About ten years ago I had an epiphany : if I could only be a cross between Ava Gardner and Jessica Fletcher I would be the perfect woman. Ideal. I wouldn’t need anything else – not a soupcon of Streisand, nor a dash of Monroe. If we could somehow combine the powers of Gardner and Fletcher we could create a woman who would rule the world. She would have the sexual power and aesethetic beauty of Gardner coupled with the no-nonsense, brilliant, detecting brain of Jessica Fletcher, the first person to work out who in the lunch party killed the golf caddy, or who in the amateur dramatic group coshed the choreographer on the head and made a run for it. I realise there are problems with this idea, as one of the women is fictional and the other one is dead but, hell, you got to aim high, haven’t you?
Unfortunately I have been slightly out of order for several days due to what I have called medieval plague lunatic virus which requires another week to clear up. Part of the joy of being off work is seeing Murder She Wrote for the first time since 1989. Whilst viewing, I realised that this week I have finally turned into a combination of Ava Gardner and Jessica Fletcher, but with the wrong parts. I have Ava Gardner’s brain (as still as a millpond, rather dim, occasional electrical twitch of life when thinking of Frank Sinatra) coupled with Jessica Fletcher’s sexual allure (not apparent, swathed in beige cardigans, thickening at the waist, look like an elderly man from a certain angle). I’ve existed in that strange malaise, where you don’t really want to read a book, don’t really want to watch telly, don’t really want to brush your hair – and you just sit and stare and stare and stare and find that you have been staring at the wall for half an hour. Again. The week has stretched out long and dry and I have nothing to fill it. I did have the delightful prospect of a hairdressers visit on Friday (I LOVE the hairdressers) but I shan’t be well enough to go so I am a little sad about that. So, I have pledged to use the time to finally catch up on Zen, the critically-hailed Italian set detective drama from Michael Dibden’s books.
I was immediately enthusiastic about this. Rufus Sewell (Schwingg!), Rome piazzas (Schwingg!), sexy snogging moments behind the Orangina dispensers in espresso-serving plain little cafes (Schwing!!), high-ceilinged gracious apartments where everyone has a huge wine glass filled with a stylish slosh of Barollo (Schwingg!). It was so fine that I really could have done without the murder / intrigue / mercurial senior policemen / plot etc, and just looked at the decoration and outfits for 2 hours. Apparently Zen is a Venetian, a fact that Romans instinctively distrust. I am talking, by the way, of modern day Romans – the short, organized, loud people who run businesses and zoom around dangerously in cars, not the older Romans – the short, organized, loud people who ran empires and zoomed around dangerously in chariots between Colchester and St Albans. Rufus Sewell – does he wear eyeliner above his eyelashes? Either that or he has been lucky to have been born naturally doe-eyed and mesmerising. And don’t tell me the outfits worn by his lovely lady friend won’t influence us this Spring. Which one of us doesn’t want to go out and rock the sexy Italian pencil-skirt wearing secretary look? It’s far more attractive than Kate Middleton’s twiggy-legs in opaque expensive tights and suede boots, whom the papers insist on foisting upon us like some fashion messiah by repeating nonsense like “Everyone’s copying her look!”. If that was the case we would all look tense, English, emaciated and very much in need of a chicken supper.
I of course am unable to fulfil the sexual allure inherent in the Roman sexy secretary look because I still am suffering from medieval plague virus. But when I emerge I shall buy one of those skirts that are difficult to walk in. Meanwhile, dear readers, my life has taken that strange shape life takes when you aren’t well. My whole world has shrunk to three rooms. I have the computer, Murder She Wrote, Daisy Goodwin’s enjoyable new novel My Last Duchess, codeword puzzles, Facebook and Google News. It was the last of these things that had to be the first to go. It was full of ordinary madnesses and I had to switch the news off. I got a shock when I looked outside the window late yesterday afternoon – there were people, lots of them, sitting on the top deck of a London bus, would you believe, on their way home from work, would you believe. I looked at them from my plinth in Ye Henry VI Coldsore Infirmarie and gawped at them in their modern, Blackberry-clutching world and thought “people!”, “bus!” “have they been to work? I remember that.” “Londoners!” “Oh, look, she’s got a magazine.” I was astonished that the outside world still existed – not from ideas of egotism that the world really ought not to go on turning without me (although I am grateful that the ropes are up in most of Soho’s pubs and bars until I am better, which is soooo sweet) but that I hadn’t participated in anything for the last week and had sort of …er…forgotten. I had a job? I did things? It has only been 5 days! Ought I to telephone someone and let them know? Who do I work for?
I’m nearly out of the woods and will rejoin the modern world on Monday. Meanwhile, who amongst us is convinced that my medieval plague coldsore virus has been sent to me by Edward Rutherfurd, who I totally bitched about two weeks ago on this here site? Has he sent me back to 1328 as a punishment? If so, it’ll be hell in a plague cart, I can tell you. Maybe next he’ll send me a dose of Georgian syphillis. I bet they won’t have anything for that at Neal’s Yard. Or Victorian cholera. Rutherfurd, you ass. I shan’t be reading HIM again. I’m in a right huff. Writers eh? They always have to bear a grudge. Bet that Jessica Fletcher wouldn’t do that – she’d be lovely and make me a cup of something weird, like American tea, and say : “Now, dear, I’m just off to see the sheriff to discuss the killing of poor Father Oliver in the crypt. Such a sad business. Who would want to give a dear old man like that a pot of poisoned crysanthemums the day before the tri-annual yacht meet?”
‘Jeez, Jessica. I have no idea. Is that your typewriter? The one you use in the opening credits with the music and stuff? Is the piano inside it?’
‘Not now dear. Now, I don’t suppose it could be…..’ Jessica looks rueful, and her tidy hair moves slightly. ‘Wasn’t that nice Mr Rutherfurd in town yesterday? You know – the writer?’
‘Yes he was, Jessica! How clever of you to remember!’
‘I saw him when I left the opticians and I remember I didn’t need to put my glasses on to see him in that yellow jumpsuit. Didn’t he have a gift for Father Oliver?’
‘Oh yes, it’s him, Jessica. He’s a right twozzock. It’s probably him. You can arrest him if you like. I just have one question.’
‘Whether or not he actually bought the crysanthemums intended for Father Oliver? Whether or not Rutherfurd meant to frame Dwayne the pool boy at the yacht club?’
‘No. You don’t have any Zovirax, do you?’
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