Today started with tea served in beautiful china cups in the genteel surroundings of the upper West Side Apartment belonging to our friend, Carey. He tells us the entire top floor of the building once belonged to the mistress of a theatre impresario, I think a chorus girl on Broadway, but these days it's been divided into several flats and he lives in what was once her library and sitting room. It has a beautiful roof terrace with stunning views over the Hudson River.
The grass is always greener, of course, and Carey, a true anglophile, is desperate to one day live in the UK. We'd be lucky to have him. He's a brilliant writer. It should be much easier for successful creative people to up sticks and move from the U.S. to the UK and vice versa. I'm quite sure you'd end up with the same number of people living in both countries. When he was last in England, we took him to see my parents in Thaxted and he loved the place so much, he told me today that he keeps an eye open online for properties in the town similar to my parents' house. It's good to have made an impression! My mission is to make all Americans fall in love with my homeland!
We had a quick bite to eat on Broadway. I ordered a horrid vegetable lasagne which arrived cold, and was full of little cubes of butternut squash. I have very clear rules about the vegetables I feel it's appropriate to put inside a veggie lasagne. Mushrooms, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers. End of. Aubergines and potatoes turn it into a moussaka. Butternut squashes make the texture weird and watery.
We went to see the matinee performance of Dames at Sea this afternoon. Ian is an off-stage cover in the show, which, I was a little surprised to discover only features six performers with no ensemble. The story of the show is fascinating. It was written in the 60s as a sort of pastiche review of clichéd Broadway shows: the shows where people burst into tap routines for no apparent reason and seem able to sight read complicated romantic songs whilst snuggling up to their beloveds on a piano stool.
The great Bernadette Peters performed in the review as a teenager and over the years it has gone from being fifteen minutes long to a full-length show. This is the first time it's officially reached Broadway however, although it did make it to the West End in the 60s and then again in the 90s. Blue Peter's Peter Duncan was in the cast when it played at the New Ambassadors Theatre... Which is the theatre where I worked as a stage door keeper for two years. I'm tempted to say it was the show which was on in the theatre just before I tipped up. In those days the stage door keeper was a ninety-year old woman, whose equally decrepit sister worked at the stage door on the other side of the alley! The sister used to wave wistfully at me.
Today's show was performed with great wit and charm and beyond-amazing tap routines. I was a little disappointed to discover that it's already had its notice, but theatre audiences in NYC will have until January 4th to catch it, so they've been given a dignified amount of time to put the show to bed and prepare their finances. The perilous nature of the life of an actor is, of course, yet another reason why they should be paid handsomely to perform.
After the show we went for a nice cup of tea with Ian before taking the N Train to Astoria where he lives with husband Jem. I was much impressed by Astoria. It's right at the top of the borough of Queens, near La Guardia Airport, and it's a part of town which has a large Greek population. I am thrilled to report that I found halloumi on its supermarket shelves!
Astoria is quieter than Manhattan and has a low-level, ramshackle vibe. The Main Street is lined with cool little bars and shops and the subway trains run on elevated tracks on imposing wrought iron bridges above the street. People sell fruit and vegetables on the sidewalk. It has a wonderfully filmic vibe.
Jem and Ian live in a set of apartment buildings surrounding a number of well courtyards which are full of pine trees and little fountains. There's a slightly old-fashioned 1950s quality about it which I found really fascinating. The flat itself is small but beautifully decorated and I can imagine they must be very happy living there.
We had dinner in a burger joint where you can create bespoke burgers. First you choose the "meat" you want (there were three veggie alternatives) then you select the bun (which includes the option to have the burger "green wrapped" in spinach instead of bread) and then you select the salad vegetables and sides and dressings and relishes you want to throw into the mix. My burger was lush! We shared a portion of giant onion rings.
We went back to the boys' house for tea and chocolate and suddenly our last night in New York was over and we were feeling a little sad. I'll be honest: we're used to most of our friends in this city having been here for a long time, so when we bid them a fond adieu, we know we'll see them when we next see them. It might be months. It might be years. Ian and Jem, on the other hand, have much more recently been wrenched from our regular lives, so seeing them so often out here has simply reminded us both of how much we've been missing them, and will miss them again.