Clearing the Fog

It was foggy. She stood there, frustrated with herself. She had no idea where she was. She must have taken a wrong turn somewhere back there because she thought she was heading back to the house but it seemed to be eluding her. The fog was so dense, she couldn’t see much around her. Alone and getting lost in a thick blanket of fog was not her idea of how to spend a pleasant Sunday morning. What was she going to do? Well, there wasn’t much she could do except wait until the fog dissipated. How long that would take, she had no clue. It seemed so strange to see such thick fog in the middle of summer. This is England, she reminded herself. Anything is possible when it came to the weather. Sighing, she leaned against the tree and waited.

 

Earlier this morning when she had looked out of the window there wasn’t any sign of fog or she wouldn’t have ventured outside. Instead, she would have slept in a little longer or gone to the library to read one of those interesting books she found there. Everything about Pemberton Place was interesting. This was her second week at the magnificent, Gothic mansion rising above the beautiful, sprawling grounds that seemed to stretch for miles and miles. She was here at her friend’s invitation.

 

Maggie grew up and lived here most of her life before she moved to London where she attended university. It was at university that they met and became fast friends. She usually spent the summer in London with family but this time Maggie insisted that she accompany her to Pemberton. Excited and nervous at the same time, she agreed to go. It was a nice change to spend the summer with her friend and her family.

 

Pemberton was everything she had imagined and more. Maggie had told her so much about it that she felt as if she knew the place. It was massive and it reminded her of somewhere like Pemberley, Thorncliff or Manderly. She couldn’t imagine living there–it struck her more as a tourist attraction than a private home. And there were lots of servants. She didn’t know how Maggie could remember all of their names. And so many rooms. One could easily get lost. And she did a couple of times.

 

She smiled as she remembered going into the library when she had meant to go to the drawing-room. Instead of facing a huge fireplace with crackling fire licking the logs she faced an enormous bookcase filled with books. Forgetting her dilemma at the moment, she walked over to the shelves of books, her eyes traveling over the thick volumes, textbooks, Encyclopedias and literature. Her eyes spotted a collection of writings by Jane Austen. She was about to pull it out when she became aware that someone else was in the room. She turned.

 

It was Rupert, Maggie’s brother. She had heard a lot about him but nothing prepared her for their first meeting.

 

First of all, he didn’t look too pleased to see her there in the library. She had been about to go over to him, extend her hand in greeting but the scowl on his face kept her immobile. “I don’t believe I know you,” he said, quickly closing the distance between them. He stopped a short distance from her, his green eyes searching her face, his expression quizzical.

 

For a moment she was distracted by his looks. Tall, swarthy, raven dark hair with a few strands falling across his forehead. He was incredibly handsome. He was dressed casually in a white shirt and grey slacks. “I’m Darcy, Maggie’s friend from university.” She held out her hand and it was clasped in a firm grip. “It’s good to meet you, Rupert. Maggie has told me so much about you.”
He released her hand but his eyes stayed on her face. “She did mention that she was bringing a friend to spend the summer holidays here at Pemberton.”
She glanced around the room. “You have a very fine library here,” she commented. “I was on my way to the drawing-room but ended up here instead. I’m glad I did. I was looking at the books when you came in. I saw several that I would like to read. I hope you don’t mind me being here.”
He turned away then. “You are free to come in here whenever you want,” he said. “However, this is the time when I usually come here to catch up on my reading and I like to be alone. To get to the drawing-room, just turn right and it’s at the end of the hallway.” He went over to one of the book shelves and took down a large book and walking over to the armchair, he sat down. He opened the book, signalling that their conversation was over. She turned and walked out of the room, thinking to herself that he and Maggie were as different as night and day.
That was several weeks ago. Since then, they hadn’t interacted much and when they did it seemed stilted.   She remembered one afternoon on the grounds when she was taking photos.   As she stood among the shrubs,  Maggie took a photo of her friend.   When they walking back to the house, they ran into Rupert who was on his way out.   Maggie showed him the photo she had just taken of Darcy.   “Lovely photo, isn’t it?” she remarked.   Darcy was wearing the pale green lace top and a navy blue capri.

 

He looked at it and then he looked at Darcy.   “Yes, it is.”  He agreed.  He gave the camera back to Maggie and abruptly excused himself.  Darcy felt embarrassed about the whole thing.  It was obvious that Maggie was trying to set her up with her brother but it was obvious to Darcy that he wasn’t interested.   It seemed like his admission that she looked lovely in the photo was rather forced.

 

“I don’t think your brother likes me,” she remarked to Maggie one day when they were strolling in the garden.

 

Maggie looked at her, surprised. “Really?” she exclaimed. “I rather thought he did. Why do you think otherwise?”
She was sorry she mentioned it. Shrugging, she said, “It’s just the feeling I get. I could be wrong.”

She changed the topic. And no more was said about it.  She hoped that Maggie wouldn’t say anything to Rupert.   She had tried not to let his animosity toward her get the better of her but it really bothered her. Why didn’t he like her? What had she done to make him resent her so? Even now as she thought about it, sadness filled her.
As a Christian, she always tried to get along with people, no matter how difficult. It wasn’t always possible. Yet, it never troubled her as much as this did. If she were honest with herself, she would admit that the thought of Rupert not liking her crushed her because she liked him. She liked him very much–in fact, she loved him. Unrequited love. She never imagined it would happen to her.

 

The sound of a twig snapping startled her and she turned in the direction of the sound. The fog was clearing and she saw Rupert approaching her. She moved away from the tree and turned to face him. In a few quick strides he was standing in front her. His face was flushed and his eyes stormy as they searched her face. “You have been gone so long that you have everyone in the house worried about you,” he informed her in a cold, clipped voice. “Maggie begged me to come and look for you. Why didn’t you come back to the house once you saw how foggy it was?”

 

With him standing so close, it was hard to concentrate. She took a step back. “It wasn’t that bad when I came outside and I thought it would clear up,” she said. “I walked to stretch my legs. I went farther than I planned to and I got lost. I decided that I would wait here until the fog cleared up. I’m sorry you had to come and look for me.”

 

He ran his fingers through his hair. “Well, I’m relieved that you are all right,” he conceded, somewhat reluctantly. “Shall we go back to the house now? I’m tired. I was in bed when Maggie came and asked me to come and look for you.” He turned away.
“Why don’t you like me?” she had to know. It was eating her up inside.
That stopped him in his tracks and he swung back to face her. “You think I don’t like you?” he looked incredulous.
“Yes. You are cold towards me and you barely say anything to me or acknowledge me when we are in the same room.”
He was staring at her now, his expression one she had never seen before. “You have no idea,” he muttered. “Do you know that I didn’t enjoy the London Symphony Orchestra last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about you? You filled my mind. Driving back here from London was worst. I had the radio on but I didn’t hear it. Thoughts of you drown out the music. When I got in it was late and even then, I couldn’t sleep because it was hot and muggy. I went for a walk and when I got back it was after one. It took a while to fall asleep.  So, I’m tired now because of lack of sleep and from fighting my feelings for you.”

 

She stared at him, aghast. “You have feelings for me?” She felt as if this were a strange dream and that at any minute she would wake up and find herself either in bed or in the library in one chairs where she had fallen asleep over a book she was reading. Rupert couldn’t be here, standing in front of her and telling her that he had feelings for her.

 

He moved closer to where she was standing. “Darcy, I have been pushing you away and avoiding you because of the feelings you stirred in me. Feelings I have never experienced before and that scared me. I didn’t want to deal with them or with you. Coming out here just now and finding you when I was worried that you had somehow wandered off the grounds and gotten lost, brought those feelings to the surface. I wanted to take you in my arms and hold you tightly, because I was relieved to find you here still on the premises.”

 

Her heart thudding, she moved closer. “I can do with a hug,” she said.
In a matter of seconds he had closed the distance between them and she was wrapped in a tight embrace. “I’ve been such a fool,” he murmured. “Can you ever forgive me?”
“Yes, Rupert, yes.” She closed her eyes, basking in his embrace and thankful that she had been wrong about his feelings for her.
He drew back and their eyes locked for a moment before he lowered his head and kissed her.
“Let’s go back before they send a search party out for us,” he suggested softly when he drew back moments later.
She nodded and smiled when he reached out and took her hand, his fingers closing around hers.  They walked back to the house, the fog had lifted. Everything was clear now.

Black woman standing among trees smiling

 

Unexpected News

“What is all the commotion?” Isabel asked as she removed her bonnet.  She could hear excited voices in the drawing-room.  She didn’t dare go in.  “Is Elsie in trouble again?”  Elsie was her youngest sister.  She was a bit of a wild one, always managing to get herself in trouble and sending their mother in a tizzy.

Amelia shook her head.  “No, it’s not Elsie this time.  It’s Mr. Hornby.”

“Mr. Hornby is here?”  Isabel felt her heart lurch.  She ran her hands over her hair and smoothed the skirt of her dress.  “Has he been here long?”  If she had known that he was coming over this afternoon, she wouldn’t have gone for a walk.

“Not long.”

“Why is Mr. Hornby the cause of such commotion?”

“It seems that Mr. Hornby has decided that he wants to move to Canada.  He had considered the possibility for a very long time.  He sails next month.”

Isabel felt the color drain from her face.  “He’s leaving for Canada?  Next month?”

Amelia looked at her in alarm.  “What’s the matter, Izzy?” she asked.  “You have turned white as a sheet.  Are you not feeling well?”

“I–I need some fresh air,” she mumbled.

“But you just returned from your walk.”

“I need some fresh air.”

“Perhaps you should go and lie down.”

“No.  I need to go outside.”

“Would you like me to come with you?”

“No–I would rather be alone.”  She quickly made her exit, leaving Amelia standing there, looking perplexed.

Outside in the garden, Isabel burst into tears.  She couldn’t believe that Mr. Hornby was leaving England and—her.  How could he leave without knowing that she loved him dreadfully?

She had known him since she was child and he had always been so kind to her.  He never made her feel like a nuisance and when she was a teenager, he never treated her like a child.  They had very stimulating conversations and she looked forward to his visits.  He seemed to enjoy it when she played the piano and would sit beside her with the newspaper open in his lap, pausing from his perusal of it to compliment her playing. She loved to play for him and didn’t feel a bit nervous at all. Sometimes, they would take turns reading poetry.  She could have sat for hours just listening to him recite the sonnets and the works of her favorite poets.  He had such a marvelous voice.

She didn’t know exactly when her feelings for him had changed but one day when she went into the library and found him there looking through one of the History volumes, she realized then that she was in love with him.  It didn’t matter that he was twice her age. To her he was the most wonderful and handsome man she had ever known.  She cherished the time they spent together and the fact that she hadn’t heard of any romantic attachment on his part with anyone, she hoped that this might be in her favor.  However, that could all change now.

Why was he going to Canada?  Why so far away?  Will she ever see him again?

“Isabel?” She hadn’t heard him approach her and was startled when he materialized beside her.  “You are crying.”  He gave her his handkerchief.

She took it and wiped her eyes and her nose.  “Mr. Hornby,” she said.  “Amelia told me that you were here.”

He frowned.  “Why didn’t you come and see me then?” he asked.  “When I arrived I was very disappointed to learn that you weren’t home.   Why didn’t you join us in the drawing-room?  I wanted you to be there to hear my news.”

She felt the tears coming again and she turned away so that he couldn’t see her face.  “I heard the news,” she said.  “Amelia told me that you are going to Canada.”

“I suspect that Amelia wasn’t in the room when I asked your father permission to marry his middle daughter and to take her to Canada with me if she would agree to it.”

She swung around to face him, her eyes huge with shock.  “You asked my father to marry me?” she could scarcely believe this.

“Yes.  I must admit that at the age of two and forty, I never imagined that I would be asking a girl half my age to marry me.  Isabel, I am old enough to be your father but my feelings for you far from paternal.”

“Oh Mr. Hornby, I had hoped that you would come to regard me as I have regarded you for the past three years.”

“Then, you will marry me?”

“Yes!”

“And you have no objection to moving to Canada and being so far from your family?”

“I admit that I shall be sorry to leave them and the house in which I have spent the happiest years of my life but my future happiness is with you.”

Mr. Hornby smiled and brushed his knuckles against her cheek, his eyes filled with the love that had long dwelt in his heart.  “I shall resolve to make you as happy as you have made me, Isabel.”

“I cannot imagine being happier than I am at this moment, Mr. Hornby.”

“Please call me Nigel.”

“Nigel.”  His name came out as a laugh and a sob as she was overwhelmed by the sheer happiness of this moment.

victorian gentleman and young lady at piano

Fanny Kemble

If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good – Thomas J. Watson

I never heard of Fanny Kemble until I recently read a devotion, The Unlikely in Our Daily Bread which mentions her work as an Abolitionist.  She was a British actress in the 19th century who married Pierce Butler, an American fan.  Fanny didn’t know that he was soon to inherit two plantations.  Had she known, most probably she would not have married him.  Little did she know that she would soon be fighting her own civil war.

Fanny Kemble was born in England in 1809 into a prominent family of actors.  Although she was very accomplished in her acting, it was not her true love.  Writing was her passion and throughout her she would write plays, journals, poetry, letters and memoirs.  Her most famous authorship would be that of Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation which many consider to be the closest, most detailed account of the harsh conditions of plantation slavery.

Fanny was a strong, spirited woman with no formal training in acting but she managed to captivate audiences.  She had what were considered to be masculine traits: she was independent, physically strong and highly intelligent.  She was talented, spoke French fluently and was accomplished in music.  She embraced life and enjoyed exercise, specifically riding.  To her the best way to was to break “my neck off the back of my horse at a full gallop on a fine day”.  This reminds me of my former boss whose wish was to die being mauled to death by a polar bear.  Whatever happened to wanting to die peacefully in one’s sleep?

Fanny met her future husband Pierce when she and her father went on a two-year theatre tour in America.  It wasn’t her desire to experience life in America but she did it to please her father.  She was well received by the Americans and captured the ardent attention of Pierce Butler, a man born into wealthy and prominent family from Philadelphia.  His grandfather was Revolutionary War veteran Major Pierce Butler.  Major Butler was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and the author of the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause.  He owned two plantations in Georgia, one was on St. Simon’s Island where sea-island cotton was grown and the other was on Butler Island where rice was grown.  One day, his grandson would inherit this mass fortune, making history as one of the largest slaveholders in the nation.

Pierce, infatuated with Fanny, followed her while she toured and she fell in love with this charming and attentive man.  She married him as a way of escaping life in the theatre which was beset with her family’s unstable financial future.  She was marrying into wealth but didn’t find out what the source of that wealth was until after they got married.

It was a marriage that was doomed from the beginning.  She believed that he would always be devoted to her and he believed that he could control her.  And their differences on slavery did not help matters.  He thought he could get her to see the benefits of the institution while she thought she could get him to free his slaves.  When she tried to publish an antislavery treatise she had written, Pierce forbade her to do so.  After he and his brother John inherited the Georgia plantations, Fanny wanted to see the plantation and begged but Pierce to take her with him but he refused.  Then in December of 1838 he took her and their two daughters and their Irish nurse to Butler Island.  Nothing could have prepared Fanny for  what she witnessed at this place.  Inspite of the beautiful surroundings, she could not escape the ugly presence of slavery.  She said, “I should like the wild savage loneliness of the far away existence extremely if it were not for the one small item of the slavery.”

Fanny and Pierce clashed over their views of slavery and their marriage began to deteriorate.  In 1845 Fanny left Pierce and children and returned to England where she resumed her stage career.  Pierce sued for divorce, claiming that she had “willfully, maliciously, and without due cause, deserted him on September 11, 1845”.  Three years later, on April 7, 1848, he filed for divorce.  Fanny returned to America to defend herself against his charges and after a long and painful court battle, the divorce was granted a year later with Pierce having full custody of the girls.  Fanny was allowed to spend two months very summer with them and receive $1500 yearly in alimony.

While Fanny was able to support herself in the U.S. and Europe with her Shakespearean readings, Pierce fell into financial ruin, gambling away his fortune.  He ended up in huge debt which led to the selling of the mansion in Philadelphia and the liquidation of other properties.  Unfortunately, this was not enough so the trustees turned their focus on the property in Georgia where the slaves were.  This led to the largest single sale of human beings in United States history and the event known as “the weeping time” as slaves were separated from their families.

After the war Pierce and his daughter Frances returned to Butler Island where he arranged for former slaves to work for him as sharecroppers.  He later contracted malaria and died.  Fanny moved to Philadelphia where she continued to perform dramatic readings.  She travelled and published her journals.  On January 15, 1893, Fanny died peacefully in London.

Notes to Women want to acknowledge this woman who spoke out against an institution and practice which violated the rights of people based on their race.  Moved with compassion and a sense of decency, Fanny set out to reform the plantations.  She set up a hostel and nursery for those in need and paid the slaves who personally tended to her.  She improved the hygiene of the slave children by rewarding cleanliness with small prizes.   Her critics saw her efforts at reform as foolish and sided with her husband but we applaud Fanny for the stance she took against slavery and her resolve to do what she could to help the slaves and for raising awareness through her firsthand observations.  If you are interested in reading about her experiences, you can read them in her diary here.

In Fanny’s eyes, acquiring wealth from the forced labor and enslavement of others is unconscionable. She was convinced that slavery was wrong and inhumane and refused to be silenced on the matter.  She stuck to her convictions and today, her journal continues to be a primary source of education on the reality of slavery.

[On disagreeing with her husband about his slave-holding:] I cannot give my conscience into the keeping of another human being or submit the actions dictated by my conscience to their will.

I have sometimes been haunted with the idea that it was an imperative duty, knowing what I know, and having seen what I have seen, to do all that lies in my power to show the dangers and the evils of this frightful institution.

In the north we could not hope to keep the worst and poorest servant for a single day in the wretched discomfort in which our negro servants are forced habitually to live.

I said I thought female labour of the sort exacted from these slaves, and corporal chastisement such as they endure, must be abhorrent to any manly or humane man.

The Southern newspapers, with their advertisements of negro sales and personal descriptions of fugitive slaves, supply details of misery that it would be difficult for imagination to exceed. Scorn, derision, insult, menace – the handcuff, the last – the tearing away of children from parents, of husbands from wives – the weary trudging in droves along the common highways, the labor of body, the despair of mind, the sickness of heart – these are the realities which belong to the system, and form the rule, rather that the exception, in the slave’s experience.

A good many causes tend to make good masters and mistresses quite as rare as good servants…. The large and rapid fortunes by which vulgar and ignorant people become possessed of splendid houses, splendidly furnished, do not, of course, give them the feelings and manners of gentle folks, or in any way really raise them above the servants they employ, who are quite aware of this fact, and that the possession of wealth is literally the only superiority their employers have over them.

Though the Negroes are fed, clothed, and housed, and though the Irish peasant is starved, naked, and roofless, the bare name of freemen-the lordship over his own person, the power to choose and will-are blessings beyond food, raiment, or shelter; possessing which, the want of every comfort of life is yet more tolerable than their fullest enjoyment without them.

When marriage is what it ought to be, it is indeed the very happiest condition of existence.

4fank45m

Sources:  PBS, Pabook Libraries, New Georgia Encyclopedia; Brainy Quotes; AZ Quotes; Stand Up Quotes

Dame Julie Andrews

Recently, I read how Dame Julie Andrews is still dealing with the death of her husband Blake Edwards, director of The Pink Panther and Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  Blake died in 2010 at the age of 88.  They were married for 41 years.  That is remarkable and wonderful.  Dame Julie revealed that the secret to their successful marriage was “to take it one day at a time and so, lo and behold, 41 years later there we still were.”  She admitted that there are times when she is perfectly fine and then, “it’s suddenly—sock you in the middle of your gut and you think, ‘Ah God, I wish he were here.’ But he is in a way, I think one carries that love always.”

Dame Julie had been married before to Tony Walton but they divorced in 1967.  And in 1969 she married Blake.  She describes in an article in US Magazine how they met.  “We met about ten years before we — I mean, literally ships that passed in the night at some event — but we actually… our cars, I was going one way and he was going the other,” Andrews spilled of her meet-cute with her longtime love. “Blake rolled down the window after smiling a couple of times and said, ‘Are you going where I just came from?’ I was going to a therapist and he was coming from… very corny!”

Dame Julie was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England to Barbara Ward Wells and Edward Charles “Ted” Wells.  It later turned out that Edward Wells was not Dame Julie’s father.  Years later, in 1950, she learned from her mother that she was conceived as a result of an affair her mother had with an unnamed family friend.  What a shock that must have been.  Dame Julie didn’t disclose this family secret until 2008 in her autobiography.

When World War II broke out, Barbara and Ted Wells separated.  Ted Wells stayed to help to evacuate the children from Surrey to the Blitz while Barbara joined Ted Edwards in performing for the troops through the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA).   Barbara and Ted Wells soon divorced and remarried.  Barbara married Ted Edwards.  Dame Julie lived with Ted Wells and her brother in Surrey and then in 1940, Mr. Wells sent her to live with her mother and step-father, believing that Andrews would be better able to provide for his talented daughter’s artistic training.

Dame Julie was used to calling her step-father, Ted Andrews, “Uncle Ted” so, when her mother suggested that she address him as “Pop”, it didn’t bode well with Dame Julie.  And it didn’t help that during the times that the family was very poor and lived in a bad slum area of London, that Ted Andrews was violent man and an alcoholic.  Twice while drunk, he tried to get into bed with his step-daughter, forcing her to lock her door.  Dame Julie described these times as a “very black period in my life.”

Thankfully, life got better for Dame Julie.  Her lovely voice launched her career in Britain where she became the youngest solo performer in a Royal Command Variety Performance at the London Palladium.  She performed along with Danny Kaye, the Nicholas Brothers and the comedy team of George and Bert Bernard for members of King George VI’s family.

In the United States, she made her Broadway debut playing Polly Browne in the already highly acclaimed London Musical, The Boy Friend.  As far as the critics were concerned, she stole the show.  Towards the end of her contract with The Boy Friend, she was asked to audition for My Fair Lady on Broadway and got the part.  In 1956, she starred opposite Rex Harrison as Eliza Doolittle.  Surprisingly, while Rex Harrison reprised his role for the movie, Dame Julie was passed over because, according to Jack Warner, she lacked sufficient name recognition and therefore the part went to Audrey Hepburn.  For Warner the decision was easy.  “In my business I have to know who brings people and their money to a cinema box office.  Audrey Hepburn had never made a financial flop.”

Dame Julie got to play the title role of Mary Poppins, a Disney film.  Her turn in Camelot had impressed Walt Disney so much that he thought that she would be perfect for the role of an English nanny who is “practically perfect in every way”.  In fact he wanted her for the part so badly that when she declined because of pregnancy, he insisted that they would wait for her.  No doubt he was happy that he did.  Mary Poppins became the biggest box-office draw in Disney history.  And the icing on the cake was, Dame Julie won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress.  At the close of her acceptance speech, Dame Julie said, “And, finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner.”  My Fair Lady was in competition for awards at the same ceremony.  I wonder how Mr. Warner felt.

Dame Julie starred in other well known movies such as, The Americanization of Emily, which she described as her favourite film, Torn Curtain, opposite Paul Newman. She starred with Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Miller for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.  Thoroughly Modern Millie and Torn Curtain were at that time, the biggest and second biggest hits in Universal Pictures history, respectively. In 1982, she and James Garner, her The Americanization of Emily co-star would star opposite each other in Victor/Victoria.  In 1995, she starred in the stage production of the movie, making this her first appearance in a Broadway show in 35 years.  Two years, later, she was forced to quit the show when she developed hoarseness in her voice.

Dame Julie had surgery at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital to remove non-cancerous nodules from her throat.  She recently stated that the problem with her voice was due to “a certain kind of muscular striation that happens on the vocal cords as a result from the strain from Victor/Victoria.  She came out of the surgery with permanent damage that destroyed the purity of her singing and left her with a raspy speaking voice.  In 1999, she filed a malpractice lawsuit against the doctors at Mount Sinai, including the two who had operated on her throat.  The doctors had assured her that she should regain her voice within six weeks but two years had passed and her singing voice still hadn’t returned.  The lawsuit was settled in 2000 for an undisclosed amount.

In spite of this setback, Dame Julie has kept herself busy with many projects.  During the 2000s, enjoyed the successes of The Princess Diaries and its sequel and the Shrek animated film and Despicable Me.  In 2001, she was reunited with her Sound of Music co-star, Christopher Plummer in a live television performance of On Golden Pond.  In 2007, she was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild.  In 2010, Dame Julie appeared with Christopher Plummer and the actors who portrayed the Von Trapp children on Oprah to commemorate the film’s 45th anniversary.

Dame Julie is an author of children’s books.  In 2011, she and her daughter won a Grammy for A Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies, the best spoken word album for children.  That same year she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  In addition to her three Grammys, Dame Julie is the recipient of a BAFTA, five Golden Globes and two Emmys and the Disney Legend Honor and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Just recently Dame Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music.  In a Vanity Fair interview, they reflect on the making of the great musical classic.

I will always think of her as Maria, singing, “The Hills are alive with the Sound of Music” on top of that picturesque mountain in Austria.  One day I hope that my family and I will visit Salzburg where this wonderful movie was filmed.  The Sound of Music will always be one of the best musicals of all time and my favourite.  It is the third highest grossing film of all time.

Notes to Women applauds this classy lady.  She has had an amazing career.  She has appeared on stage, acted in top grossing movies, appeared in TV specials such as The The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Jack Benny Program and Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, the CBS special with Carol Burnett, voice work for animated movies and penned children’s books.  In 1980, she headlined “Because We Care”, a CBS TV special with 30 stars to raise funds for Cambodian Famine victims.

We congratulate her for being made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the performing arts.  Not surprisingly, Dame Julie is ranked number 59 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.  We wish this dear Lady continued success and all the very best.

Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th

Sometimes oppurtunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes you can grab it.

Sometimes I’m so sweet even I can’t stand it.

Premiere Of Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" - Arrivals

 

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Andrews; http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000267/; http://ca.eonline.com/news/632214/julie-andrews-reveals-the-secret-to-her-long-lasting-41-year-marriage; http://thinkexist.com/quotes/julie_andrews/

Audrey Hepburn

“For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
 For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
 For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
 For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
 For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
 People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
 As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.”
Audrey Hepburn

We adored her as Eliza Doolittle and Sabrina.  She starred opposite some of Hollywood’s top notch leading men–Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Fred Astaire, Henry Fonda and William Holden.  There was a sweet, endearing quality about her and such grace.   She was a delight to watch.

She had such a lovely British accent.  However, I learned that she was not born in England.  She was born in Ixelles, Belgium.  She was the only child of an English banker of Irish descent and his second wife, a baroness and Dutch aristocrat.

Audrey spent her childhood chiefly in the Netherlands, including German-occupied Arnhem, Netherlands, during the Second World War. Her parents divorced when her father, a Nazi sympathiser, left the family.  Hepburn referred to her father’s abandonment as the most traumatic moment of her life. Years later, she located him in Dublin, Ireland, through the Red Cross. Although he remained emotionally detached, she stayed in contact with him and supported him financially until his death.

In 1939, her mother moved her and her two half-brothers to their grandfather’s home in Arnhem in the Netherlands, believing the Netherlands would be safe from German attack. Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945, where she trained in ballet along with the standard school curriculum.

In 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands. During the German occupation, Hepburn adopted the pseudonym Edda van Heemstra, modifying her mother’s documents because an “English sounding” name was considered dangerous, with her mother feeling that “Audrey” might indicate her British roots too strongly. Being English in the occupied Netherlands was not an asset; it could have attracted the attention of the occupying German forces and resulted in confinement or even deportation. Edda was never her legal name, also it was a version of her mother’s name Ella.

Audrey studied ballet in Arnhem and then moved to London in 1948, where she continued to train in ballet and worked as a photographer’s model. She appeared in several European films before starring in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi.

She starred opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday for which she won the Academy Award  That was the first movie I saw her in with her short, sophisticated hairstyle.  I loved the part where Gregory Peck’s character put his hand in the mouth of the statue, La Bocca della Verità (in English, “the Mouth of Truth”) and when he pulled it out, it looked like he had lost it and Audrey’s character screamed.  He then popped his hand out of his sleeve and laughed. It turned that Audrey’s scream was real.Gregory Peck decided to pull a gag he had once seen Red Skelton do, and did not tell Audrey beforehand.  The gag worked and for me it was one of the most memorable moments of the movie.  When my sister and I visited La Bocca, I couldn’t help but think about that scene.

What I admired about Audrey Hepburn was  her work with UNICEF.  Her war-time experiences inspired her passion for humanitarian work and, although she had worked for UNICEF since the 1950s, during her later life she dedicated much of her time and energy to the organization. From 1988 until 1992, she worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia. In 1992, Hepburn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. 

Audrey was grateful for her own good fortune after enduring the German occupation as a child and for this reason she dedicated the remainder of her life to helping impoverished children in the poorest nations. Hepburn’s travels were made easier by her wide knowledge of languages; besides being naturally bilingual in English and Dutch, Audrey also was fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, and German.

Her first field mission was to Ethiopia in 1988. She visited an orphanage in Mek’ele that housed 500 starving children and had UNICEF send food. Of the trip, she said, “I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can’t stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death, many of them children, [and] [sic] not because there isn’t tons of food sitting in the northern port of Shoa. It can’t be distributed. Last spring, Red Cross and UNICEF workers were ordered out of the northern provinces because of two simultaneous civil wars… I went into rebel country and saw mothers and their children who had walked for ten days, even three weeks, looking for food, settling onto the desert floor into makeshift camps where they may die. Horrible. That image is too much for me. The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering”. (Wikipedia). 

I always have the image of her with African children and the way she was loving and playful with them.  You could see that her heart was in what she was doing and that being there made her happy.

What a classy lady Audrey was.  She was a true leading lady not only on screen but in real life. 

Agatha Christie

I have watched her characters Miss Jane Marple, an astute spinster whose sharp eyes miss nothing and the meticulous, funny mustached Hercule Poirot come to life on the screen and today I thought that it would be fun to find out a little bit about Agatha Christie. 

She came from a well-to-do family and was taught at home by a governess and tutors.  She never attended school and she became adept at creating games to keep herself occupied at a very young age.  A shy child, unable to adequately express her feelings, she first turned to music as a means of expression and, later in life, to writing.  I can relate to this.  I am more comfortable expressing myself through writing.

In 1914, at the age of 24, she married Archie Christie, a World War I fighter pilot. While he was off at war, she worked as a nurse. It was while working in a hospital during the war that Christie first came up with the idea of writing a detective novel. Although it was completed in a year, it wasn’t published until 1920, five years later.

Two years later, Archie asked Agatha for a divorce.  He had fallen in love with another woman.  What a blow that must have been for her.  This happened in the wake of her mother’s recent death.  Perhaps she was unable to cope with these two major upsets in her life, Agatha disappeared causing an uproar in all of England as everyone wondered what had become of the mystery writer.  Her disappearance was a mystery in itself until three weeks later when the police found her in a small hotel, apparently suffering from memory loss.  Thereafter, it was never again mentioned or elaborated upon by Christie (http://christie.mysterynet.com/).

In 1930, Agatha found happiness again with an archaeologist, Max Mallowan.  She met him on a trip to Mesopotamia.  Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. 

I always wondered what it would be like for Poirot and Miss Marple to team up on a mystery or two but Agatha had a very good reason for not permitting this to happen.  “Hercule Poirot, a complete egoist, would not like being taught his business or having suggestions made to him by an elderly spinster lady.”  I found it amusing that Agatha found Poirot insufferable while she was fond of Miss Marple.  Still, as insufferable as Poirot was, he was popular.  The public liked him so Agatha had to resist the temptation to kill him off.

Agatha had her fans and she had her critics.  Others have accused her of anti-semetism and of stereotyping.  Christie often characterised the “foreigners” in such a way as to make the reader understand and sympathise with them; this is particularly true of her Jewish characters, who are seldom actually criminals.  I noticed that in a few Poirot episodes, that the guilty party referred to him as a “foreigner” with much distaste. 

Still, Agatha Christie Agatha Christie was revered as a master of suspense, plotting, and characterisation by most of her contemporaries (Wikipedia).  And she has created two of the greatest fictional characters of all time and has swept us into the exciting twists and turns of great mystery plots.

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

Agatha Christie

Writer and Philanthropist

My mother’s favorite novelist is Catherine Cookson.  After I read a few of her books and watched movies based on them I became a fan too.  Her characters seemed so real and no wonder–her books were inspired by her deprived youth in North East deEngland, the setting for her novels.

Catherine’s story is as intriguing as the stories she wrote.  She was the illegitimate child of an alcoholic named Kate Fawcett, she grew up thinking her unmarried mother was her sister, as she was raised by her grandparents, Rose and John McMullen.   She married Tom Cookson, a teacher.  Tragically, she suffered four miscarriages and had a mental breakdown.  It took her ten years to recover.  She also suffered from a rare vascular disease, telangiectasia, which causes bleeding from the nose, fingers and stomach and results in anemia.

Catherine took up writing as a form of therapy to tackle her depression, and joined Hastings Writers’ Group. Her first novel, Kate Hannigan, was published in 1950.  She became the United Kingdom’s most widely read novelist, with sales topping 100 million, while retaining a relatively low profile in the world of celebrity writers.  She remained the most borrowed author from public libraries in the UK for 17 years, only losing the title in 2002, four years after her death.

Thanks to her craft Catherine became a multi-millionnaire.  She supported  causes in North East England and medical research in areas that were close to her heart.  She also donated more than £1 million for research into a cure for the illness that afflicted her (Wikipedia). 

With affluence Catherine concentrated on philanthropic activities to support the less fortunate. Catherine Cookson created a trust at the University of Newcastle with a committed amount of £ 800,000. The self titled Trust is dedicated towards the progress and research in the field of medical sciences and provides medical support to the underprivileged. Besides this Catherine Cookson also contributed £20,000 for the Hatton Gallery of the University and £32,000 for it’s library (http://www.catherinecookson.net/).

Despite the challenges and tragedies in her life, Catherine Cookson reached out to help others by using the money she made from the sales of her books. The plight of the less fortunate and the underprivileged moved her to do something to make life easier for them. 

Writing helped Catherine to get through her dark hours.  It is my hope and prayer that if you are going through something, that you will find the help you need to cope.