31 October 2009

Tricks and only a few treats

I love Halloween.

And I have fond Halloween memories of my American childhood, dressing up in costumes, going "trick or treating" door-to-door in our safe, little neighborhood, and to parties where we bobbed for apples, and did "The Monster Mash."

I know that a lot of that has changed in these days of protective caution, but in some sectors, I believe Halloween still remains the joyous, goofy, play day it was for those of us over the age of 30. It certainly is in New York City, where the West Village comes to a stand still for the annual costume parade. 

The high jinks of Halloween also come natural to me, being a woman of the theatre, as such, I am staggered by how it hasn't really caught on as a concept in Britain. They simply don't get it.

Yesterday, I donned a white kitty cat mask, complete with fluffy white tail, and surprised the D.E.B. at work with a platter full of treats for him and his work colleagues. I thought it was hilarious, and he loved it! (And I don't think he was merely humouring his zany, American wife.) 

There was much speculation as to who or what I was meant to be: birthday kiss-o-gram or kinky fetish stripper? 

Last night, the D.E.B. met some friends for Happy Hour at the pub. For this event, I tried a more subtle approach...black leather kitty ears, instead of the full face mask, and no tail this time...

Bemused looks greeted our arrival, until I explained: "Tomorrow's Halloween."

I've been told that most Britons had no concept of Halloween, in the American sense, until they saw it in action, as depicted in the film E.T.  Good grief, Charlie Brown, is all I can say! 

Someone else suggested to me, "It's hard to sale Halloween to a nation of people who actually believe in fairies and goblins, and have houses full of 400 year old ghosts."

So, here I sit, bowl full of chocolates, and not a trick or treater in sight!

The D.E.B. and I are not doing the Monster Mash, but are instead off to a Quiz Night at the Village Hall. (I just may wear my ears..)
Where is the Great Pumpkin when you need him?

29 October 2009

Doing my bit for charity...

“New to You”



Saturday, 7 Nov 2009

10:00 AM – 3.00 PM

Barford Memorial Hall,

Barford, Warwickshire

Admission £2.50

Teas, Coffees, Raffle

Featured Seller: 

Portion of proceeds to Cancer Research UK

Alas, it is true!

Sage readers:

To put your many troubled minds at ease...

The story relayed to me by Tricia Stewart of her friend who successfully promoted her work herself, is in fact ... TRUE!

From The Telegraph: "Preethi Nair duped the literary world by leading a double life to get her novel noticed. It paided off."

Check her out...Preethi Nair.


27 October 2009

Calendar Girls and Ladies who lunch

Gorgeous, glistening, Autumn day – I love October! English landscape whizzing past, dressed in dazzling colours of Indian summer. 

I am riding ‘shot gun,’ with our W.I. President, en route to Claverdon for the Myton Hospice Ladies Lunch at Ardencote Manor.

Upon our arrival, my fearless leader makes a bee-line for a tall, blonde woman at the bar. It was Tricia Stewart, the leader of the original Calendar Girls. (Helen Mirren played her in the movie.)

I was thrilled to have an opportunity to meet her, she was stunning! And she was just as ballsy and effervescent standing before me, as she had been portrayed in the film. 

After we were introduced (and I’d taken a ton of photos), over a “welcome drink,” we chatted about W.I., New York City and writing.

She has written a memoir of her Calendar Girl experience, and had a copy of the Japanese edition with her. (“I have no idea what it says,” she beamed brightly, “but the pictures are the same, so I guess that's alright!”)

She shared with me the hilarious story of a friend of hers, a struggling, New York writer (aren’t we all?) who, in act of sheer desperation and utter genius, successfully pretended to be her own agent! 

Tricia’s friend used a false name, a fake voice and 'do-it-yourself' letterhead, and managed not only to get her feet through numerous, previously locked “we-only-deal-with-agents” doors, but actually she got her manuscript onto the right desks, and negotiated a very nice book deal for her top 'client': herself!

What a hoot! Happy, happy, joy, joy, to think of all those silly publishers getting duped by a super savvy writer!! Ha! And, quite frankly, they all deserve it.

Our conversation was interrupted by one the formally dressed Ardencote Servers inviting us to take our seats in the grand dining room. 

The tables were gorgeously decorated with autumn flowers, brightly polished silver, menu cards with Tricia’s picture on the front, and a small collection box for donations to the Hospice charity.

As I took my place, I glanced about the room, and I was struck by the realization that in that instant, I had become my mother... 

Around me was a beautiful sea of fashionably coiffed graying heads; richly clad in designer bouclé and pearls.

I was undoubtedly one of the few women in the room under the age of 60, and yet, I felt at home, and a strong sense of kinship. 

I recalled the times when my mother would allow me to skip school for the afternoon, to attend one of these same sort of lovely, special, charity, social lunches with her, in aid of the League of Women Voters, UNICEF, or the March of Dimes, to name but a few.

It may be an ocean apart from the tiny world outside Little Rock that I grew up in, but clearly  not so different in some ways. 

For, here I am now, bazillion miles and dozens of years away from that time and place, continuing that great feminine tradition of women who care, and hope in some little way to make a difference.

(In this moment, I miss my mother incredibly, and she seems, as she is, an ocean away. I wish that she could have been there beside me.)

Over the elegant servings of lamb shanks and mustard mash, Jo, the delightful octogenarian seated to my right, tells me of the joy she feels giving her time as a regular volunteer at the Myton Hospice.

Jo’s body is slowly giving way to time, yet her spirit as quick, lively and fresh as a teenager’s. 

“There is so much to give, and the smallest thing can make a big difference,” she tells me, her crystal, blue eyes sparkling.

One person can make a difference. 

And this sentiment was at the heart of Tricia Stewart’s dynamic, after-lunch speech.

Tricia electrifies the room with her hilarious tales of how the Calendar Girls came to be the global phenomenon that they are.

Humble and humorous, in true-blue, Yorkshire fashion, Tricia regaled us with the highs and lows of her Calendar Girl experiences:

“Helen Mirren cut her teeth playing me, then went on to play The Queen!”- Tricia Stewart

I left that afternoon feeling energized and inspired.

 At the heart of Tricia’s message was the indefatigable power of love, and the power of one.        

24 October 2009

Undeniable proof there's a God...

1.) US retailers Anthropologie to up stores in the UK

The mothership has found me at last! 

(Now, if only J.Crew would follow suit, my life would be complete...)

Anthropologie UK


2.) Lakeland’s Yorkshire Pudding Pan

Thunderous and reverberant sounds of the “Hallelujah Chorus” being sung when I opened my oven door last Sunday, to reveal the most perfect, light, airy, delicious and EFFORTLESS Yorkshire puddings I have ever made. Take that, Nigella!



3.) Libby’s Tinned Pumpkin back in stock at American Sweets Company

They have 3,000 tins of this precious, precious stuff in stock this season for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. One can only wonder…will there  be enough???!

Life without Pumpkin Pie simply is not worth living.

American Sweets Company

16 October 2009

Relics of the past

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,/But not expresse’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy,/For the apparel oft proclaims the man. - Hamlet

Yesterday, I spent a rainy, October afternoon in the delightful company of Ella Myles, the proprietress of Corina Corina, Warwick town’s premiere Vintage and Pre-Loved Designer Fashion shop. In short, it’s a little slice of heaven.

Surprisingly, I was not there to buy, but there to sell. A very different, and utterly unique experience for me. Which has felt me thinking:

What is about women and clothes?

What is the mesmerizing connection between a woman and the bits of fabric that adorn her body, and her closet?

Clothes may only proclaim the man, but they certainly do make the woman.

Over steaming cups of coffee, Ella and I pondered over the treasures I have amassed, and are now ready (albeit in some cases quite, quite reluctantly) to part withal.

My reasons for selling are practical: due my new-found diet of carbs, with a side of carbs, most of this stuff just doesn’t fit anymore; but there is of course the financial incentive. I am used to being utterly independent and self-supporting. And so, this new-fangled life as “Taken Care Of Wife,”“Freelance Writer” and  “Freelance Scholar” sometimes feels a bit uncomfortable and ill-fitting, like my sexy, size 0, Nanette Lepore suit.

As a result, I find myself daily hatching plan after grand plan to revive my flagging spirits and welting career. This week, I was in need of a little instant gratification, hence my launch into the world of fashion re-sell.

It is ironic, how the tables have finally turned. In the not so distant past, “instant gratification” for me and my NYC diva chums, meant a spend binge in Soho (Anthropologie, anyone?), followed by over-priced, Earl Grey martinis at Pegu on West Broadway. Of course, we would weep for days after, racked with guilt at the money we’d spent.

I’ll have to phone my friend, who is now a “Happy Housewife and Mum of Two” living in Dubai, and see if she remembers these times.

Our tiny apartments were on opposite sides of Washington Square Park, and routinely, one or the other of us would make that mad dash through the Washington Square Arch, shopping bag in hand, frantically buzzing ourselves into the other’s building, to ultimately bang on the door and declare: “Look what I’ve done!” confessing and revealing the evidence.

“You paid how much!?” the other would respond in both disbelief and awe. But then, sensing the other’s desperate need for forgiveness and absolution, here came the salve: “Well, it is gorgeous. And you do deserve it. In fact, you’ve earned it!”

The remedy also resembled our Anglo-Catholic backgrounds: “Forgive yourself. Give something away to charity, have a few Bloody Marys and a Cosmo.”

Those were the days. Crazy, madcap, Manhattan days. It was dazzling, but it was also cold, brutal and harsh.

As I stood in Ella’s shop, examining each bit of clothing with her, it was like flipping through the pages of a book. Turning over the leaves of my single girl, Manhattan life storybook.

It broke my heart to let go of some of these things, like that Nanette Lepore suit. I actually saved up, and lost weight for that one! “It is sooo tiny!” Ella squealed. “Yes, sweetie, I was thin, thin, thin,” I explained. Then, suddenly, a realization:  “Thin, and unhappy.”  And, I was.

In that life, there were of course some truly magical moments, but it occurred to me, as I ran my hands over my luscious, lipstick red, Audrey Hepburn-esque, winter coat, with its stunning grey fur trim, that these clothes were in fact my security blankets in an uncertain and lonely world; my anchors in often troubled waters.

Releasing them now, was utterly liberating. Letting go of that chapter of my life completely. I left Ella’s shop with a spring in my step, and a much lighter load.

Corina Corina, The Midlands Most Chic Dress Agency 




11 October 2009

Welcome to Dibley

Years ago, living my rather manic, Manhattan life, I fell in love with a sitcom on BBC  America, called “The Vicar of Dibley.” For any beings from the planet Zog, who may be reading this, and are unfamiliar with the programme, please click here: The Vicar of Dibley

I’m a massive fan of Dawn French, and any programme centred around an Anglican vicar will always get my vote, however, it was neither of these two incredible traits that really did it for me. For me, it was the opening credits and that luscious, panoramic view of the English countryside.

In the same way that New York City was the undoubtedly mesmerizing “fifth character” on 'Sex and the City,' so, too for me was the verdant landscape of the Chiltern Hills and Oxfordshire on The Vicar of Dibley.

The camera’s perspective of this view seemed to mirror my own. It came in from a distance, surveying the land below from above and afar. Of course, Howard Goodall’s  delicate and delightfully evocative theme tune (“The Lord is My Shepherd”) did its part, and was enough to send this Anglophilic, Episcopalian girl right over the edge!

So, when the D.E.B. and I came to live in Barford, we jokingly referred to it as “Dibley”, our Dibley. We even had the Vicar if Dibley theme tune sang beautifully at our wedding here.

I did not expect to find a community full of comic villagers like those in Dibley, but I did expect to find was a way of life very different from my own. And that much has been true.

I find my life here much simpler, calmer and more fulfilling than my manic, Manhattan one. And, I am definitely doing a lot more baking! My only fear is that I will eventually become the Barford equivalent of Dibley’s Letty Cropley, the wacky, old woman creates such awful delicacies as: parsnip brownies and chocolate spread sandwiches, with a "hint" of taramosalata. 

Beyond my baking and W.I. commitments the other feature of my life here that resembles Dibley in my involvement in the church, and the fact that we are welcoming a new Assistant Vicar to our village, a lovely, bubbly, lady vicar.

Another new development on the church front. The Bishop has agreed to allow me to serve on the altar as a chalice bearer. I was trained and licensed as an eucharistic minister in NYC, and the Bishop has agreed to accept those credentials.

Looking out my window, Barford is looking very Dibley-esque. I must dash off and jump in the shower. Serving at the 9:30 a.m. service this morning, with the new lady vicar, I believe. All I need is for the choir to sing the Howard Goodall tune, and my Dibley fantastic will be complete!

01 October 2009


 Believe in your story. - J. K. Rowling

I don’t know which is worse, the two rejection letters I received today from literary agents in London, one addressed to “Dear Author,” the other to “Dear Writer,” ("Dear Pond Life," would have at least been more imaginative, surely...) 

Or the ‘royalty cheque' (I use the term very lightly...) I also received today from the publishers of my first Shakespeare book, in the amount if £14.32 ($22.87 USD). I mean really, is that even worth the paper, ink and postage? Oy vey...

Still, in the midst of laughable dismay there is inspiration. 

Today, Her Majesty, The Queen honoured a 78 year old, Northumberland man, David Nichol for his single-handed dedication to his parish church choir.

Nichol joined the choir at St. John's Church when he was only 8 years old, on 1 October 1939. At that time, he was one of 36 choristers. But, over the years, numbers have dwindled, and since 1977, Nichol has been the sole voice in the church choir. He is the choir.

Each and every Sunday, come rain or shine, David Nichol walks a mile from his home in Acomb to St. John's to stand alone, and sing.

Now, that's dedication. That is truly believing that you have a song worth singing.