A month is a long time in Hollywood.
There I was, all set to go home, waxing lyrical on September 6th about my family and friends, while declaring my LA life over, and yet here I am. Still. And, what’s more, in a different apartment, with another signed lease, engaged in an enormous writing project.
I can’t divulge the details just yet, but it is hugely exciting and, as I need regular access to the subjects, whose biography I am writing, have decided to stay on, rather than conduct the whole thing via e-mail and phone from back home.
No, I have not emigrated, and will still be back in the UK on two extended trips before Christmas, for all the reasons I detailed in my last blog. But I am yet again going to be an East/West commuter and sharing nights out with my flight crew chums from Virgin and Air New Zealand.
My mother in particular is being incredibly understanding. She knows what a tough year it has been, and this project could really transform my life. She is used to my changes of fortune and also my changes of address, and I could not wish for better support. My friends, also, while probably thinking I am insane, are excited for me.
But I have moved. After 18 months of living in Beverly Hills, I decided to try a different area. In recent months, I have been going to Santa Monica’s ocean front several times a week on the bus: a journey that took over half an hour. Much as I have enjoyed the exclusivity of Beverly Hills, it can hardly be called real life. The nearest supermarket was over a mile away; buying a pint of milk at night was harder than keeping a cow in the bathroom. Although there was a Whole Foods two miles away, I could no longer afford their prices. My screams at the checkout were beginning to frighten the locals.
Having looked at some dire places near the sea front, I decided upon a very high spec, modern apartment about a five-minute drive away from the coast. My new landlord owns the spectacular kitchen store below, so I now have the appliances I have always dreamed of. My fridge is like a second home. I could take in a couple of lodgers in the oven and never bump into them.
Close by and within walking distance, is the store Smart and Final, which is cheap, cheap, cheap; and, a few doors from that, the Star Market, an Oriental store with hundreds of spices and exotic fruits. The Wine Expo one block away has as good a selection of European wines as I ever saw when living in France; on Saturday, they are opening their very nice wine bar. And, opposite, there is Busby’s Sports Bar.
I’m not sure whether I will be a regular in Busby’s, which is a real All Guys Together sort of place - the kind you see in movies, before reaching for the remote to see if there is a rom com on another channel.
The clientele is very tall, they shout at screens showing games that, to me, have incomprehensible rules; they high five each other when someone scores (which appears to be often); they wear baseball hats and drink beer, while wolfing down plates of chicken wings the size of small poultry farms.
Luckily, I don’t hear any of the noise from Busby’s in my apartment, which, being far set back from the road, is unbelievably quiet, and I already feel very settled. I had everything unpacked and in its place within 48 hours, including my alphabetically ordered books – and spices. And I have already been to a cheese and wine evening at an apartment, where my new neighbour was introducing a line of beauty products.
I have also been to the fabulous Wine Lounge at the top of the new Santa Monica shopping mall, and again to my regular haunt the King’s Head, the British pub close to the front.
And who should I see in the King’s Head, but David Beckham. Sitting at the opposite table, in his baseball cap and vest, having lunch with his three kids. I could barely swallow my fries.
It was all rather sweet. David cut up the younger boy’s food and was openly affectionate with them, like any normal doting dad. And what well behaved children. Polite, friendly to the staff, they were adorable and stood patiently by as other diners, clocking the star, moved in for photos and autographs as the party stood up to leave.
Okay, yes, I was one of them. Having seen David in my gym, where Victoria regularly works out, too, I was playing it cool. And then couldn’t. So there he is, on my Blackberry, in a very blurred photo (the female fan taking it was so excited, she was shaking uncontrollably), with me looking like a Lilliputian tucked under David’s well muscled arm.
They were all going next door to the Tudor shop where, joy of joys this week, I was able to buy Heinz baked beans. And proper Irish sausages. And a chicken and mushroom pie. Real British food. You can take the girl out of Wales, but . . .
It is still easy to get around on the bus, which goes from right outside my apartment block, and yesterday I went to West Hollywood, where I saw yet another sports superstar - Mike Tyson, sitting right across from me in a hostelry. I decided not to venture forth in quite the same manner as I had with David. I value my ears. Not to mention my . . . Well, we all know the boxer’s history. He was laughing uproariously with some friends, with his mouth wide open and baring his teeth. All he was missing was a lion tamer.
So, another chapter begins, and the roller-coaster at the end of Santa Monica pier beckons. It’s an appropriate metaphor for the fortunes of my strangely ever-changing life.