. . . To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause . . .
We all have a dream, dreams. Big and small. Some we will obtain, others never. But do we stop? Why do we stop believing in magic? Does life become to “hard” that we give up and give in? I’ve always admired those that refuse to stop following their dream, who believe in conquering their demons and slaying dragons. Frida Kahlo painted with a broken body, Granma Moses started painting at 76 (and with arthritis), or, Artemisia Gentileschi, a 16th century Italian painter, overcoming a rape and the disdain of society who did not respect women painters. When she testified against her rapists she was tortured as a way to confirm she told the truth, which might explain the power of her painting Judith Slaying Holofernes.
Artemisia’s Judith Slaying Holofernes
Doesn’t eating an arsenic wafer sound delicious? Well if you wanted clear skin and you lived during Queen Victoria’s time (and I’m not blaming her) you might have bought this at your local chemist.
The pursuit of beauty was -and with the EPA doing a poor to middling job of keeping out toxic ingredients in our current cosmetics is – dangerous. Lotions contained lye, turpentine, wax, spermicide and lead. A lead-filled white paint was used to cover a woman’s face, but as the paint set it hardened, leaving cracks if a woman smiled. Lead is corrosive and often “lead” to skin damage whereby more lead would be piled on to cover the damage from the lead. Ammonia was used to wash the face. Opium was rubbed on skin. Taraxacum which is an extract of the dandelion, which sounds harmless but was not, was an 1800’s chemical peel, blistering the face, but promising to leave baby-smooth skin behind. (It was also used as a diuretic when swallowed.)
I thought vermilion was just a color (it is) but it was also a substance made from grinding cinnabar which contained mercury and ladies rubbed on their lips for a deadly red smile. Some women “enameled” their faces. Yes, enamel paint covered their skin to give the appearance of a white-white death-like pallor. I found an article (side trip, which always happens while researching) where one woman’s face enamel lasted three days! But ended up swelling and she made a trip to the hospital. Hope she lived. Many of the long-term enameling resulted in eye disfiguration. Instead of Latisse, ladies used mercury on their eyelashes. Belladonna drops were used to give an ethereal look in the eye. Of course, it could and did sometimes cause blindness. One famous proponent of using the drops was Marchesa Luisa Casati. Look at her eyes below!!She believed in the drops and walking around with a pair of pet cheetahs. For a while she lived in Venice in an unfinished palazzo later bought by Peggy Guggenheim, another eccentric. One can tour the museum today and it remains unfinished as it was in Guggenheim’s time, with merely one floor. On the Marchesa’s tombstone it is etched “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” From Shakespeare’sAntony and Cleopatra.
Marchesa Luisa Casati
Medicine in the Victorian Era was a whole other roll of the dice. In France there were little blue pills containing arsenic that were prescribed for energy and baldness and it supposedly worked (at least for the energy part), if it didn’t first kill you like it did the Duc de Morny who indulged in the little pills. I always thought blue food should be a thing, so I sorta understand.
Since Roman times ladies used chalk and paint to achieve beautiful skin, hide blemishes, enhance their features. Girls have ingested such things as chalk, arsenic, and slate to realize white skin.
Lola Montez, actress, dancer and courtesan (as one was) wrote a fascinating book “The Arts of Beauty: Or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet” i.e. toilet was making oneself up not . . . anything else. Montez writes of French women rubbing their bodies with stag fat. Others wrapped their faces with hunks of raw beef at night (oh their lucky husbands!). I’ll stick with my Shisheido face masks.
I am always in search of a word’s origins and whether it was used in the time I am writing about. So here is this month’s word: Asshole or arsehole. Used in the 1500s to describe, well, an anus. It wasn’t until the 1800s when it was used to describe a place, and not until 1933 when it was used to describe a person. And supposedly (according to etymonline.com ash-hole was a “receptacle for ashes beneath a grate.” As in “Tell’d her a hunderd times nivver to put t’poaker i’ t’ass-hoil.” (said with a Scottish accent.)
Escaping Santa Barbara’s gloom
This month – while packing and writing – I squeezed in a quick trip to Palm Springs for some much-needed heat and sunshine. What a great city. I’m so in love with it. Have made lots of friends there, though only got to see a few this time as I was with some besties and then had 24 hours alone! Writing! Plugging away on Book Four.
Then the three little people and I made our way (see luggage photo above) to London! Oh, my what fun we had. Traveling with them forces me to see more than Harvey Nics, Harrods, Fenwick and Selfridges (though I still managed to hit all four!). We did the Thames River tour, which wasn’t cheesy at all. Informative, interesting to see London from that view, was quick, which was good because it was freezing arse.
We toured the Globe and watched a rehearsal of Henry 4 (I think). Fascinating!!! Set in the 1930s and though I still didn’t understand all they were saying, as an actor I understood how they were saying it. If that makes sense. It will to some of you thespians. It was all about talking to the audience as in Shakespeare’s day they were an integral part of the performance and soliloquies were to pass information and let the audience know a character’s motivation and feelings to draw their sympathy (or other feeling). Because of rehearsals we could not take photos, but it is open with grass growing around what little of a “roof” there is. Our guide told us yes, they perform rain or shine and no umbrellas aloud. I “borrowed” this photo from the internet. Its really gorgeous inside.
Super fun day touring Harry Potter Studios. Much more interesting than I would have thought for an agnostic Harry Potter “fan.” It is not really my cup of English Breakfast, but I so admire that J.K. Rowling wrote a BOOK that so many kids have READ. Kudos to her. We also saw “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” – Lordy 6 hours in the theatre on tiny uncomfortable seats. I had no idea what was going on on stage, loved the special effects and meditated (always have to make wise use of my time.)
Toured Windsor Castle (again things I wouldn’t have bothered to do without the little people in tow) and loved it. The church was closed (the one Harry and Meghan married in) for another royal wedding, Lady Gabriela and someone. Then saw this picture in the news a few days after.
Could live here – Windsor Castle
Lovely little town where we had a quick tea (my favorite meal, ever and always) especially as it can and should include bubbles.
Had champagne with two dear friends at Claridge’s Fumoir bar. Tiny, elegant and I can’t believe I didn’t know it was there. Art Deco and like stepping back in time.
Harry Potter tour next stop Italy
Of course, our visit included a visit to the set of The Witches, with Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer, directed by a guy with a similar last name. The little people were thoroughly amused when we were warned by security that someone was going to come talk to me about taking pictures (which of course I do not post until the film is out. This is not my first rodeo, paranoid arses!). The little people wanted to see me get in “trouble.” Security never came, or we alluded them! Ha.
And now we’ve arrived back in Italy!!
We’ve had sun, rain, a thunderstorm that blew a hole in the shed and caused half our Wi-Fi and electricity to vanish. But now we’re all put back together again. We’ve had our first guest, my dear friend Chef David Verzello. We had an amazing lunch at Il Borro not too far from us, a small village the Ferragamo family turned into a hotel. We also had dinner at Le Logge in Siena. The best part of the night was the owner taking us down four flights (I’m claustrophobic?) to visit the wine cellars. Supposedly we were in the medieval floor and the Etruscan floor. All this built in the Jewish section of Siena.
David and I at Il Borro (sunny warm day)
Coco made her first transatlantic trip! We are so happy to hug and kiss her and introduce her to the sheep, geese, turkeys and new lamb. She really didn’t care too much for them, but they were fascinated by her. Here are our sheep lined up looking at her.
“What is that little white thing?”
“Is she one of us?”
Coco: “Are men really not attracted to girls who wear glasses?”
If your BOOK CLUB would like me to visit via Skype I’m available on the road or when I’m at home. It’s been fun coming into your homes, sending specialty FAN cocktail recipes before for you all to try. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to join in on some Fun FAN talking. A questionnaire is available on my website to download for your Book club.
And lastly what I’m reading or recently read
for complete list, I have everything on Good Reads
as I can’t remember them all!
“Hunger” by Roxane Gay is really rather astonishing. The violence done to women and girls since the beginning of time and the ever-lasting damage is wrecks is more than depressing. Gay relates a childhood gang rape and the aftermath which leaves her “morbidly obese.” Its all self-examination, and questioning society’s behavior towards those that are “fat.” The book is raw, painful and very very thought provoking, challenging us to look at people more than the “body” that they are. She is also a terrific writer and tells how writing saved her. Every day she writes. So . . .with that said . . . off I go to the keyboards.
Let the reading, writing and summer adventures begin . . .