Tuesday, September 27, 2005

London diary : Monday 19 September 2005

Today [last Monday] was supposed to be a shopping day, with dinner with one of my favourite colleagues in the evening, but I didn't see a thing I wanted to buy. There are about half a dozen shops in Knightsbridge and Chelsea where, for many years, I've usually found something irresistible. But not this time.

Yesterday afternoon, walking along the east side of Sloane Street, on my way from Swan Walk to the bus stops near Apsley House, I was stopped in my tracks by a heavenly grey chiffon and crystal-beaded evening dress in the Alberta Ferretti window.

But although I loved every elegant line of it, such a dress has no place in my life. But it's perfect for Allegra Carlyon, one of the principal characters in the second and third of my novels about an English stately home called Longwarden.

Shortly before 7 p.m. a taxi drew up outside the club which is my home from home in London.

Wearing a velvet jacket, the colour of a deep pool in shadow, out stepped my friend Jenny Haddon, Chairman of the Romantic Novelists' Association, who writes as Sophie Weston.

We had dinner upstairs in the first floor dining room, then went down to the comfortable drawing room to drink some more wine and talk shop for another couple of hours.

Then Jenny waved goodbye from her taxi and I took the lift up to my bedroom where, still wide awake despite the, for me, late hour, I attempted to read Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. But, as I had already discovered on the flight to Gatwick on Sunday, Mrs Woolf's style irritates me. In the first 22 pages she uses "ever so" three times : "ever so many books", "ever so slightly", "ever so much".

On page 23 she refers to "the Albany", an extraordinary solecism for someone of her generation, besides using two exclamation marks in one sentence.

The club has a small library for members' use. I was tempted to put my raincoat over my nightdress and slip down to find something better to read. But by then it was midnight, so I put out the bedside light and lay down, looking forward to the treats in store for me tomorrow.


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