’t think I am in love with Cornwall.  In fact, the Atlantic Ocean and its rugged winds are not my cup of tea, frankly.  Bit like Cádiz in Spain, which we also visited.

I became very attached to my make-up artist, who was confronted by me, looking bleary eyed having slept with pre-filming nerves accompanied by howling winds outside.  The miracles that he achieved on my face were nothing short of award winning.  I had to go back and forth from London to Cornwall, going on one of those tiny planes with massive propellers for a couple of the trips.  On the return journey, I sat next to a charming man who was employed by the actual airline as the Chief Engineer of the fleet.  So when the steward tried to explain how to use the emergency exit to me, I teased, ” Don’t tell me, tell him, he’s the chap who knows how to deal with an hysterical actress while he’s trying to open the door.”  Thankfully, he had a sense of humour.

I also got down to the last two for a rather good theatre job recently.  The only reason that this is being mentioned at all, is that the marvellous agent forwarded me a letter from the director, in which there were some heartening compliments.  But I did not get the job, so none of you will see me open the second act dressed as a kangaroo, which I venture would have been worth seeing. Time for Kate “Skippy” Terence to sign off. Or skip off.

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Summering Splendour

There are some strange folk out there who, I’m sure entirely for attention, confess that they like winter, snuggling in coats and sitting by fires.  F*** That Sh**.  Give me summer any day of the week.  I know I mentioned that I like the seasons. I do.  But it is in order to have a favourite, and mine is the summer.  I’ll provide my reasons, in case you disagree, which is after all, your right.  1/ The days seems longer, as getting up at 7a.m. is easy since the parakeets in the graveyard squawk until you notice them from 6 a.m. onwards and the light blasts into the bedroom from earlier than that. The evening hours only begin from 9 p.m., leaving stacks of time to do all necessary things with plenty of margin to doodle, read, write, pluck eyebrows, file nails, bathe, beautify, watch endless Netflix or HBO series and generally ENJOY life.  2/ All of this can be done without shivering from one room to another, in fact if wished and if fellow inhabitants do not mind (the Captain doesn’t) one can wander around naked or semi-naked. 3/ When needing to leave the sanctuary of home, coats, scarves and other ridiculous layers can be abandoned, producing a feeling of jaunty carefree childlike delight.  What’s not to like?

In addition, when your brother invites you and others to a Fleetwood Mac concert at the O2 in that sort of weather, life cannot actually get much better.  It began with lunch (on his invitation again) at the Chinese Cricket Club in New Bridge Street.  In a good sort of mood, the brother was quoting the soundtrack from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, while we had fragrant Dim Sum, Peking Duck and Pancakes accompanied by two bottles of very cold Gewurztraminer wine.  Merry, we all ambled through the hot pavements of the city to Leonidas to have coffee, where it is a Mecca for city folk, due to the extraordinary Belgian chocolates and marzipan fruits and jellies they sell.  On we went, to Blackfriars Pier to catch the Clipper to the O2.  Ferris Bueller, I mean my brother, ordered ice cold gin and tonics for all, as he sensed that since we had done this on the trip to the Eagles last time, it was swiftly turning into a tradition.  Oddly enough, no one disagreed with him.  Enough time had elapsed for us to develop an appetite for the meal that had been booked at Gaucho’s by the Captain, on his invitation.  He had wangled the best corner table on the first floor providing a fascinating view from the balcony of the excited guests and lighting displays before the main entrances.  The steaks and wine were exceptional.  We were all pretty high in spirits by this time, taking a drink in the VIP lounge before we went to our seats.  Words will not describe how exceptional Fleetwood Mac were.  Quite apart from the fact that their music awakens a formative time in both my brother’s and my life, their music and ability to play and sing it in the form of performance were astounding.  Their private histories that had created the dramatic glue that held them forever together (like their song, The Chain) moved me to tears and to joy.  Euphoria is the only word that might describe how they rendered me.  So Ferris, as my brother will currently be known, did well indeed.  Unforgettable.

The big secret that I have been hiding, is that the Captain and I have purchased a house by the Thames.  It is a minute terraced cottage, but it will be our home, and it is in an area where arty type folk seem to live.  I burst into tears when the Captain first found it and showed it to me.  We had extended our search to other areas, since we have had no particular luck looking in the past three years.  I was in the kitchen making tea, in a moment when having tea was totally essential.  I had staved off for the previous hour or two but was boiling the kettle when the door closed downstairs and the Captain marched up the stairs with glassy, staring eyes.  The conversation went as follows:

” You need to come with me now,” said the Captain.

” But I’ve just made a cup of tea,” said / whined the wife.

” It doesn’t matter about the tea, we need to get in the car, the Captain persisted.

” How about if I put the tea in a thermosflask?” asked the wife.

” By all means, but you need to come with me now, ” answered the Captain, who was quite used to her addiction to tea.

In that state we went to the little cottage by the Thames, and not being a poker player, as we walked in to it and the owners joined us, I burst into tears.  That’s how much I loved it.  Anyway, reader, we only went and bought it.  And now own it.  I can already see the Captain having a Sunday pint at the local pub by the river a stone’s throw away from the cottage, reading his paper and keeping company with the other arty intelligent sorts who do similar types of things.  There is some work to do to it, but it is now ours and the planning permission plans have been submitted so here’s to our new adventure.

My wonderful old mate from school (she’s not old but our friendship is the longest one standing) and her gorgeous young daughter came to visit and escorted me to the new house to collect the keys.  This was while the Captain was away in Bangkok filming an advert for a French bank.  We walked along the river from the rented flat to the cottage, and their company made the slice of paradise that it is all the merrier.  The previous two days had been made up of her being messed around by Easyjet (she will never be flying them again after two cancellations and two reschedules) resulting in her and her daughter’s arrival at 2.00 a.m.  Undeterred by the determination to have fun, we explored the wonders of our being able to walk to Chelsea in the summer sunshine, taking in all the shops, stopping for a light lunch, more shopping and then hopping on the bus home for some horizontal rest and cocktails on the balcony, followed by more walking to Parson’s Green for a delicious supper at Cote, the French Brasserie, on her invitation.  Having an actual summer has made all this possible.

A fiftieth in North London with an old friend was thrown into the mix of all of this, and all on American Independence Day. (which my father jokingly refers to as Britain’s Thanksgiving Day….. he was only joking…. we love our American cousins, honest, we do.  Come on, it’s that wacky crazy irony thing those British do, right? Right?)

Next weekend it’s a mini outdoor 45th festival.  I’m not sure if the Dalai Lama will make it there as he’s exhausted from Glastonbury, but let’s hope the weather holds for it.  I shall be sporting shorts and festival-type clothing in the hope that I don’t look like a reject from Woodstock.  Wish me luck.  I’m going to need it. Namaste and peace to y’all.

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Distilling the nonchalance.

  • I’m not sure that I knew what to call the title of this blog, since yet again, I will not be able to tell you the biggest thing that has happened.  I will soon, though.  But the process of my life feels as if it is all in a similar groove as one in which you let droplets form on a surface so that they eventually glide into a container, leaving you with a pure, sharpened essence of whatever it was you were distilling.  Or perhaps crystallization is another word I could use, for when crystals slowly form over time, when placed in the right environment.  What I am inarticulately trying to describe is how my life feels; that it is permanently a process, as opposed to a set of experiences with anticipated results. As an example, about a decade ago, I made an attempt to write a sitcom pilot, called Flaminia and Jane, due to there being some sort of BBC competition on.  Within a day I had written a half hour episode about two very different actresses, one who was naïve, chubby, unsavvy and eccentric, Jane, and one who had been a child actress, was anorexic, sharp, connected to everyone and anyone who was useful and a bit of a celebrity, Flaminia.  The unlikely pair end up sharing a flat and of course, through various rows and incidents become good friends.  I was told by producers that it was too “niche”, that not enough of the public would be able to relate to it.  Despite it being very funny.  A decade later we see Doll and Em on Sky.  A sitcom about two unlikely actresses who become good friends.  Somehow, the producers did not think their version of it was too niche, as it has been commissioned by Sky.  But then, Emily Mortimer, whose work I enjoy, is a real life celebrity, and I suppose that may have aided the decision making process. So, I have moved on, you will be glad to know.  I have written (in the space of a morning) a sitcom based on an all female office. Since Ab Fab covered that territory a while back, I am not worried about the idea being copied, as the more roles for women we can create for stage and telly the better.  I tried out 8 minutes of it at the Hospital Club’s Co-Lab, organised by Mia Mackie and originated by Orion Lee.  We had a cross generational and cross cultural cast of women lined up for the audience, and the experience was refreshing in comparison to the streams of all male comedies, mainly two handers that we now see on the box.  If I were to pitch it, I would say that it was an all female Dad’s Army meets The Office and Ab Fab.  The problem is I need backing and encouragement.  Bringing that many actresses together into a space and rehearsing needs motivation on their part, and that means being able to offer some sort of pay to develop it.  Anyone who is out there who thinks they can help get in touch.  I am on Twitter and Linked in, and my agents are the marvellous Sharkey and Trigg. So the crystals and droplets are forming.  With no visible result yet. My play (a three hander, one female, two male, under an hour long) is on hold at the moment while I make investigations into how or where I can workshop it.  I was hoping to do so at the RADA.  My acting career which is all I really care about, seems to have slotted into being on hold to the point that I am trying very hard not to think about it.  While people say that I should be going for plenty of castings, I couldn’t agree more, but I am not sure the work is actually out there.  If it is, there are currently no bites.  Anyone reading this who is in a position to change this take my advice: Bite. Bite. Go on, bite. A weekend away a month earlier than our actual wedding anniversary pleased the Captain and me.  His drought of work has broken, taking him to Berlin for one job, Shoreham for another and recently to Prague for a U.S series, so he is in a much better mood.  As a result we got in the snazzy car (the Captain’s guilty secret) and drove off to the white cliffs of Dover to hop on the ferry to Calais last Friday.  Seagulls, with their mouths slanting upwards, kept us company for most of the journey, so that an hour later in complete holiday mood, we zoomed along the empty French motorways towards the surrounding countryside. We stayed the first night at Chateau Tilques, which has sadly been taken over by the Najeti chain.  The beds and sheets had all the signs of mean cost cutting, but the staff and food were adorable, and the spot was very quiet with a swimming pool to wake us up.  We took off for Rouen, where the two star Hotel Cardinal were meant to receive us.  It turned out to be be a delightful hotel with very clean comfortable beds looking straight from our balcony to the Cathedral, but the couple who ran it seemed too exhausted to be at reception when we arrived so we had to call them to let us in.  I am Mrs Malaprop when I speak French.  I think I said that were were waiting at their “starters” ( as in food) instead of saying that we were at the entrance. The weather was breezy and sunny, producing the nonchalance that only the French do genuinely well.  We had a brasserie lunch in an open cobble-stoned market place, the women’s French perfume mixing enigmatically with the tempting smells of fried butter and garlic.  We ambled around, had an afternoon doze, woke to early twilight and stepped into the Cathedral de Rouen to find a choir and orchestra (being directed by Clarisse Bertucci) who while being filmed, were beginning the rehearsal of Mozart’s Requiem, which was so flawlessly executed that we stood spellbound, the Captain transfixed, myself with a face wet with tears. I even lit a candle, which, having a convent education, I have shied away from for years.  We ate supper at a quaint brasserie called Les Maraichers, which was so sumptuous and so cheap that I defy anyone to bother with England anymore. The Captain and I have watched plenty on the box.  We particularly loathed Whiplash as a film, especially after seeing the perfection of the French choir and orchestra.  We found it pretentious and indulgent, the implication being that perfection  must be achieved at all costs.  It reminded me,in it’s extreme values which slid unavoidably into camp tones, of The Red Shoes.  It left us with the conclusion, that you either have it or you don’t, and if you do, it shouldn’t be so impossible to attain. The last series of Mad Men was a joy to consume, and the last episode was so clever and inspiring that it made our spirits soar to feel that we had experienced it.  My parents had it with Mash and Hill Street Blues, and we have had it with Mad Men among the numerous golden age of shows of HBO.  Nashville keeps us interested in a casual sort of way.  I watched two films that I stumbled on and enjoyed, The Clouds of Sils Maria in which Juliette Binoche confirmed herself to be one of my favourite film actresses.  It had a very interesting premise, I thought about it a lot afterwards, which is a good sign.  I also enjoyed a Korean film called The Day He Arrives, filmed all over Seoul where my parents used to live.  Filmed in a glossy black and white it felt like a Korean Woody Allen, compelling me right to the end.  At the theatre, I have seen Sunspots at Hampstead, and Now This is Not the End at the Arcola.  Both plays had themes to do with dementia and family strife.  It appears to be the zeitgeist.  I found Sunspots slightly over written but otherwise very well executed, and Now This is Not the End was too ambitious with it’s theme, so that it’s dips were hard to take, but with some good acting in it. Fleetwood Mac awaits us at the O2 courtesy of my brother next week.  A gay wedding in Wiltshire also is pending.  A forty-fifth birthday as an outdoor festival camp is on the cards.  A fiftieth birthday and a reunion with my oldest Italian school friend and her daughter.  When August comes, we will drive and ferry to Spain.  And so the droplets keep distilling.  It’s going to taste very good when it is eventually ready.
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Weighing Anchor At Last

I do find the transition from winter to summer, back to spring down to winter , back to summer and back to spring ever so bloody difficult, don’t you?  I have seriously believed that my sartorial choices have catered for all seasons but even I have been utterly foxed by the ridiculous weather we have been experiencing.  Zara has of course come to the rescue with a pair of pastel pink jumpers, one close fitting to go with some flared jeans and high block heels, and one loose and flowing to go over pencil skirts and skinny jeans.  A beige cape covers the needs for the dry days, a Maxmara trench coat for the rainy ones.  But when the Siberian winds creep in, I am stumped I’m afraid.  Any ideas?

Two castings await me next week, one for a reputable fringe venue in London covering August doing a lesser known play of a well- known, but no longer living, contemporary playwright.  The other one is for a very well-known venue in London for which I would, if I were younger, strap myself to its gates, until they cast me.  So wish me plenty of “Merde”.  Or Chookas, as the Aussies say.

An eight minute chunk of the pilot episode of a sitcom I have written will be read by me and other brilliant actresses at the Hospital Club on June 1st, so I am trying to prepare material for additional episodes and be generally ready, in case, for some haphazard reason, somebody important shows interest.

The consultancy job has resumed it’s delightful atmosphere, as I have been given a different client on one of my two days, which has proven to me that my personal feelings of inadequacy were unfounded and that my abilities are as good, if not better, than they always were.  My colleagues and I work pretty well together, maintaining a sense of humour throughout, so that the day passes fairly painlessly.  At least they did this week.

Weekends have been spent at alternate parents, the one which took us to Lancashire with the Captain’s mother saw us at The Cartford Inn in Little Ecclestone.  It had a bewitching view, with a wonderfully informal atmosphere, marrying extraordinary regional artists’ eclectic work hanging on the walls with food sourced from the local area cooked to perfection and an outstanding wine menu, privately run by French husband and artistic wife from the area.  If you are up there, make it your first port of call.

My parents have fed me both at home and at The Angel at Petworth.  The latter remains a personal favourite because of its hosts and animated choice of art, garden and clientele, but they really must keep their usual chef, as he or she was definitely not overseeing our food that day.  Hey ho.

One night after work the other day, I was so stressed by my consultancy job that I drank far too much.  I did luckily end up home, but with the various projects that lie in front of me, and the physical effect it had on me, I ruled out my remaining social life, until those events are over.  My last social events were a dinner party near the parents in West Sussex with gorgeous friends, where I was served with possibly the best dry martini I had in my life.  The secret is to make it pink, with Angostura bitters.  I hope my friend forgives my telling a family recipe to my readers.  I also went to the Schenkman bar at the Royal Academy and put the world to rights with another dear friend, and it really is the place to do this, the waiters could not have been more helpful and kind.  But that is it, for social engagements.

The Captain and I were going to flit away unplanned to Dieppe on a ferry for this bank holiday weekend but when we read the weather reports we thought again.  So instead we have stuffed ourselves with both food and culture, having been on diets.  I hadn’t realised how starving I was but  Thursday night proved otherwise, as the Captain prepared hamburger and chips with all the relishes and gherkins and I polished off the lot.  Friday I prepared pate on brioche, followed by Pork Normandy (Delia’s recipe) , plum tart and two types of French cheeses with French red wine.  I think we wanted to make up for not going.  We sure did.  Hell, yeah, to use Millibandian idiolect.

Saturday we had the full fry up including black pudding although admittedly all grilled and the eggs were poached. That evening we watched Birdman and A Serious Man.  Birdman reminded me why I feel so betrayed by the Catholic religion.  As a child, the nuns tried to tell me that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit were all the same being, that when communion was taken, it literally was the body of the aforementioned Son, and that after dying on a cross over 48 hours, he came alive again.  Oh, and his mother was a virgin.  Well, if any of that makes you feel betrayed or lied to, that is the same sensation for Birdman, notwithstanding Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton’s fine performances.  It is fine to suspend disbelief for one person’s individual delusions , I do so comfortably watching James Stewart in Harvey, but when those delusions are seen and believed by another significant member of the cast, the belief becomes fantastical, a type of hyper – reality that simply makes me irritable.  I loved most of the film until it’s end.  But that is where the love stopped.  Do not get me wrong,  I love fantasy, but it is important to choose a genre and stick to it.  Ditto Lars von Trier with Breaking the Waves.  Regarding the Cohen Brothers A Serious Man, like Birdman, it was brilliantly acted,  but went down the Old Testament route, with a story that seemed to be a modernised version of Job.  At my Convent Boarding School, my most memorable read was  Job as it sealed my mission to dissuade as many nuns as possible from pursuing their faith.  My prognosis at the ripe old age of eleven was that if the reward for continuing to be good and kind indiscriminately,  holding one’s temper and generally praying a lot was to get shat on from a great height, then the lesson was to abandon this method of living, and adopt one with more guaranteed possibilities of happiness.  So whether I like them or not, these two films have certainly provoked thought.

Here are a few thoughts to add.  I don’t know much about happiness but I think I achieve some of it, some of the time, and here’s how not to be a Job or Birdman. 1/ If you want something passionately in life, try to go for it with all your might.  You only live once. 2/ If someone tries to shit on you, find a way to get out of the way, or shit right back.  Do not sit there saying, ” Oh dear, I wish you’d stop doing that. 3/  Never try to pre-empt someone shitting on you, always be well mannered and kind, unless they prove otherwise. 4/ if you are angry about something eg a good friend dying, death, life, find a way that is tolerable to your other half or your loved ones, to let it out, without causing harm to them.  There we go.  Sorted.

I am sorry if the language has been a bit scatological, but the Captain and I went to the Tate Modern today, which was not on that theme at all.  On the contrary, we enjoyed many of the works but we were reminded, as we enjoyed the view of London from the wonderful restaurant, of our visit, fifteen years previously.  The works were in the main based on themes such as elephant dung, naked men trying to do strange things with boxing gloves and their genitalia and other strange delights.  It prompted an incredibly satirical short film by the Captain of a character depicting a genuinely mad artist who purposefully ate fruit in order to produce the necessary art materials into his especially rubberised nappy trousers.  Thank Zeus, the Tate Modern is no longer the laughing stock it once was.

Our evenings are being completed by watching the last series of Mad Men, the last series of Justified and we now know we will have to download the third series of Nashville, to keep the great television addiction fed.  W1A makes us laugh as does Modern Family, Better Call Saul’s second series is anticipated sorely.  BBC Radio 4’s Dead Ringers should not be missed.

The title of this blog is at the heart of my current energy.  It is to do with a couple of decisions the Captain and I have made.  But certain restrictions do not permit me to make this public yet, but suffice to say exciting times are ahead.  I really did not mean to leave you on a cliff hanger.  But I have, haven’t I?

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