We’re asked: If you could split your time between two cities, and only two, which would they be?
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, that I love London so. That’s one city, and the other would be New York, (that’s New York, New York!)
I suppose almost everyone loves the city that they were brought up in. I am a city person, not one much for views. I see a pleasant vista and think: ‘that’s nice, let’s move on.’ People – there’s the thing. People make the world go around, not always very well, but better than scenery.
London and New York have characters whom I understand. They have quick wit and a tongue to match. Dorothy Parker, who wrote for the New Yorker once said: “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”
I was once in a very frightening situation, of which I may write another time. It involved a long dark corridor down which I was being pushed, helped along by a gun in my back. I stopped dead: not going to go there. I heard a London accent say: ‘Use your loaf, duck, and you’ll be alright.’ So I did. That voice was very comforting: my virtue would remain intact.
‘Loaf’ is cockney rhyming slang for for ‘head.’ (Work it out.) My head told me it was a robbery, and insurance would cover it.
The city of London has the tower. The Tower of London is filled with ghosts: history is in every stone. I can feel those people. John Donne, who married his cousin at the King’s displeasure. He scratched on the wall: “John Donne. Anne Donne. Undone.” Wit, at a time like that!
New York has Ellis Island. More ghosts, so many poor souls went through there. Ellis island is, for me, steeped in anguish. The people who got through, had made a hell of a journey and arrived in time for the Depression, and survived. That is spirit.
There are so many great cities, most of which I don’t know, but I would be happy to split my precious time between London and New York.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “RSVP.”
The brief was: ‘Give a person you are close to a wonderful day.’ Where? Who? What was served? What happened?
Due to circumstances, I don’t have anyone close to me. Ah! No, really that’s all right. I am very close to myself. I do have good friends, but that’s not what you meant, (I’ve decided.)
So I can have a wonderful time on this trip. I can choose exactly what I want. As I’ve inferred, I’m very fond of… me. I’ve chosen the past, a long time ago when men were suave and women no better than they should be, but elegant with it.
So where? Well it would have to be in the south of France, possibly Biarritz. Hotel du Palais. 1, Avenue du l’emperatrice! I reckon we could find a good billet there. I can see my friends sipping something super in the bar. A sumptuous bar, but a bar just the same. They won’t mind.
Who they are is not difficult. I have always thought that I’d enjoy a pie and a pint with Noel Coward. He talks my language, well nearly. He gives an example of ‘aplomb.’ “Entering a white tie and tails party wearing an ordinary suit, a man announced: “Please, I don’t want anyone to apologize for over dressing.”
I love it.
I’d like Oscar Wilde at the table, he who was banged up in Reading gaol. Imagine the wit! “I’m so clever,’ he’d say, ‘that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I’m saying.” While I’m laughing at that, he’ll say: “I don’t want to go to heaven; none of my friends are there.” He and Noel will then vie for the best line. Oscar would win, I think, but I once read that my friend Noel stated when nearing his last, that love was the whole point of everything. That might put him a few points ahead.
They are both very flip and clever, but then Oscar carries the day. “You don’t love someone for their looks,” he says, “or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” That gets me where it hurts. I have to look away.
For a female companion it’s a no brainer, it’s Dorothy Parker. She will drink a martini of course. (Look that up!) She’ll hold her own against the wit of the men. I think I’ll explode as I hear her drawl: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”
The food? I don’t give a damn about the food – I just don’t want to leave, but I must.
What happened? Well nothing romantic happened, we’ve all got the wrong plumbing.
This party is over now, but as Dorothy says:
“If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you!”
The prompt was to link a cat, a bowl of soup and a beach towel. So, here we go.
Chester had a smile like the Cheshire cat. A black and white Cheshire cat, because that’s what he was, living as he did in the county of Cheshire, in England. Chester smiled today because he was comfortable, lying on a pile of beach towels. The beach towel on top was particularly fluffy. It belonged to his Carer, the lovely Samantha.
Those in the know will catch on straight away that Chester is not near a beach, so something was up. Samantha had a plan, and Chester was having none of it. His best bet was to sit on the towels.
Chester liked to think that the town of Chester was named after him, but the reality was that it was named Deva Victrix (Good grief!) by the Romans in AD74. It was founded in the reign of Vespasian, having been one of the three main army camps at the time. (How awful!) It was in the Roman Province of Britannia. It was made a city and re-named much later on, by somebody sensible.
Those pesky Romans, along with the dastardly French, were always a nuisance. Chester was one of the last cities to fall to William the Conqueror in 1066. (Giving himself that title, speaks for itself.)
Now Samantha was tickling behind his ear. That was quite nice. She put out a finger, and he nibbled at it, there was something tasty on that. He sat up and took an interest. Samantha was eating from a bowl of something, soup by the look of it. Was it nice? She had put some on a saucer and was pouring milk onto it. Mmmm.
Curiosity. Chester knew that curiosity killed the cat, but that was some other cat, and that was a delightful smell wafting over. He got up and stalked to the table, leapt onto the chair, and…
Samantha had gone and collected the pile of beach towels!
How sneaky! What a cheek!
Chester knew though, that he had won.
He was the cat that got the cream.
Chester would like to thank Wikipedia for its assistance in this matter.
Dancing, that’s my down and dirty secret. When I’m on my own, particularly when I’m watching Strictly Come Dancing on television, then I dance like there’s no tomorrow.
I don’t do it when I go out, even if my favourite music is on. I might twitch my hips if I’m quite sure that no-one is watching, but I keep in mind that I really do care if I make a fool of myself. There’s something about older people dancing that is faintly repulsive.
Once in a very blue moon I will turn it on. Once, back in Nepal when we stopped for lunch at a restaurant, far from the poor folk we were working for, I danced with a boy of sixteen. They had a disco going and he asked me to join him. Not a sedate dance, I soon found out, he wanted to go for it. So I did – and he followed my steps. It got better and better and when the first dance finished and we started again, the audience parted – you know, the way they do in Hollywood films, and we had the floor to ourselves. I called it a day at the end of that. Quit while you’re winning!
Before our group departed, I saw the boy again. He was with friends. We nodded politely. It’s nice to know that others have a secret side.
I’m a polite person on the face of it: butter wouldn’t melt…
If you would like to know me better… Just ask me to dance!
‘Write in six words what you expect your future to hold.’ That, more or less was the brief, ‘and then, they said: ‘expand on the theme.’
For a very long time I have thought I would turn up my toes in fourteen years from now. Fourteen years of fun and frolic is what I shall aim for.
I confidently expect to get my way, I’m good at that.
First, let’s take a look at our future. Our expectations depend to some extent on what age we are at this time. If you are young, you may be intent on becoming a star of stage and screen, or a football hero, or better yet an entrepreneur with that light bulb flash of inspiration. Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, James Dyson, they’ve all had them. They’ve all had to put in the hours and would probably tell us that it isn’t easy. Be careful what you wish for.
If you’re mature – I much prefer to use that euphemism – you are likely to want to live life through your grandchildren, confidently expecting that they’ll love you for it. Remember – be careful what you wish…
Me. I’m footloose and fancy free. I wish that was not the case, but with maturity comes loss, and one looks for compensation. One is entitled!
My mother said that when you’re … mature, you can be outrageous and nobody minds. So I will be. I shall dress inappropriately, drink a little too much, dance like nobody’s looking; and throw myself at some passing philanderer.
In London, Ellis Hudson knew the ropes. In Los Angeles he is finding his feet – and stepping on toes. A wannabe Philip Marlowe, his client fits the bill rather too well. She’s dark, delectable and definitely dangerous to know. Penny Alvarez believes in sell-by dates, after which she will strip a man down, make him purr, and let him die happy. She’s the client, but Ellis Hudson has to call in the cavalry. He needs all the help he can get!
I’ve added an excerpt about Penny Alvarez. She is what Ellis Hudson is up against!
It was going great. Tony’s knees had buckled slightly as he heaved the sail bag up across his back, but he rallied with a word or two from Penny. Both bags were transferred to the waiting boat, and Penny breathed a sigh of relief. It was another step completed.
Her heart was beating fast. She had disposed of inconveniences before, various modus operandi, but basically they had all been the same. This time was…. well, it was different. This was a culmination. It was the end of a very long road.
Tony gunned the engine. It fired. They had noted the mooring and the boat would be returned to the same place. Who was to know, as long as they got it back, that it had ever been part of an adventure?
They kept the throttle low. Nobody had shown any interest; there were indeed not many people about.
‘How far out?’ Penny asked.
‘Ten minutes should do it.’
‘Make it fifteen,’ she said.
At last they puttered to a stop. Tony was straight into action, wanting this over as much as she did. It was no easy matter. Both bags were heavy. One bag would remain heavy, but the other must be weighted down permanently, it must not surface as time went by. During the journey out Tony had unscrewed the guard rails. The bags were on the cabin roof.
Tony continued masterful and in charge.
‘Keep out of this until I say so. It’s too damned easy to become attached and go over with the rest. Many a fisherman….’ He was getting his message across. Penny wished he had always been like this… Perhaps he had – she had loved him once.
She perched a safe distance away and watched him tie the bags together, wind more chain round the outside, until finally he sat back, satisfied.
‘You ready for the big push? He asked.
‘Check yourself over, no loose cords; no strings attached? He grinned. He was actually enjoying this, and transferring the mood to her.
‘I’m loose.’ A quick smile.
She got into position, braced her legs, made sure her arms could be easily pulled free. He checked her again: he checked the bags. He was ready.
‘Heave!’ he said.
By God they were heavy, but the bags moved from the cabin roof. The first one snagged on the deck and they heaved again to keep it going. The second bag came down and they put their backs into getting the momentum to push it over.
All of a sudden they were gone, with an almighty Whoosh and a clatter! Surely it had woken the whole of the near-by marina?
All was silent.
They stared at each other, and then Tony opened his arms wide and she fell into the embrace.
‘It’s over.’ He buried his head in her hair and drew a deep breath.
‘It’s over.’ She savoured the smell of him.
They laughed in unison. ‘It is over!’
‘Let’s go home,’ Penny said.
The boat was returned to its moorings. Yes, there were drag marks on the deck, but that could have happened at any time, and for craft that had been neglected it was only to be expected.
All they needed to do was drive away.
‘How about we take the pretty way?’ Penny asked. ‘The coast road: over towards Los Palos Verdes?’
‘You’re a glutton for punishment! I’ve had enough excitement for one night.’
‘I just thought we might find a little place to lay our heads – when the inns open. We could make it a romantic week-end.’
‘That’s different. Now you’re talking. I’ll go for that!’
The road was winding. They were cruising, taking their time. No hurry now.
Penny was running the caper over in her head: no loose ends as Tony had said. Nothing to trip them up. They’d been way out to sea and nobody was watching them anyway. Just tonight to organize now and that must be perfect. She checked the road behind them in her rear view mirror. No lights. She drove around another bend, the road was climbing, and the view was fantastic. Still no lights, they had the road to themselves.
‘Can you feel that?’ She asked, frowning, leaning towards him.
‘There’s something wrong, the car is wobbling.’
‘It’s the wind up here.’
‘It feels more like a puncture.’ She pulled the car to a halt against the cliff. ‘You want to take a look?’
Tony sighed. ‘I won’t be changing no wheels up here,’ he said.
‘I’m not asking you to do that, but I may have to call Triple A. A wheel out of shape is dangerous.’
‘OK,’ he grumbled.
‘Make it quick.’ She said.
Tony got out. ‘Front or back?’
‘It feels like the back.’
She waited, with the engine running. She moved forward a little, causing him to shout. ‘Hey! Where are you going?’
She calmly put the Lexus into reverse, and hit him just enough to knock him over.
‘Hey!’ He shouted again – before she ran slowly over him. Nothing dramatic! Nothing had been enough to leave marks on her car. In Drive she ran forward over him to make sure he was dead. She wouldn’t put it past Tony to have survived!
She watched the road; still no lights. The cars would come sooner or later. Move fast now Penny – get away. Your life may depend on it.
She had to reach the twenty-four hour car wash. She would go through it twice. There would be time to dispose of her overalls and definitely her shoes, somewhere up there.
Frankly, it had been a long night. She would be glad to get home!
I really enjoyed writing this book. I hope you enjoy reading it. Quite apart from nominations, if you would care to leave a comment here, I’d love to hear from you.
Nepal, October 2013. We were in a truck, a big, blue, ugly job we called The Limo. There were fifteen of us; the good, the bad and the nearly. We had come down to the rice
fields of the Chitwan valley to help build part of a school. It was for the lowest of the low, the Untouchables. We were with a charity doing good works.
We had already done the plane and coach thing, having flown from England to Kathmandu and travelled by bone-shaking bus. We had started our project at the school, had mixed sand and cement, plastered ceilings and fallen in love with the children, when we got the bad news.
The Maoists were being revolting. As I understood it, there had been a recent election where the Maoist party had done rather well, so the government called for another election. Simple. My sympathies lay…….. Well, let’s not get into politics.
Now, the aggrieved called a general strike. No buses, trucks, transport other than rickshaws could move, on pain of being set alight and turned to ashes. Not our Limo? Not with us in it? A conference was held, and that was how we came to be sitting in the truck on the outskirts of a village, waiting for the motorbike to come back and tell us the score. We went to the school by the back roads through the smaller villages, and the outrider checked each one before we went on.
Oddly, we were not afraid. We were a tough bunch of nutters, and we discussed our plan of action should the worst happen and we were discovered. We had among our number a fine looking woman called Pat. Pat had a haughty beauty, and a way with unusual verse: at the drop of a rucksack, she would quote great chunks of Kublai Khan and keep it up until your eyes glazed over and you drifted into sleep.
There was our strategy. If our truck was discovered and we were arrested, we would send Pat down to negotiate. In double quick time the Maoists would release us. They would let us go, taking Pat out of their lives forever. We had the ultimate deterrent.
We did this daily, conferring with our leaders and the locals to see which route we should take. We finished the school, said goodbye to the very touchable Untouchables, and headed back to Kathmandu. All except Pat.
Pat, in her mid seventies, hiked up to the Himalayas, intent on some skiing, and then bussed it over to India alone, against all advice. She might have got to the Hindu Kush before making it back to England, where not long afterwards, she died.
Now, there’s a little part of heaven somewhere, which I shall avoid. It knows an awful lot about the Kublai Khan.
I very much loved that experience. I very much like writing, too. My third novel, LALA LAND by Malabar Cash is doing well on Amazon books for Kindle. If you’re ready to fall in a heap with a good book after the holidays, it’s just a few clicks away.
If the rain is persisting, there is nothing I like better than to go with the flow. I get the gang round and set into a liquid lunch. Gin and tonic, accompanied by chicken and water melon salad, followed by Italian water ice. Eau de vie to finish.
If singing is required, and it always is after Gin, Frankie Laine’s ‘Cool, Clear Water’ is raucous and easy to belt out. Bob Dylan’s ‘Spirit on the Water’ is only for the cognoscenti.
Since this is my party, we will concentrate on Frankie Laine. What a nice guy, and what a fascinating career! He was a kid living with his grandfather when his grandfather got shot dead by gangsters. Now that is a bad start in life!
He had four or five career failures – World War two got in the way. He was at one time sleeping on a bench in Central Park. He said he got bodily thrown out of various New York hotels. He would creep into empty rooms and sleep on the floor.
He finally made it to the big time with his rendition of ‘That’s My Desire’. The day before the recording he owed more than seven thousand dollars. Then his career really took off, and he paid off all his debts, except one. His friend, Perry Como would not accept the money. Como kidded him for years about the debt.
He was a supporter of the Civil Rights movement, and generously supported the Salvation Army among a lot of other good causes. He was a good friend to Nat King Cole. He boosted Cole’s career in those bad old days, by appearing as a guest on his show, not done before by a white entertainer. Other stars followed suit, but not many. Frankie Laine was a pall bearer at Nat King Cole’s funeral.
He had no delusions of grandeur and performed until well into his eighties for the fun of it. His story about his first hair piece goes down well at my parties. He did a bad job of gluing it on. In Chicago, the Windy City, it got whipped off his head and rolled down the road like Tumbleweed. By the time he retrieved it, it had been run over several times. It looked rather pathetic.
His first marriage lasted forty three years, until his wife’s death. At aged eighty six he married again, a commitment that only ended at his own demise.
His ashes, along with those of his first wife were scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Now, since we were talking about water, that is a significant stretch of the wet stuff.
The party’s over now. I wish he could have been there in person.
Let’s raise a glass to Frankie Laine before we wander off home. Of course, we’ll be singing in the rain!