Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Costume Drama and On Location

Since His shock revelation at the weekend that the girls go back to school NEXT WEEK instead of the following one, under which happy illusion I had been joyfully labouring, the week has taken on something of a comical aspect. Like someone in a speeded-up film I am rushing around trying to assemble all the necessary bits of uniform and kit for daughter #2 as well as camping equipment, food contributions and 5 fancy dress costumes for our annual family get-together this weekend.

That's right-- this year the traditional Olympic games have been given an extra twist by brother #2, who (obviously bored in the office one day) has decreed that instead of being allocated countries, the teams will each be given a fancy dress theme. Daughter #1 is clad head to toe in lycra in the Superheroes (rather her than me), #2 has raided the dressing-up box and come up with a glamorous, swashbuckling ensemble for her place in the Pirate team, and #3 is cute as a button in denim and gingham for the Cowboys and Indians. Him Indoors had an alarmingly laid-back approach to putting together his look for the 70s Disco team, but very annoyingly managed to get everything in one quick swoop on the charity shops on Saturday afternoon. (Everything being hip-hugging ladies white flared trousers, black polyester shirt, cuban heeled boots, aviator shades and a loathsome gold medallion. The overall effect is John Travolta meets the Village People and is as camp as Christmas.) I am in The Victorians, so couldn't pass up such a golden opportunity to buy a corset. It's black, with fierce steel stud fastenings up the front and I'm utterly thrilled with it and its instant half-stone weight-loss effect. (Am currently wondering how I can incorporate it into my outfit for next month's glamorous Mills & Boon get together in London...) Quite how I shall manage to compete at table tennis and hula hooping in it remains a mystery. I predict another wooden spoon to add to my collection.

Anyway, in the midst of all this I'm also guiltily aware that I failed to deliver yesterday's promised look behind the scenes on location of Spanish Aristocrat Forced Bride, so here it is!(better late than never etc...)

The book opens at a glittering Costume Ball in the grounds of Stowell Castle (no women's polyester flares for Tristan though) and as I wrote this bit when school was out last summer, one of our favourite haunts brought the setting very vividly to life in my head. Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire is the home of the Marchioness of Cholmondelely (famously and incomprehensibly pronounced Chumley) and the daughters and I spent a lot of time hanging around in the gardens, working out where you could land a helicopter and which would be the best place to put up marquees if you were having a party. This is my favourite view of the castle, from the lake where I built an imaginary folly on an island—Tristan’s secret retreat from the world.

By the time school went back and I tripped off down to London for the annual Mills & Boon Authors' Lunch I’d progressed to the part of the story which takes place at Lily’s home in London. As she’s a successful model I decided that she should definitely live in uber-chic, celebritytastic Primrose Hill, so Abby Green and I walked there from Euston (having stopped to pick up fortifying Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the way—it’s quite a distance, you know) to check it out. We bought a picnic lunch from a deli on Regents Park Road and ate it on the hill in the September sunshine, then wandered round looking for the kind of house that Lily might live in. We were really excited to come across the pretty little lilac-painted house in Chalcot Square which for a brief period had been the home of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. I did my university dissertation on Sylvia Plath so had to resist the urge to throw myself down on the pavement outside and lick the paving stones where she once walked, and instead decided that in tribute this would be Lily’s house in the book. (I’m sure Sylvia would be beyond thrilled to know this.)

The other important location in the book is Tristan’s home ground—Barcelona. Now, I love the internet, and its value as a research tool can’t be overstated, but there are some instances where it just seems ever so slightly inadequate— namely when I discovered this hotel tucked away in a tiny corner of the exquisitely pretty Placa de Sant Felipe (with its desperately sad history) and had a sudden and alarming urge to leave the kids with my mother and drag Him off that very weekend for some on-the-spot research. Perhaps fortunately the Hotel Neri was all booked up (no chance of them making space for me—unlike Tristan) so in the end I did have to fall back on the internet. This is the archway into the square...

Spookily this song was already on my playlist for the book when I discovered that the video was actually filmed in the square outside the church where Tristan and Lily get married. The children from the school, who get a mention in the book also make an appearance!

(And in spite of the woman dangerously writhing around on the scaffolding, I’d still love to go there… )
That seems a suitable note to leave on since next time I'm going to talk more about the music I was listening to when I wrote the book. I'll also get round to posting the question for the competition! (Shall try to think of something other than 'Where in the name of Cadbury are my $%*#! author copies'...)


Kate Hardy said...

Your games sound fun, but the costumes sound seriously hilarious. And yes, you must wear the corset to the M&B lunch. (Remember, I will have my camera...)

Your girls go back next week? Blimey! We've had a 7-weeker, this time round, so I have a week and a half left. All uniform and rucksacks and stationery sorted (bar shoes, which I will have to do next week, oh joy).

Lovely pics, and they were enough for me to cheat and put your new book at the top of my TBR pile (postie delivered it literally 2 minutes ago).

Hugs on the missing author copies. Me, too, and I've resorted to ordering a couple of copies from Amazon...

Heidi said...

Ahh you see ladies this is the great benefit of sending your children to a too-trendy-by-half comprehensive in Camden... No uniform!! Course, that causes all sorts of other problems after term starts, but the less said about that the better.

The costumes sound hilarious India. Sounds like your DH and mine should meet, cos the one time we had a fancy dress party in our family he termed up as a Disco Diva, too... complete with curly perm wig, satin flares and medallion. Sort of the Village People meets Donna Summer. Actually maybe they shouldn't meet after all...!

India said...

I know Kate-- it's not right is it?! Everyone knows you get the whole week of the BH off. I think we're just about ready but that's not the point. Enjoy your last few lie-ins and think of us staggering about trying to get organised from Wednesday onwards!

Heidi, I'm torn between envy (no detentions for bits of kit still langhishing in the washing basket because of my domestic inadequacy) and horror at the idea of no uniform. (The memory of last term's 'curriculum enrichment week'-- 5 days of home clothes and screaming levels of stress at policing daughter #1's choices is still quite raw.)

Am really enjoying the mental image of our husbands meeting up for a manly pint dressed in their gay disco gear. Almost worth engineering such an event, I'd say!

Joanne Cleary said...

Your Olympic Games sounds seriously hilarious. I think we need picture proof ;-)

Michelle Styles said...

Whispering Northumberland goes back week of 8 Sept.
Sixth form does not have an uniform. My youngest keeps inheriting all the jumpers, polo tops etc. He now has a great pile in the corner of his room.
I am not even thinking about stationary! I am sure we have enough stuff.
Enjoy your Olympic games!

Trenda Plunkett said...

India, have a fabulous time at the Games! I am sooooo jealous though, as I've always wanted an excuse to buy a corset such as the one you described. Your lovely daughters must be over the moon with excitement about their own costumes...my own princess does love to dress up...the only time Little Man EVER became excited at the prospect of donning a costume was a couple of years ago when I managed to secure a Jeff Gordon NASCAR costume. Ah, the tears when said costume had to go in the wash...the boy would have slept in it had I let him!

I love the pictures you shared. Makes me doubly excited about our proposed trip to England...and that song...I LOVE that song!!!

Have a gorgeous day!



Trenda Plunkett said...

On another topic altogether...I receive Sephora's newsletter, and this week there was a picture of a new lip gloss...Twilight Venom...

Hmm...I am thinking I may have to purchase that one...although I doubt I'd have the nerve to wear it outside of the house! Daughter thought it a bit odd, and were I to actually purchase it and use it, she'd likely pass out from embarrassment!

Jane said...

Wow. Your family get together is way more exciting than ours.

Trenda said...

India, hubby and I had passport photos taken this week. Wow! I thought nothing could be worse than a driver's license photo, but I was wrong! Yeesh! Next week, we apply for passports. [squealing happily] I think this trip is truly going to happen!!!!

Hugs and much love,


India said...

Joanne, I'll post some if I can! Our photos were inadequate, as usual, but there were lots of seriously super cameras hanging around so I have a horrible feeling there'll be no escaping the photographic evidence...

My youngest is in the same situation as yours with primary uniform, Michelle-- great piles of cardigans with frayed cuffs and chewing gum coloured polo shirts, so she always looks slightly scruffy. It's on my list of things to feel guilty about when I have the time. Good luck with getting yours back to school, and hope it doesn't work out to be more hassle NOT having uniform!

Trenda, I'm so excited for you about the trip to the UK-- have you any idea when you'll be coming and where you're planning on going? (Coy look: Cheshire is very lovely at this time of year...)
Oh, and when I was about 13 the essential lipstick in everyone's makeup bag was called Twilight Teaser, which was a sort of frosted blueish purple. Nice. It's like all of us had total taste bypasses in the 80s.

(Jane, exciting is sometimes just another word for insane. There's a fine line! But family is family, and so any get together is gorgeous in its own way. xx)