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When I was a little girl living in Yorkshire in the north of England, I was short and very skinny and painfully shy. I had wispy blond hair, I was blind as a bat and wore little round gold glasses that slid off the end of my nose and were the bane of my life.
I met Richard, a good-looking (and quite full of himself was my first thought!) young American in London where we were both working: he for a tv company, me for a talent agency. He came to live in the apartment next door to the one I shared with a couple of girlfriends. Then of course he came round to 'borrow a cup of sugar' plus check out the girls. We fell in love - and took it from there. Three months later he accepted a job with an American TV company in Brasil and we parted, I thought for ever. We wrote, he called, then a few weeks later he telephoned to say he was sending me a first-class ticket to Rio (not because he could afford it but because he had a generous friend who owned the Brazilian airline) He loved me and would I join him.
All things considered, my father was very good about it! (though I didn't leave him much choice). Off I flew, in the depths of a freezing English winter to sunny summer Brasil. It was the first time I had ever flown first-class and I remember being very impressed, especially when we stopped in Paris to pick up the President of Brazil's wife, magnificent in a ballgown and emeralds. I felt quite out of it in my gray miniskirt, black sweater and boots and I was very glad when she changed into leggings and a sweatshirt and settled down under a blanket for the long flight.
The view as the plane circles Guanabara Bay is heart-stoppingly beautiful, one of the loveliest sights in the world. But at the airport there was no sign of Richard. I stared with a sinking heart at the milling throng, all speaking that most impenetrable and foreign of foreign-sounding languages, Carioca Portuguese. Could he have forgotten the time of the flight? Forgotten me? Changed his mind? And then I spotted him, rushing through the crowds, late as usual. Need I say, that we fell into each others arms and that we have been together ever since.
And waiting for me at the apartment was the most adorable fluffy white angora kitten with blue eyes whom we named Pog, the first of our cat family. She traveled the world with us for many years.
We spent three years living in a sub-tropical paradise on Ipanema beach (remember that famous song, the Girl from Ipanema?) and Rio was possibly the most romantic city in the world for two young people in love. There never was a beach so white, a sea so green, a sky so intensely blue you felt heaven was right there; people so joyous, girls so gorgeous, music so romantic, Carnival so outrageous, forget dancing 'til dawn, we danced for ever...
Let me tell you that many nights we walked home along Copacabana beach, hand in hand, in the moonlight. That on our local cafe terrace a magnificent cheetah lounged on a chain close by our table; that in the forested mountains brilliant birds took to the air with a flutter of giant wings and raucous squawks; that small dogs on jeweled leashes stepped as daintily as their beautiful owners along the swirling mosaic-tile sidewalks of Copacabana, where stepping daintily was a necessity if you didn't want to break your stiletto in the cracks between those tiny tiles. That we hung out with all the young musicians, and with Antonio Carlos Jobim who played his guitar and sang his new songs for us. And that now we have now been married for thirty-three years.
So tell me, do you think I'm qualified to write about romance?
What else can I tell you? That I'm 5'3" and wishing it were more; l28 lbs and wishing it were less; that I have the same wispy blond hair and myopia that has plagued me since childhood. I wear contacts or glasses, but I like the glasses to be fun. I have a pair of thin red oval frames bought in Capri last summer, and also a pair of small round tortoise-colored ones that my daughter tells me are cool (true praise from your daughter) But sometimes, our of sheer vanity, I go without and just grope my way around. Do you know how much rosier the world looks so when you don't see it too clearly? And how much better-looking people become?
My hair is straight and refuses to curl except in humid climates, so that's just the way it has to be. I love the sun but have given up sunbathing and resorted to fake tan. Currently, I have a fondness for Clinique's Bronze Lilac lipstick as well as Chanel's Sugar Rose, and Bobbi Brown's Aubergine lipgloss. And I love 24 Faubourg perfume from Hermes, as well as Robert Isabell's Ceylon.
Have I dropped enough brand names yet? Actually, here's a couple more: Neutrogena Sugar Beige lipstick, and Benefit Nine-One-One, which I think is a miracle - you can use it as a blush, a lipstick and even eyeshadow - absolutely great for travelling light.
My favorite clothes come from Banana Republic, Max Mara and Morgan Le Fay, though I am not a dedicated shopper and absolutely hate trying on anything except shoes.
In my books I often describe the clothes my women wear; their perfumes and scented candles; their sofas, pillows and beds and rugs, simply because it seems to me to tell you a lot about who they are. I couldn't conjure up characters so well without those details and besides they are exactly the sort of intimate things you would know about a friend.
These are the small details that make my stories come to life for you, the things that make women tick, things I thought you might like to know about me.
What else can I tell you? That I have a preference for the colors blue and yellow, that wonderful sunshiny Provencal look. That I love good food and I'm a jolly good cook. Some of my recipes appear in my books. I'm a whizz at Yorkshire puddings, and my bread and butter pudding, I say with all modesty, is to die for - more of a souffle than a pudding. (See Fortune Is A Woman, Chapter 23, page 286 for recipes). *Also English Sunday Lunch Recipes.
Actually, I'm probably not as good a cook as Richard, he's much more precise, but we both enjoy having friends and family over for meals which somehow always end up being a feast with lots of wine and laughter. You can squeeze twelve, or at a push even fourteen, around our long pine refectory table.
I love Italian food and French champagne and have a new and sneaking fondness for a Cosmopolitan. And my biggest passion in life - after my family and my cats and writing - is travel.
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