Friday, February 22, 2008

Marble Pavements

Story contd

On the long drive up to Vermont Maddie told me a little of its history. In 1609 Samuel de Champlain sailed into the lake which was then named after him, and discovered Verde MontGreen Mountain in 1609. First it was in French hands – then British until in 1777 it gained Independence. It is well named as the hills are predominantly green – unlike our own mountainous areas such as North Wales and the Lake District. The house was red, so it would stand out in the snow and was very comfortable with all mod cons and in a picturesque setting. Rather like Portugal, the hunters expect to wander freely, and had been astonished to be confronted one Sunday morning by Maddie’s husband, in his silk dressing gown, looking for all the world like a disgruntled Noel Coward.

We had been invited to have dinner with Betty – an older friend of Maddie’s who ran a superior guest house with her husband. It had a lovely country house atmosphere and one of the long term guests looked very like George Sanders with a moustache. It was uncanny – for the rest of our holiday everywhere we went, George would be lurking in the back ground. In the garden photographing a gopher, he would be on the other side of the brook; walking the marble pavements in Manchester he was on the other side of the street and on a lovely hot day when we were picnicking by a lake in our bikinis, we spotted him on the hillside - with a rifle. We were a bit giggly having had some wine and speculated what we should do if he came closer and wanted to have his way with us. The best we could come up with was to say we had the clap.

It was a bit spooky because he never greeted us, but later when Maddie told Betty she said he regaled them each evening with what we had been getting up to, so it was quite harmless, and maybe he was looking out for us. Betty had had a privileged childhood and I was excited to meet her brother who had been at Princeton with Scott Fitzgerald – a hero of mine. All he would say was that Scott was ‘overly sentimental.’ Betty took me to a quilt party where we all sat around chatting and sewing a fantastic patchwork quilt. It was a pleasant way of getting to know these ladies and I really appreciated their warmth and humour. I was allowed to do a few stitches and they joshed me about the size, which was twice the size of theirs. I expect they undid them afterwards but years later, after MTL and I were married, I made my own – all hand sewn - and on the bed behind me as I type.

Vermont had been a peaceful break but I was looking forward to spending my last few days in New York. We were invited to dinner with Liam (Jamie’s brother) and his family. They had a large house in Westchester and had deer roaming in the grounds. Liam had four children – three girls and a boy. He told me that Jamie had three children – two boys and a girl. He, Liam had named his only son after Jamie and told me – with some annoyance - that Jamie had named his dog after Liam. As I had gone to settle in the South, Jamie had settled in the north.

On my last day we had met Barbara at the Russian Tea Rooms and I was aghast at the size of the tip expected, even worse than Paris. I always like to do as the Romans do but sometimes one needs help in knowing what is correct. My great, last night treat was a visit to the Lincoln Centre to see - DADA! Margot Fontyn and Rudolf Nuryev dance ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

‘Oh Maddie I can’t see for that damned chandelier!’

The overture started and slowly the chandeliers rose up to the ceiling and I could see everything. At this time Margot was 51 and Rudolf was 32 – he looked about 20 and she 16. They soared and plummeted like two love birds round the balcony steps. At the interval I sat utterly entranced, unable to speak, when the woman sitting in front said to her neighbour in a strong Brooklyn accent,

‘Is that how it was Sadie – in the Bronx?’

‘Nah! We didn’t have a balcony.’ Sadie replied, and I was grateful to them for bringing me back down to earth- with a laugh.

Margot’s husband Tito Arias was a former Panamanian ambassador and as we stretched our legs we saw him being pushed around in his wheel chair. He had been shot and crippled six years earlier and Margot went on dancing as long as possible to pay for his care. She looked after him devotedly until his death, and by the time of her death from cancer in 1991 she was virtually penniless.

It was time to go home and I was looking forward to seeing the family and telling them all about my adventures. I took a large paperback- ‘Helter Skelter' to read on the plane, but most of the time I was dreaming of all the fun and excitement I had had and really feeling rejuvenated – a new woman in fact - and able to cope with whatever life threw at me.


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Ahhhhhh, The Russian Tea Room...! I LOVED that place....So much History and so many wonderful people from the Music World and The Ballet World, and The Theatre....Sad to say, Pat, that is gone now, too! It really breaks my heart that some of these landmarks of my Childhood and early adulthood Are-No-More!
(I lived across the street and down from TRTR back in the fall of 1963, and into 1964....There was no other place like it....)

To see those two Dance.....HOW Sublime, my dear...
This was a wonderful trip, wasn't it? And now, on to the next chapter....! I look forward to what happens next.

PI said...

Naomi: I'm very sorry to hear that. I trust the Algonquin is still safe? I never went but have always wanted to - all that talent under one roof!

Bob-kat said...

How wondeful to have seen Fonteyn and Nireyev dance! I never thought I would like ballet until I worked on one with the Birmingham Royal Ballet and it was marvellous. But seeing these two icons, well, how sublime!

Your trip sounds like it was a wonderful experience all round!

Michele sent me over to say hi, as is her way.

PI said...

Bob-kat: I saw Margot about 13 years later when, as Chancellor of Durham Uni - she gave my step-son his degree. She spoke of the need for tenacity and my goodness she was a great example of it.

kenju said...

I would have loved to see them dance! I was fortunate enough to see Baryshnikov here, but he was past his prime at the time.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

I wondered if the book was Vincent Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" which gave an account of the Manson murders and ensuing trial, but we are in 1970, right? and the book wasn't published in the US until 1974. That book nearly made me fail my finals as I sat up all night reading it instead of revising.

I could do a Mastermind on the history of ballet, thanks to a wonderful book I had as a child. Diaghilev was a dear friend.

PI said...

Judy : one would have thought Margot was by then but Rudolf gave her a second coming.

Daphne: what would I do without you?
I must have muddled it with my second trip to the States which could have been '74. In which case the book had to be 'Portnoy's
Complaint' by Philip Roth. Sorry about that but I'm not infallible. At least I wasn't on the drugs so can remember pretty clearly although obviously I muddle the details sometimes. And the names . And the times. Otherwise pretty accurate:)

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

ooh I loved Portnoy's Complaint! I read it about 10 years ago and it was the start of my falling in love with Philip Roth, which led to Saul Bellow who, if it's possible, I might even like a wee bit better.

I would dearly have treasured watching Fonteyn and Nuryev dance together live. The tickets must have cost a bomb though.

PI said...

Sam: I still remember he ------ the liver!
They were expensive I think but it was a last night treat.