Friday, 4 April 2008

I`ll have the apple and celeriac soup, followed by intolerance, please.

sunny, warm, highs 16

Another lovely day in London. Sun streaming in to the flat. Michael's on the blackberry trying to arrange a meeting with a colleague about the book Michael is writing. Yesterday we had a great time. We walked over to the Kings Road, got a cell phone exclusively for UK use since we're here so often (coming back in June for CrimeFest in Bristol), then off to the Starbucks for a carrot cake, large cappuccino, and a quiet read in the upstairs lounge. Michael had printed out his book and I had the line edits of book 4 and we read through them.

As you can imagine, it was magical. I'm sure there are now more trendy, even more comfortable places than this Starbucks - but it's a place we both so associate with writing. we sat there years ago before STILL LIFE was written, with a carrot cake and large cappuccino. I remember staring out the sash windows at the flower stall opposite, notebook on my lap, imagining Three Pines, and making notes about possible villagers. Immeasurable delight to be back there with the manuscript for my fourth book, and Michael with the manuscript for his first.

Then we decamped and made for Chelsea Green and Cale Street. One of our favorite restaurants is there - Tom's Kitchen. Very bistro, all white tiles and long wooden tables and black and white photos on the walls of the people who raise the food. It's owned by one of London's top chef's, Tom Aitken. He has a Micheline-starred restuarant around the corner which Michael and I later visited, just to look in. The receptionist was so snooty we decided we didn't need to spend time there. But the wait-staff at Tom's Kitchen are wonderful.

It was packed, and noisy. Three mothers and their screaming children were at the long table behind us. The kids were shrieking and pounding spoons on the wooden table and the mothers seemed oblivious.

I was sending looks of loathing toward them, willing them to leave. Really whithering looks learned from my mother, the mistress of that steely gaze. I don't generally do that, not having enjoyed receiving them it seems unkind to do that to someone else. But this was an emergency. And the mothers really could have been more sensitive to MY needs.

Despite my Herculean efforts none of the women looked my way.

I took a break from my job of trying to reduce these women to puddles of cashmere and briefly turned my attention to Michael, who'd been talking for a few minutes now. He said something very funny and I laughed. Then, smile still on my face, I looked up. And caught the eye of one of the mothers.

She looked surprised - and then she smiled back.


I turned back to Michael. The children still shrieking, I tried to hear what he was saying. But the funniest thing had happened. A kind of alchemy. The screaming wasn't annoying anymore.

And I quite liked the mothers - or at least the one who had caught my eye and we'd exchanged a moment of humanity. Humour (albeit unintentional) on my part, and gratitude on hers.

Loathing was replaced by tolerance, even understanding. I hate it when that happens! Very humbling. I was reminded of something Golda Meir said - `A hero is someone who turns an enemy into a friend.`

The rest of the day was very pleasant, and I found no need to slay anyone with well-practice looks or a voice raised just enough for someone to hear the insult.

Today we have lunch with Erika, who owns the flat we`re renting - she seems to know everyone and everything in London, as well as Washington and New York. And I suspect she could have reduced those mothers to tears with a single laser look, instead of my heavy-handed harrumphing. Happily she seems very nice to us.

Then having Afternoon Tea in Piccadilly with my UK editor, Sherise Hobbs of Headline.

I sometimes wonder how I dare be in a bad mood when I look at my life. Mostly, of course, our great good health. And good luck.

Speak to you tomorrow with another postcard from London.


jamie said...

Lovely post about tolerance and humanity, Ms Penny--thank you!

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Jamie,

Please, call me Louise. And thank you. It's most humbling.


Anonymous said...

You seem like an incredibly pretentious & anal human being. You need to chill & get a life!