Yet another six weeks of blog-abuse by neglect. It has been a year packed with both minor misfortunes and triumphs but whatever the case these events have managed to swallow up large amounts of my time. Poor Gabriel got appendicitis - some of us thought it was stomach flu!! We were called by the school one day and I came to pick up a deathly green boy who could not bear to eat. There were several other green-looking children waiting to be picked up so I assumed it was all the same bug..perhaps even the swine flu. To my shame I decided to wait to see if the "bug ' passed only to watch the normally robust energetic and cheeky prankster slide into semi conciousness. No matter how ill Gabe has been in the past there has always been some enthusiasm about food..but the mere mention of it seemed to repulse him. I finally went into full on panic and we rushed him to our wonderful pediatrician Dr Sachs . Strangely enough the nurse also thought he had flu but one look from the good Doctor and we were sent straight away to our local emergency room at Cedars Hospital. Within minutes Gabreil was being examined by the surgeon Dr Chen and his assistant also named Dr Chen . A burst appendix was diagnosed and Gabe was whisked into the operating theatre while I sobbed. Parents reading this will know that there is nothing worse than watching your gravely ill child suffer. I cursed myself for the misdiagnosis. The wonders of modern medicine ..Gabe was out after half an hour. They had operated laprascopicaly using a tiny camera and four tiny incisions to his abdomen. I remember the appendix casualties as a child with their four inch scars across the belly. Oh releif and so much gratitude to Dr Chen and Dr Chen. Then began the 4 day vigil at Cedars with Gabriel in his hospital room. It was challenging. I slept in a fold down bed designed for a Dwarf . Every 2 hours the bleeber would scream to remind the nurse to change the IV . Sometimes the nurse would come and sometimes not ,leaving the torturous bleeber screeching for 20 minutes. If it was not our bleeper going it was some other patients as these things are designed so the nurse can hear them from some distance. I wondered how any of these children got any rest with all the interruptions throughout the night. Mercifully on visiting Gabe Dr Sachs could see that my mental health was being effected and persuaded the Doctors Chen to discharge Gabriel after 4 days rather than a week. Again we were thankful for good insurance and wondered about other children who might not be so fortunate.
Well we have had enough drama packed into this year to last a decade . I am hoping I have had my fair share of crises for 2009. There have been very few gaps to blog and as I write now I am also micro managing squabbles between children with one eyeball on the computer and the other on the watch out for potential mischief. Silence is always a bad sign. Both Gabe and Grace have started at new schools . Grace at her new High School LACHSA -specialising in the Arts where she is studying Drama. She had to go through several grueling auditions to get a place . It is a 15 mile commute on the freeway from our part of town and luckily I have joined a car pool along with several other "Moms" and we take turns to schlep across LA . I am learning terms like "freshman' "Sophemore" etc . Going to the school is like walking on the set of "Fame" , youths doing piroettes in the halls, singing at full blast and trombones playing in the corridors . The children all have vocations and seem to love the school. I breath a sigh a relief that its no longer about competative child spoiling ...that one is not "less than " for not wearing the $200 jeans that are so' In". It no longer "So and so has a credit card and a new lap top and a digital camera and an account at Nordsrums , not to mention a giant flat screen in their bedroom etc etc" and so "Why can't I?" We are so lucky to have found good public schools where material pressure is noticeably less. Gabriels school is near the airport and mercifully take s the yellow school bus departing at 7.20 am sharp . The school "Open Charter Magnet" which is a constructivist school where children learn about subjects in context rather than from a curriculum . Gabriel has responded well and has regain his love of learning . The children do not sit at desks , they move around the class room, they do writers workshops they explore , they garden..The whole thing is inspirational..and he has learnt more in this public school in a month than he did from his previous private school in a year.
I have always been intrigued by Northern California . Many friends have raved about it and urged me as a painter to visit it . In February we had the great fortune to meet a very friendly woman at my friend Doris party who when I proclaimed that I would love to explore Nocal promptly offered us her holiday home on Pebble Beach between Monterey and Carmel. I had no idea where these places were but thought we should take her up on this kind offer given that money was tight and that we probably could not afford a holiday for 5 this year. I hurriedly informed the lady that I had 3 children ranging from 14 to 4 thinking this might be a deal breaker but she still appeared keen. I offered her a painting in exchange for such generosity. She told me it was an old house and I honestly expected an old shack with the basics.When we arrived we were astounded to find an enormous villa with two guest houses filled with antiques and china looking straight onto the pacific ocean. Otters would swim by and seals lolled on the rocks. It was also in a wild life sanctuary. The country side around Monterey is stunning and the weather cool and its a little like Scotland in the sun. Carmel was over-restored and saccherine with "cutsy little stores" and cottage -like hotels and both a tourist trap and ghetto for the wealthy.Its the sort of place that makes me want to march up and down the streets yelling profanities. Monterey on the other hand which is a few miles north of Carmel has grit and character and a great Aquarium. It a proper old fishing town with no frills and beautiful architecture and it even had a second hand book store. One of the down sides of staying in a beautiful house with fragile and valuable contents is one is contantly having to watch small wandering hands. I practically had to use a tranquilizer gun to stop the kids touching and playing with all the objects (alot of which I hid on arrival ) The contant supervision was exhausting and I needed surveillance cameras and eyes in the back of my head to keep check on my ginger brood. The one time I could relax was when we were out of the house . This meant frequent visits to Big Sur and the spectacular journey along the Pacific Coast Highway. So many people had enthused about this drive and I was not in the least disapointed.I felt so grateful to our lovely friend who gave us the opportunity to see this amazing part of the world, I was releived to get back to LA and to our house where there is nothing worth breaking.
After a great deal of nagging and against My better judgement I chose to take the ginger minions to NYC for one night. Had it been only myself i would have headed straight for Moma and the the Met followed by a stroll in central park. I would have taken the circle line ferry and seen Manhatten from the Hudson River. Alas I was harangued into visiting the worlds biggest Toy shop FAO Schwarz which was a dissapointment after much build up and huge expectations. My son marched right up to the manager and demanded to be lead to "the weapons department'. The manager stifled a gasp and explained in a whisper "we do not sell toy weapons here!' My children who have become die hard Angelinos have become very unaccustomed to walking. Due to heavy traffic and no subway we had no choice but to walk 2 or 3 blocks to our hotel in humid heat . My children started to fade and feign illness saying they could not cope with this prospect and would probably swoon. So I cajouled ,carried ,bribed ,beseached and begged them back to our tiny shared room on 7th ave. I was mentally exhausted by my cohersing but no rest for the wicked as it was straight on to TOp Shop for my teenager.This time we tried the subway. After about an hour of figuring out how to get through the barrier we managed to get on the train. This was the first time they had used public transport in 4 years and it was shocking. The noise, to be nose to nose with people we did not know. Quel horror! Top Shop was also a let down . In England it is affordable accessable glamour but in New York it it high end and exclusive . my poor teenager , ! we bought a t shirt. Next stop was my glorious friend John Barratt ,an amazing hairdresser who is a dear old friend. He had invited us for dinner at his vast Soho appartment . I thought it would be just me and the kids who made themselves at home immediately on his pristine bed eating ice cream and watching videos. I soon discovered that he was holding the party in my honor and had invited 30 of his closest friends.He peraded me around like a visiting Duchess saying that I was Sarah from LA which was the reason for the party. I met a variety of very entertaining people but felt somewhat self concious. After a predictably uncomfortable night sharing a tiny bed with my 8 year old son we headed for Times Square which I thought would be a "hit' . Sure enough we found the 2nd largest toy shop with a weapons dept and a policemans booth . My son who is facinated by law inforcement was allowed into the lockup and quizzed the policeman on criminals. My 4 year old girl asked innocently "Do you mainly arrest black people?" awkward silence ensued and I'm sure buttocks were clenched as it was also within 2 weeks of the unfortunate Dr Gates incident.
So the children and myself have been on the East Coast enjoyng the wonderful hospitality of my dear friend Maureen.I have always said that a good form of torture is 1 adult plus 3 (preferably under 5) children on long haul flight..you will reach depths of despair you did not know existed. The flight pain factor measured at about a 6 out of 10 and it was only 5 hours of mediocre distress from LAX to JFK. Of course I did NOT get to watch the Virgin America in flight entertainment , nor did I get to read a sentence of Middle march. My time was taken up with managing fisticuffs, squabbling and attending to demands and whinges and trying not to disturb my fellow passengers too much.I tried but alas failed. There was the inevitable tutting from all around.This flight however was a picnic compared to my epic and disasterous journey from London,s Heathrow airport to Sydney Australia in 2002 when I flew alone with my two very young children who did sleep a wink in 24 hrs.I dined out on the martydom of that flight for some time. We arrived to torrential rain in NY which my children found quite a novelty and were picked up my the marvellous Pat who drove us the Maureens beautiful house in South Hampton. The house is in a small colony about 5 miles from South Hampton village where most of the inhabitants have been coming every summer for 40 years . Children roam free around the colony and the beach is 2 minutes walk away.People drop by, children are in and out of each others houses and bikes are ridden . It s like England but warm.Maureen and I met in London when our eldest daughters were two . She went on to have 3 more kids and I lagged behind at only have 2 more.Maureen was a wonderfully generous and relaxed host and we had many years to catch up on. So with 7 children and no husbands we went sailing ,kyacking, painting , played tennis,swimming ,sat by the Atlantic. It was Idyllic We became well acquainted with the Long Island insects. Due to a record amount of rain and storms this summer the mosquitos have mutated into these super bugs which were delighted to feed upon my 3 children and myself.As well as the mozzies there were Tics that embed themselves under you skin. Grace was bitten by some tiny spider and we nearly ended up having to pay a visit to the notorious Dr Kot-known by the local women as Dr Hot due to his extreme handsomeness. Maureen gave me a tour of the various tennis and beach clubs which I was entertained to hear one was only allowed to join if you had the "right breeding" I was shocked! This is America for God sake..Is this an East coast thing? However the local community has obviously worked very hard to preserve the charm of this place. Parts of Sag Harbour looked so pretty it was like being on a film set, I am now so used to the ugliness of LA that beauty can look inauthentic. It was great being able to meander down small streets looking in shops.It felt like a great privilage to be able to see this beautiful , unspoilt part of the world.
About 2 years ago we were offered a free air conditioning unit ..it was spring time and it would mean a drive to the valley and in a fit of "Can't-be -botheredism I declined this generous offer.Today I am regretting that decision. It is baking , our lawn is now yellow and the neighbour 's grass is taking a while to catch up . I can tell those who are doing illicit sprinkling by the continuing vibrant green of their gardens. Up till 2 weeks ago the weather was almost British but with sunshine but now the "unable to touch the steering wheel for 5 minutes" has set in for the next 3 months. I like the heat - don't get me wrong but it does require extra organisation.For some reason I have a chemical resistance to sun block ..no matter what precautions I take (I now slap on factor 50 )and go out in the sun for 10 minutes and yet my skin seems to be a sun magnet . Friends say to me ..wow you've got alot of colour -code for "you are bright red and you're sun burnt again" Or as Mr Hollywood HW would say "You are as brown as a tomato" I think back wistfully to my days in England when should the sun make a rare appearance I plus most of the population would be out at the nearest park or lawn with our tinfoil absorbing every minute of precious rays- never mind skin cancer -never mind lack of ozone..I needed every hit of vitamin D I could get. When we went on holiday there was panic if the weather was bad and would interfere with the tanning process .We had to be a deep leathery teek color that we could go and show off Since living in California where the sun beats down intensely every day I have developed an almost allergic phobia of the sun.The thought of sunbathing actually fills me with horror and I can feel my skin wrinkling up in it. I am armed with factor 50 at all times , my new Indiana Jones hat ,sunglasses and high necked t shirt. Infact I can now tell a visitor or tourist here in LA by their sun tan.
The reason for the lack of posts it that time has been gobbled up by bored children on the 11 week holiday extravaganza. Summer Camps have been organised and rejected so it has been a political minefield trying to get the 3 children occupied and to bond with their camp.Paintings have been left unfinished , phonecalls not returned and the house looks like a crime scene, dolls limbs scattered around and stuffed toy monkeys handcuffed to various pieces of furniture. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett have died. My son thought Jackson was a basket ball player.Jackson still dominates the media a la princess Diana infact my eldest daughter went past his house in Beverly Hills on the way to the 4th of July party to find a similar gigantic shrine like thing going on to Kensington Palace in 1997. We also had some fantastic news this week and extraordinary fortune. In December of last year we signed Gabriel up for a magnet school knowing it was pretty much impossible to get in but that we would "gain points " in order to get him into a good middle school. I have several friends who's children had attended this school and they had collectively raved about it and the unconventional teaching methods..there are no desks and classes are known as "clusters" each having a different colour and theme.By February of this year I was so fed up with Gabriels catholic school that public school was looking more and more attractive. In May we got the inevitable letter that Gabe had not got a place at Open Charter but was on the waiting list . I eagerly phoned the school..(the first of many nuisance calls) and commenced pestering them on a regular basis. I was told he was 150th on the waiting list and to give up there was not a chance in hell. Reluctantly I went to our local school Carthay Circle and collected an application form. I went to great efforts to meet some of the lovely parents who were working so hard to elevate the school, I joined the PTA and went to the PTA BBQ and got ready to role up my sleeves. On the morning I was due to hand in the application from and register Gabe at Carthay School I thought I'll give Open School 1 last call just to make certain we did not get a place.THe patient and tolerant secretary who was so used to me by now said that Gabe was now 3rd on the waiting list and got quite excited saying they would know within half an hour if Gabe had a place . Of course the phonecall came and I was asked to go in immediately to register. It just goes to show that persistance works and to listen to the good advice of ones friends and neighbours who told me .."don't give up ..keep calling "
A week or so as I gathered with my very lovely book club members to discuss my dear friend Liza Campbell"s wonderful book "Title Deeds" or the American version " A Charmed Life" I discovered that I have given the impression by this blog that I am rather ambivolent about America. I was mortified to hear this as this is certainly not how I feel and yet can see how one might come to that conclusion. I can safely say now with hand on heart that I like it here.. I like the people , the enthusiasm the hope, the diversity, the lack of pigeon-holing. the lack of defining people by birth or where they went to school .I particularly like it now that its not run by that daft cowboy.When the prospect of returning to London comes up I beak out in a sweat and start to panic at the very thought of it.I think of the the often 30 minute search around the Royal Borough of Ken and Chelsea for a residents parking space on a bitterly cold night versus the indignation I now feel when some one has the audacity to park outside my LA house. I feel outrage at the prospect of having to walk more than a few feet from car to front door..My how lazy and spoilt I have become! I miss the spirit and buzz of London but it is a tough place to live without oodles of cash. Mr Hollywood house wife and I have decided to take the enormous step of applying for Green Cards which means proving that P is indispensible to the US and has unique talents which means we have permanent residence here. It also means I will be legally allowed to take a job ,get a social security number and joy of all joys get a Target charge card...this is how much I like America.
Apologies for the huge gaping space between posts. I have been in a frenzy of multitasking..Just before I got sick with my mystery illness ( I still don't know what caused it ) I started attending a self help group for creative people who find it hard to generate cash and get into debt and have a fear of the brown envelope-although here in LA all unpleasant correspondence seems to be disguised in white envelopes. Within days of me addressing this particular shortcoming which I have suffered from all my adult life I was offered two exhibitions in the UK ..one at Cambridge University and a mixed one at my gallery in London, Long and Ryle http://longandryle.com/stitt.html. My agent said of the Cambridge show " it may not reap tons of cash due to the economy but its top notch stuff for the CV (resume). The other Exhibit..you will notice I am trying to speak American now..is titled' Remembered Landscapes 'so I have done one of Pembridge villas and two of the interior of Sicily -Mafia country -possible the most arid and dramatic landscape I have seen Philip and I spent a wonderful summer in Gangi 7 years ago and I have always longed to go back.I have sent out mass emails inviting people to these shows that I shall not be attending which is rather strange. Tickets to London are not within my spending plan and must adhere to self-help groups budget principles which seem to be working. The other big event has been Graces graduation from Junior High School or Middle School. This has been rather like preparing for a coming out ball for a debutante.We bought a white gown and then the was hair to be coiffed, hair extensions to be bought , a mani pedicure, a makeover courtesy of Mac at Nordstrums ( I could not resist getting one for myself too) . A touching ceremony was held at her school where the teachers paid homage to 27 teenagers who were starting High School in September. After being on my soap box for three years about the water waste here in CA and the questions "where does the water come from?' and "why do so many people have lawns in these desert conditions?" I was thrilled to hear about a water ban and that you are only allowed to use sprinklers for your lawn on Mondays and Thursdays. At last and about time too I say. We have the lawn of shame ..it is orange and turning yellow compared to all our neighbours flourescent vibrant green. I refuse to water the lawn more than twice a week anyway due to the waste/water bills.Now our lawn will be the same colour as everybody elses.
My heart is breaking over my children's education here in California. Every where I look I see ludicrous wealth and ostentation and yet California is broke! How can that be? Fertile land , a booming film industry , great tourism , high taxes..yes I have paid more tax here in the three years I have lived here than I ever did in London and yet I have earned less? How can this be? Today there have been protests about the cuts in Education that are going on here and having just made a decision to educate my kids at Public schools I am saddened and scared. By the way English readers Public school here means State Education. In England being married to a former teacher we became very savvy about how to educate our children at the best State schools. We were lucky enough to live in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea which offered a variety of excellent free church schools. Getting into these schools required enormous amount of effort and research into how often you had to be "on your Knees to avoid the fees" , getting tip top Priests references and written assurances that you were sound of mind and body. We would spend many hours studying SATS results in order to find the right school. We managed to get our eldest daughter Grace into Our Lady Of Victories where she developed a passion for learning and a love of reading aged 3. The school had a wonderful cross section of students ranging from every stratum of society .The parents were all very committed to their childrens education and Christian values. Gabriel also attended nursery at the same school and was equally enthused by learning. Just before we left for America Grace landed a place at Sacred Heart School for girls , a Secondary State School infact Tony Blaire's daughter went there . One of the hardest parts about leaving the Uk was giving up the place at this school. Arriving here in the US I had no idea how Education worked. We placed our children into Catholic school in Beverly Hills. Although inexpensive the school was private and uninspiring. Our eldest girl lost her love of learning and complained of bullying. We had been heavily warned off our local school due to the "ethnic imbalance" and that it was overcrowded and the Education was rubbish.We ended up putting our girl in a very expensive private school with a higher class of Bully who wore designer shoes.She became moderately more interested in learning and alot more interested in shopping Malls. So now she has got into Arts High a small public school but where students spend half the day doing what they are passionate about and I am looking at the local elementary school we were warned off for my son. The children are focused , well behaved and enthusiastic. I was so moved by the mother who showed me round who was clearly so dedicated to the school and making it a better place, she expressed sadness at the cuts saying the classes would get bigger. She also expressed detemination to continue her hard work and despite these difficulties she was eager to persuade local parents like myself into sending our kids to this school which little by little was gaining a better reputation.
Someone once told me years ago when I was pregnant with my first child and worrying about what I would do if I got a migraine "When you have children theres no such thing as 'I can't cope!' . You HAVE to cope" These words sprung to mind as my four year old jumped on me in bed and demanded to play hide and seek hours after I had undergone surgery and still half anaethatised on thursday. I suggested a better game for me was patient and nurse. I got up full of good intentions to take my poor traumatised children into school a la normal but when the room started rocking I thought better of it and realised I was a danger to myself and others behind the wheel of the car so I called upon my lovely friend Katie you took Esther to school. My current state of invalid has forced my to do many things I find unsavoury..like ask for help ..how I long to be superwomanish and invulnerable and "No I don't need your help" Nor your pity.Alas I cannot keep this up as I am feeling as feeble as a 90 year old and my 3 ginger giant children can smell it when I am weak. I am having to "take it easy" which for a hyper-active like me is pure torture ..I had made up my mind on friday to give myself a days rest and then business as usual but the body rebelled and after 2 surgeries within 10 days, a head injury, a blood transfusion and only having half the normal amount of haemoglobin (red blood cells) of a normal person I was forced to lie down . The sofa is now my domain and the TV is my new best friend . I have watched some truely appalling films such as "Nights in Rodanthe" and "How to lose friends and alienate people" . I have been sucked into the vortex of reality TV " Make me a super Model" completely addictive.I can't even get excited about Swine flu. Saturday was Gabriels first communion which I was determinded to attend so we went to Good Shepherd Church in our finery and hovered around for much photo taking. After three hours in Church I felt like the living dead and had to "take to my bed". I have to surrender to this listless state and just let myself be a sicko for a while.
One of my very generous and well -heeled friends has just delivered half of Whole Foods to my door-enough to keep my family of 5 fed for a least a week. Her lovely and I suspect gay assistant was perplexed at what to buy the kids so I think he chose to buy every variety of everything so they would not be upset??. I am yet again at agogue at such generousity of spirit and purse.How do I respond? Things like this have been happening all week..Philip said I should get ill more often..As my friend Miss Whistle says "This is what they do here" I have felt alot better the last two days partly due to now only being on 4 types on medication rather than 8 . I no longer feel like a ghost inhabiting my own life and have actually put paintbrush to canvas. I now have more than half my blood in my body in stead of just half. This incident has made me think about how worrying about small stuff is not that necessary -the unpaid bills I was agonizing about are no longer as important ..the fact that I am able to sit at a computer and write and be walking about is Great. This is my wealth..also the quality of my relationships. I am gearing up for my second surgery tomorrow and having a day of nil-by mouth...this should be hard but not too hard as I have given up PG tips for a while..this was a bad addiction and I would dearly love to learn about controlled tea drinking.
I have at last a genuine excuse for blog abandonment and have only just got enough energy to do a post. Unfortunately the last week has been like a french farce of disasters or comedy of errors and if you are squeamish at all I suggest you stop reading now. Like all good Brits I have learnt that you do not go to see a doctor unless you are nearly dead and so last saturday when I unexpectedly started bleeding heavily from my internal I chose to ignore it and hope it would right itself or go away. Unfortunately it persisted and got worse throughout the night , again I thought 'I"ll deal with it tomorrow" Procrastination has never worked for me and this was no exception. At 6.30 am after a sleepless and bloody night I went to tick the children off for waking me but as I passed along the corridor I fainted , fell down the stairs and hit my head on the concrete wall at the bottom.I came to and wondered how I had come to be lying nearly in the kitchen with blood now on my forehead and feebly called for Philip and we drove to the small hospital 5 minutes away. I believe I was the only patient was promptly whisked to a booth and hooked up to several machines including an automatic blood pressure reader. GOD BLESS AMERICA...my head was stapled !! 5 staples and they are still there . The internal bleeding continued and despite everyones best efforts they could not stop it ..by the afternoon I had lost half my blood so I was given a blood transfusion. I was very impressed by the trauma care and felt like I was in an episode of ER also being hooked up to every device known to man. I could not move for wires coming out of my body. Sadly I as allotted a rather bitter and obnoxious male nurse who chose to lecture me in the midst of my distress on my choice of doctor...he later implied I was pregnant and was cunningly trying to keep it a secret. and I that was having a miscarriage..I could hear him bickering with his colleagues as well. and thought to my self '.theres always one.' By 7 pm I had been in the ER for 12 hours and my condition was not improving so It was decided I would have emergency surgery and I met my very nice and funny surgeon/Obstreotrician and by nine pm was being tied down in the operating theatre with soft music playing..yes here they tie you down believe it or not. SO my bacon was saved and I feel lucky to still be here. I was in very bad shape the following day and was unable to appreciate my 5 star hospital surroundings..My own large room .. a nurse at beck and call cable tv...clean and bright but sadly too sick to enjoy it. One of the blessings about being ill has been experiencing human nature at its best ..all my friends, my wonderful book club friends of Bill, neighbor have literally come to our rescue. Flowers, phonecalls , emails , delicious meals being dropped at my doorstep so I don't have to cook , shopping being done etc etc..the community spirit here is fantastic and I am truly touched and humbled and blessed to have such people around. After 4 days in hospital I was allowed home and looked like a mixture of Russell Brand (hair) and Rhiannon (beat-up face) only to have to return again 24 hrs later as my arm where the iv drip had been strapped had blown up to 3 times its normal size and got infected and had a clot. By now I am on 1st name terms with the hospital staff and have become quite a regular fixture there. So this saga is to be continued and I am sure the lesson and blessing in it all will be revealed.
My poor children are theologically confused..I am a protestant , All three children were baptised Catholic like their father. In England we attended the beautiful Farm street Church regularlly and I became very good friends with the priests who were hoping to convert me. On one occasion in church Grace aged 7 turned to me and said.."mum .you shouldn't be here ! you're a prod!" Now I wonder where she got that idea from. We moved to Los Angeles when GAbe was 5, Grace was 10 and Esther 1..Gabriel started to attend the local Jewish community school.. a wonderful local preschool recommended by our neighbour..and before too long he was singing songs in Hebrew and coming home complaining that I had not 'lit the candles or bought the Hala"One day around passover he came home and said to me "Mum you wouldn't believe what Pharoh did to our people!" He was sent the following year to join his elder sister at Catholic school and was rather confused and alarmed by the prospect of Jesus Christ with his stigmatas and demanded to be "made Jewish again". Grace then went to an independant school with no religious affiliations but with predominantly Jewish pupils. Every saturday for about a year she was invited to a Bar Mitzvah or a Bat mitzvah (for girls )-all turning 13..After witnessing these lavish events and the huge bank balances these kids were left with post Mitzvah cash injection Grace was keen to have her own "Faux Mitzvah" ..an oppulent money giving party for non-Jews..No was the answer. So now we are full circle ..Esther is at the JCC = Jewish pre-school..and complaining that I have not bought Hala and what about "Shabbat" and telling me that Pharoh was a "very Very BAd Man" and sings songs about frogs being everywhere.She also believes herself to be the reincarnation of Queen Esther who saved the Jewish people at one stage in the old testament. Today on impulse I took them to a new church in Hancock Park which turned out to be a Billy Graham -esque happy clappy Catholic church..this time I was confused..It was full to the brim -over a thousand people and the songs were very modern and evangelical christian..the Priest was shouting out his joyous Easter messages and the crowd was respondonding..he told us all to write a gratitude list but not before we'de written a "poopy list" saying why you think life stinks ..I kid you not...Now I cannot imagine the Jesuits at Farm Street making the Poopy List part of their Easter Sermon.
So the credit crunch has sent me into great productivity and awoken me from my passive "waiting to be discovered torpor. It is very comfortable to hide behind the stress of having 3 children and use it as excuse to become less than useless at putting yourself "out there".As I said in my last post , there is no shame here in LA at aggressive self-promotion and marketing offensives.People seem very goal orientated..I was warned my my French friend M that if one is invited for dinner here in LA it may well be to form a connection in order to step up the rung of the work ladder that ones host might get to meet your good friend Mr Bigshot.She said it is rare that one is invited because you may be entertaining or the life and soul of the party..I am still forming my own judgements about this theory. So last week I was approached by some publiscists ( thanks to my friend Liza..please read her blog it is linked from this one) they wanted to find out if I was worthy of free publicity...presentable , reliable trendy etc... i told them straight off "if you are looking for cash do not waste your time with me.." it did not put them off me an they asked for a meeting.. I managed to get rid of the kids for a few hours so they could visit me at home and they spent considerable time going through my press clips , catalogues etc...the only other artist they represent is a rock star-painter who commands $70 000 per painting.These people naively beliieved that the astounding sales of his paintings had little to do with his rock star status! I told them of my trip about a month ago to Honor Fraser Gallery in Culver city. I had gone to her opening in the hope of having a quiet word and getting some advice from her only to see a queue going around the block waiting to get into her gallery. I thought to myself maybe there was a night club in there? No a hip gaffiti artist called Kaws who had a huge Hispanic following. The publiscists explained that only letting a few people in at a time would have created an enigma and added intrigue..we noticed that in the midst of the credit crunch Kaws had managed to sell his flourescent skulls for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Well done Honor. I did speak to her a few days later and she was sweet and helpful . So the long and short of it is the publiscists are going to "pitch" me to their boss to see if I am money-friendly enough to invest in ...we shall see
These last few weeks have been very stressful and I have at times fallen into dire self -pity but I remember that I am not poor Old Natascha Richardson RIP or Jade Goody , both leaving children and families devasted by their early deaths. A stark reminder that illness and misfortune are not socialists and can strike at anytime no matter how much you have . It reminds me to savour every day and be grateful for what I have..healthy children , my own health , the health of my extended family, a roof over our heads , food to eat etc.. Living in America has its challenges from time to time ..not knowing systems.About a month ago P,s salary was slashed due to taxes and various beaurocracy which left us with zero in the bank and unable to pay bills , school fees etc..that same week my English card was chewed up by an american ATM so we have had to do some very creative accounting and some serious saving until the next paycheck comes in.It occured to me that this is probably what a huge percentage of Americans are going through too, with job losses , home losses and the credit crunching. We are not alone and it is life on lifes term- sometimes a very bitter pill to swallow particulally in Hollywood where extreme wealth and materialism is always on display but swallow we must. It seemed almost comical that in this same week we were invited to a party where we were the only people a/not famous and b/ not multimillionaires ..as I drove my battered old Dodge Caravan (the metal handbag as its known cos of all the crap inside) behind Mick Jaggers limo for the party Valet parking the attendant looked at me and the car and assured "dont worry I'm from New York".Oddly enough though I felt no shame as it occured to me that the only difference between these people and me is that they have "stuff" and I dont. What has been so touching though is the many many kind friends who have been so helpful in our strife ,my friends Miss Whistle and Shelly , and Julia v and Michaeala all helping me marketing my paintings. I have been truely touched by their generousity of spirit .In LA no one is self concious about selling , unlike the UK where one is more subtle..you wait in your garatt to be discovered..here I have found out you put yourself out there shamelessly..even make a nuisance of yourself.
Forgot to mention..the most momentous of things during my American stay is and was Barack Obama ..the lead up to the election was so exciting and the collective sigh of relief from millions of Americans was amazing. Also joining a book Group full of great ladies and not to mention learning to play tennis blah blah the list goes on. I have to say that when I first came here three years ago I was truely appalled by the lack of ready-made shove in the oven meals that you could buy in the supermarket. unlike England where you need never have to look at a cook book.what me cook ??come on now!!.The only place that seemed to do them was Trader Joes and being a vegetarian we were limited to Aubergine parmigian and frittata but after you have eaten these two dishes every night for 2 weeks you want to start sticking pins in your eyes. How I longed for Tescos Finest or Waitrose gourmet dishes for two and of course the Grand Dame of ready made s Marks and Spencer..how I grieved those dishes..I have been forced to cook since being here..yes actually cook from scratch and read recipe books and chop up vegetables and by doing so have rediscovered a certain joy of cooking..it was either that or give the children wheat poisoning from having pasta every night.There is a huge gap in the American market waiting to be filled.
This week I celebrate being 3 years in America. We arrived on the 6th of March 2006 and lets just say my mental health was not at its best. I was suffering from post traumatic stress after packing up a house , a studio and our whole life in England to move here having just given birth to my 3rd child.It took a good year just to feel slightly settled and now after 3 years it feels sort of normal and yet not. I have become desensitised to the huge monster trucks that I found so offensive when I first moved here. I am no longer appalled at the huge distances i have to travel in my car to get from a to b ..usually a 45 minute trip.I no longer attempt to walk everywhere like I was in New York or London nor do i feel my buttocks start to clench when someone I dont know very well tells me "I love you". I am now genuinely shocked when I come across someone with "bad teeth" and consider it my God given right to have a manicure and pedicure every month..( it is very cheap here too) Highlights of my 3 American years Watching children have fun in the street Making friends with our neighbours(IN England if your neighbour dropped dead you would step over the body and be on your way) Getting Married in Vegas by Elvis Seeing the LOve show in Vegas Going on hikes in the canyons cycling along Venice and Santa monica seaside paths Seeing the Culver city open night for gallerys Learning to ride again
As I drove to Burbank the other day to ride my trusty Steed Ranger..I was horrified to find that Hollywood Boulevard (otherwise known as "Horrible Boulevard" as termed by my 4 year old who thought and still thinks that is its correct name) had been closed down 6 days prior to the Oscars causing havoc to people like myself trying to get to the valley. What where they preparing for.?.A World Summit with Heads of State trying to sort out world peace , the Global financial crisis or a cure for cancer?? No ..a load of actors wating to have their photos taken or pick up an award..the only crisis would have been an outfit crisis. Its the one time of the year when its all going on here and I have to say I was glad to see Slumdog get recognition although I have to say I thought Frost Nixon deserved best screen play..and I am not biast!!! We celebrated 2 birthdays within 4 days ..Gabriel turned 8 and Esther turned 4 wow ..I no longer have a baby !!!Hopefully no more until I am a Granny. We had a low key celebration with Gabe this year and went to have "ribs" the favorite du jour and see the unbelievably bad "pink Panther" Unsurprisingly the kids were bored within seconds and the theatre was empty -again unsurprisingly so Woolfie and Gabreil spent their time climbing over seats and playing spies in the the auditorium ..they danced they ran around , they played pranks they crawled along the isles without having to spend a second watching the atrocious film. Then Esthers birthday was on friday and we chose the park as the venue as last year I recall some difficulty getting rid of the parents at 6 oclock ..I invited 30 4 year olds and at the last minute decided to call in a Princess of Esthers choice for the WOW factor. Eshter wanted Ariel . I had underestimated the effect that Ariels presence would have on these children ..as soon as she arrived and just as things were getting out of hand the children went totally quiet and stared agogue. They did whatever she told them ..played games told them stories and a $140 well spent I thought . Every one was packed off by 6 but I was catatonic for two days after. Over for another year thank God.
After an epic break in posting i am back,,truth to tell there has been so little time..between managing the various family dysfunctions..painting applying ,for High schools worrying about the economy...the list goes on. I have yet again been doing the rounds of visiting schools , trying to enthuse my teenager to study for tests and filling in application forms. One thing I have noticed ..America loves red tape ..it is even more beaurocratic than India. Alot of the forms I dont understand. For independent Schools here one has to fill in a manual of maybe 30 pages..then send a manual to her current school where they have to fill in forms asking about your releyability as a parent and if you have contributed communally to the school..did you bake enough cookies for the school fundraising commitee meeting?.In England I would occassionally come across what I would call a "professional Parent" these people would have their child enrolled for every club from cooking to learning Cantonese. They would hot house their kids 3 years prior to applying to other schools..they would always be 1st to volenteer to be on the cake baking committee at school , on first name terms with the head mistress.. What I found miraculous is that they found time to do this..were they spending all night making the costumes for the school panto? Unsurprisingly most of these professional parents were American. Although in England I would admit to scoffing at the enthusiasm of these parents I now admire their willingness to take an active part in the community. The British way is that we do not like to appear "too Keen". It is uncool and also why not let someone else take care of it . So I have joined the ranks here in America of providing Snacks for the School play rehearsal , doing playground duty and clearing up after fundraisers because here in America everyone mucks in.