If you ever wanted to understand the depth of the studio’s ambivalence towards promoting the late great Judy Garland , you have only to see her in blackface singing “Minnie from Trinidad” (Ziegfield Girl 1941). My Bruna from Itabuna (nothing real about that) is tall, Brazilian with a wonderful kind of sunniness. I don’t know whether it is assumed – her English is rocky – or innate. It makes you want to go back to her on the floor of the US clothing giant where she works. We have only met three times. Once was in the street last weekend where I saw stunning shoes and grasped the adjacent arm to ask “Where did you get those ?” And then I realised it was her. Well, I tried on the shoes though even with discount, the price gave me pause and the fit more so. (I have long admitted that if I were as sensitive as my feet, I’d be a really nice person). Oh but I wanted them so, like a kid at Christmas. Sadly by the time I had rationalised them into my wardrobe (never buy anything you are not going to wear), somebody else had bought the only pair in my size so we agreed I would go back this morning. At home, head ruled heart and I rang first thing to decline. She was just as charming when I said no as she would have been if I had said yes. There is something very Monroesque about her, a mixture of power, sweetness and mystery, the effect that Billy Wilder described as “flesh impact”. Her way is so different from everybody round her, it’s fascinating. She took something of the sting out of the foot I put in my mouth earlier in the week.
In my section of London we are stopped in the street and asked of at the door every other week. The latest caller was a handsome Francophone African and once she had pitched and I had declined, we began a personal conversation, with her standing one step down from me, our faces only a few inches apart. She said she was 25 and had a good degree in marketing. I said I was 72, I used to be a journalist. She asked me what she should do ? During our ensuing exchange, I noticed she had a lazy left eye. One side of my family has the same, so I asked about it. She said it was a prosthesis. My first response was “My God, that’s good”, realising too late that I had trespassed. She fled.
And I have been kicking myself ever since.
And then there is the Black Rose. She is older than the other two but still much younger than me, the elder daughter of a bright and blasted man whom I call GPK (the gentle parfait knight) because he isn’t. He and I met on Victoria station. He told me he was married. We exchanged one email and he vanished after reading annalog. He got in touch again and we met, bringing the Black Rose with him. I was charmed. Her real name is a very old one, originally meaning snake and thus has connotations of wisdom and magic, wholly appropriate to the sense she has made of her father’s life, if not her own. We liked each other on sight and I am delighted to receive warmth, humour and information by email. He is as unknown to me as America to Columbus and probably intends to keep it that way for a variety of reasons, all elegantly rationalised and wholly infuriating. She is a plus.
There are lots of things I don’t like about where we are in the world. And younger women often don’t come out of this well. My ears are distressed by the cadences of voices without the charm or use of cheese graters. Some of this is pitch, some of this is usage. I don’t like the flattened hair, the false eyelashes like park railings, the false nails, black lace hot pants at 9.00 in the morning (and I wouldn’t like them any better at the other end of the day). I won’t go on, you know how many of the elderly fear and distrust the young or the younger. So it was kind of wonderful to meet all these positively enthralling qualities in the three younger women in one week. You could say they taught me a lesson. You’d be right.