The Town in Bloom
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Mouse never did fully suit her nickname. Tiny she may have been, but timid never. After less than twenty-four hours in London she had bluffed her way into an audition at a famous theatre, infuriated its forceful young stage director, and amused its kind if quite amoral actor-manager. She had finally landed not a part but a toehold as a junior secretary. During her involvement in the engrossing affairs of the Crossway Theatre she met her friends Molly, a baby-faced six-footer; and elegant, ambitious Lilian, who was fated to clash disastrously with Mouse. Later, there was also Zelle, rich, generous, enigmatic, and responsible for an outing to Suffolk village pageant which proved a turning point for them all. Life was always surprising the fearless Mouse: when she unexpectedly got to a chance to act she made an unforgettable impression, though not the one she had intended. However, nothing prepared her for the assault of first love, highly unsuitable, but welcomed by her in a way which was to have far-reaching consequences. Only when she looks back after a reunion luncheon does she realise the full effects of that shared summer on her friends and herself. A startlingly frank yet nostalgic read, this is a charming novel about coming of age and the healing effects of time.
‘Oh, there’s time yet.’ Lilian’s tone sounded defensive. ‘Actually, I’ve one of my “feelings” that she’ll come today.’ ‘And we all know dear Lilian’s “feelings”,’ said Molly. ‘Count on them and they let you down. Jeer at them and they come true. Could we eat? I’m ravenous.’ Lilian had a last word with the head porter. ‘You’ll be on the look-out for our friend? She’s very fair.’ ‘How do you know she’s still fair?’ I asked as we walked towards the restaurant. ‘Oh, that colour of hair looks fair
dinners here to the theatre. That’s been a rule ever since Sir Roy’s day – when the office staff works on in the evenings.’ I mentioned that I hadn’t worked during the day. ‘Doesn’t matter. When you work at night, you get fed.’ I asked if she worked mornings, afternoons and evenings. She said, ‘Usually, and sometimes even on Sunday. Thank God I don’t have far to come. I’ve a barely sanitary old maisonette just along in Covent Garden. My work at the theatre’s my whole life – has been almost
but it wasn’t crumbling and she hadn’t lived in it. ‘I lived in a wretched cottage, we hadn’t even a bathroom. My father was usually out of work; he drank. My mother did odd jobs when she was well enough; she’s dead now. I went to the Plas – the old house – to do cleaning, and sometimes I helped to “maid” women who stayed there. I was terribly envious of their clothes. Then I was taken on as nursemaid. I went to picnics if the children did and that was how I met Bill – he often stayed at the
be,’ said Molly. ‘I thought we should all be doddering.’ ‘So you said at that first lunch,’ I reminded her. ‘And Lilian thought we should be exquisite old ladies. Instead of which – well, we’re not really old at all. Just elderly.’ ‘Such a boring, stodgy word,’ said Lilian. ‘Sometimes old age has a kind of harrowing beauty. But elderly – ugh!’ I said, ‘Well, don’t let’s think of ourselves as that. As a matter of fact, whenever I speak of myself as elderly, something within me protests.’ ‘I
box of things connected with her stage career. ‘Look, I stuck the card you sent with it on the back. “Little did we think when we walked round the park!” Funny, when you wrote that you didn’t know I’d ever live in this house. Do you think one can force things to happen, just by wanting them terrifically? I do. I think the powers that be said, “All right! The girl shall have her house – no matter how many lives she wrecks in getting it.”’ ‘Lilian, what rubbish! And whose lives have you wrecked?’