01 October, 2006

sunday luncheon with Vincent

Not that I was whipping out my camera and photographing our meal with our friend Vincent, but it just so happened that right before having lunch with him, Avery and I brought home the most amazing haul from the Marylebone Farmer's Market. OK, OK, I brought home the most amazing haul while poor Avery staggered behind under the weight of her overnight bag from her sleepover with Jade, just up the road. They had a perfect time, Amy's mother reported, and Avery is welcome any time. Isn't that nice to hear? There was Nintendog, there was disco dancing, French toast ("homemade, mind you, dipped in egg and fried in butter, yum" was Avery's exact food review), and a blessedly early bedtime.

Anyway, just take a gander at this purple broccoli, and the goat cheese! At first I was happy to sample just the plain chevre, liberally crumbled up in a bowl for us all to taste (so pleased not to see a lot of silly "health and safety" nonsense, the irritating regulations that seem to make everything fun forbidden; everyone simply picked up little bits and seemed happy to live with the possibility that another actual human might have come into contact with the bit adjacent. However, once Avery and I had both had the plain, the lady behind the counter said, "Now lovey, if that is to your liking, just get on the outside of this bit, with the chilies," and it was divine, and maybe even better was the log rolled in chives. Mmmm! So I bought both. I also bought a kilo of tiny, tiny tomatoes, and a big bunch of basil. I think that with a little angel hair's pasta the cheese, tomatoes and fresh pesto will be just the ticket tonight.

This all put John and me in the perfect mood to drop Avery at the stable and run out to Holland Park for lunch with Vincent. It was worth titling a post after him. We were great friends 15 years ago in New York, then he ended up here married to an English girl with whom he had two divine little girls, Estee and Ines. They are now divorced and Vincent is happily with Pete, who co-hosted our lunch. The house is absolutely stunning: gutted and done up from scratch with double-level new windows on the ground and first floor, poured concrete floors with thermal heating underneath, the perfect kitchen with every possible important appliance including a waist-high dishwasher. So smart. We had brought champagne, so we started on that and caught up on gossip, work news, the all-important conversational category "Real Estate Ventures I May Get Involved With," child talk, etc. Then we were onto a homemade tarte with feta cheese, red onions, tiny tomatoes, fava beans and chives. And a quiche with lardons of bacon and cheddar cheese. Plus a peerless salad of baby rocket, baby spinach and watercress, with a dressing of mustard, lemon oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and oregano. A cheese board with Saint Andre, Brie, Stilton and Cheddar, and an enormous bowl of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries tossed with vodka.

Vincent of course is, in addition to advising the sheik of Qatar on his investments, pursuing a sideline in digital photography, very arty and hard for me to understand, but obviously really sophisticated. He has been assiduously if gently courted by art dealers to make a purchase, and was sorely tempted by an Antony Gormley, but then so wouldn't we all be. Imagine, having to shore up the foundations of your flooring to accomodate the weight of a sculpture. "You know, Kristen, there is virtually no representation at ALL for young American photographers, or even mid-career photographers. They sort of stop here at Irving Penn, so there is a real niche." He's earnestly trying to persuade me that it would be great fun to build a gallery in the East End in some abandoned warehouse, keep my overhead down (while presumably trying not to lose my actual head to armed bandits in this wasteland of real estate). Vincent is one of those people who makes you feel that your dinner choices are always above average, your personal style not to be despised, and anything you might ever want to do entirely within your reach, and probably, at that, your own aspirations aren't nearly cool enough for your capacities. A lovely, tall, handsome, urbane, superbly entertaining man. We've missed you, Vincent, and now that we've got you back we aren't about to let you go. Peter is having his own adventures trying to make friends with Estee and Ines, and it all seems to be working quite beautifully, as anything Vincent turns his hand to would. It wouldn't dare otherwise.

Unfortunately just as the last bite was swallowed and the last sip of Beaujolais Nouveau drunk, we had to dash away to get Avery from the barn. There she was, crouched on the floor of the stable with all her little friends, eating a blackcurrant iced lolly. She had a bit of an adventure in the Park with a runaway Rowan in a leadership contest with naughty Horace, and filled me with confidence in the supervision at Ross Nye when she giggled, "Of course the only instructor, Sofia, was busy with a little girl on leadline, so we all just went crazy." Harumph. What can I do.

Last night while Avery was at Jade's house John and I went out for a good if rather too salty Chinese meal, and came back home to watch "The DaVinci Code." Yawn! Double yawn. I thought Tom Hanks was woefully miscast, the plot totally impossible to follow, Ian McKellan briefly rescued it and then turned ridiculous. Audrey Tautou was of course adorable, but she could do only so much. A rather wasted movie opportunity, especially since I'm meant to be studying films now! I had a great screenwriting class, watching the first five minutes of three films and analysing the development of the main character in those five minutes: "Midnight Cowboy," "Wall Street" and "Fargo." Of the three, the only film I'd cross the road to see is "Fargo," and I gather I am the last person in the world to see it. Maybe on DVD. The Saturday course, "Creating Fiction," is also heating up. This time we listened to three people read their pieces and totally slagged them off (love that new slang word), then spent a half hour writing a piece on "The worst evening you can imagine and an unexpected pleasant surprise at the end of it." These set pieces are surprisingly difficult to do! Far more difficult, however, is my task for October 21: I have to come in prepared to read 2500 words, or 15 minutes, of my own original fiction, and prepare to be slagged off. Considering the fact that I am not currently in possession of even one minute of original fiction, my work is clearly cut out for me. The instructor's most interesting advice yesterday was "go in late, come out early," which means that nine times out of ten, the first 40 pages or so of the novel you are writing will turn out to be garbage, and not necessary to set up the story, except that it's necessary to create them in order to have them to throw away. Likewise with the end; the last 40 pages will turn out to be rubbish, only you don't know that till you've written them. Intriguing. I'd like to have even 80 pages of rubbish, instead of the big fat zero I have right now. My dear darling brother-in-law Joel is patiently thinking up plots for me, and he's really good at it, so I had better get busy writing them down, even if I end up throwing them away. The tutor also mentioned some of the pitfalls of writing in the first person (clearly my preferred method): "endless whingeing can become indigestible." Doesn't sound real appealing, for sure, and I have a sneaking feeling that many of the readers of this blog know just how likely a pitfall it can be, sorry. But as soon as I try to write in the third-person I feel artificial, like I'm just naming myself "Kate" and trying to dress differently on paper. There must be more to it than that.

Right now Avery is slaving away on her homework, John is taking a nap, and I'm contemplating making my pesto for dinner. In the way that you do when you're writing a cookbook (which sadly involves figuring out how to write things down for OTHER PEOPLE and not just making it up differently every time for yourself), I have bought two more duck breasts so I can perfect the roast duck salad. If you haven't tried it yet, you must. I have to find someone else to talk food with while my mother-in-law is spending three weeks in Eastern Europe. Something tells me my own mother would fall asleep on the phone if I tried to work through a recipe for onion tarte with her on the telephone, poor dear. Now, get her started on some Formula One race drivers and she'd be all set. Wait: maybe one of them has a recipe for onion tarte?

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