Some foggy days in London town

Memories, movies and miracles.

London where Bentleys and Jags curtsey and bow to each other. (photo credit: REUTERS)
London where Bentleys and Jags curtsey and bow to each other.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the suburb of London where Martin grew up, cars curtsey and bow to each other as they meet. Bentleys and Jags nod and wink at SUVs and sexy Fiats; drivers raise manicured hands in a choreographed ritual: “Go ahead, love,” “Thank you, sir.”
London glitters after the gloomy rain; the grass simply gleams underfoot in the parks, the august buildings stand inscrutable, being beautiful.
The Tube works brilliantly even when it’s supposedly on strike; London is unarguably lovely.
And London is terrible, terrible, for me, without my very own handsome Londoner there at my side.
Martin was always with me at M&S, and at the theater, in his soft leather jacket that felt so good against my skin.
He rented the car and drove it; he handled the clunky coins and popped down to the corner shop for The Daily Telegraph and fresh buttery croissants before I woke up.
He could do cockney accents, and posh accents, and any nuance in between; with his beautiful voice in my conversations, I didn’t need to obsess about my flatter South African vowels or fret about elongating my “ais” and “ohs,” so I didn’t sound as if I had recently wandered in from the bush.
I love London. And I hate London without my love.
Yet, when an unsolicited email popped up on my screen informing me that an unknown reader in London had enjoyed my novel and was asking my permission to pass it on to a friend who is big news in the film world, and when that friend suggested we explore turning For the Love of God and Virgins into a movie, even I could not be wimp enough to refuse.
And, oh my. Even I can still enjoy the magic of Kenwood and the tangy bite of real cheddar cheese. The delight of a whole month’s worth of The Jerusalem Post all wrapped up in one Sunday Times still kicks in, and I still turn round each time I hear people speaking English, as though I’m in Ra’anana... do I know them? Where are they from? BUT THIS time in London was different from any other. This time I floated past St. Pancras Station to Piccadilly Circus and skipped down the road to work on the treatment for my movie with David Kustow, OBE. We talked about the treatment for For the Love of God and Virgins over tea, and toast, and all manner of delicious lunches at BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the seat of the BAFTA awards (David is one of those who votes for the winners.) David, who is many, many things, including very kind, and very nice, and very modest, is also a trustee of the British Film Institute Trust. The Queen honored him for his service to the British film industry as well as to British-Israeli film cooperation; he was the architect of the British-Israeli treaty for film coproductions.
And (hysterical scream), he is considering making a movie from my book – which posits a different narrative from the usual Israel-Palestinian conflict portrayed in recent films. My novel looks at life during the second intifada from the point of view of the average Israeli citizen, and how the international media can actually make the news, instead of just reporting on it.
At BAFTA, where you order a cappuccino next to a man who just won some hotshot prize, and a script writer working on a blockbuster, my tiny team of two threw out names for possible leads for our project. Meryl Streep? (Too old.) Keira Knightly? (Too sexy.) Emma Thompson? (Too anti-Israel.) Elizabeth Taylor? (Too dead.) Colin Firth? Hmmm.
And me? I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, and then I thought that if Martin wasn’t dead and in heaven he’d be sharing this dream, and punkt in the middle of this fairytale my eyes betrayed me yet again. Oh, I’m so tired of weeping, but my tears still seem to have a mind of their own. And in the middle of this embarrassing outburst, my fantastically kind childhood friend called and invited me to a football game.
Ma li ve’lefootball, you might ask; I really don’t care too much about men running after a ball in the rain. But Chelsea was playing West Ham, Martin’s beloved (and beleaguered) team, and Michael Goldman is a Chelsea fanatic and season ticket-holder ... I put on two coats and went along for my hubs.
It’s not too difficult to negotiate a members-only dining room dinner in the Ossie’s club; it was when I stepped into the stands that I had a meltdown. There were the boys in claret and blue who had raced across my TV screen for 30 years, as Martin begged them, very vocally, to bloody well get their act together and get out of the relegation zone. How the hell could I be here in the flesh, without Martin? But then: a miracle. Chelsea, one of the strongest teams in the league, against all predictions and all odds, did not smash poor old struggling West Ham – languishing way down towards the bottom of the table. The game ended in an unexpected draw; I took that as a sign that the Hammers’ biggest fan was lurking above his boys, protecting their goalposts. To celebrate, Michael bought me a claret and blue cap. (And there is an Israeli connection: José Mourinho, Chelsea’s legendary and revered manager, spent time here in 2005 as a guest of the Peres Center for Peace, bringing Palestinian and Israeli children together in mixed teams, in what he referred to as a “beautiful project.”) I BLUBBED again on Friday night, at a table of lovely strangers who couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming; I was in real danger of becoming ridiculous, even to myself. It was when I finally burst a blood vessel in my eye, leaving me looking more like an apparition in a horror movie than a cool writer of a sensitive film that will sway hearts and minds as it puts a positive spin on Israel, that I said to myself: maspik! Enough is enough.
No more crying; at least not this weekend. I’m going to think of Daniel Craig coming for dinner during a break in the filming. I’ll talk to him about West Ham.
And now for a commercial break: If you know (or you are) a stray millionaire who wants to make a difference to Israel’s image, feel free to send him along to David and me. Lunch is on us in London, or Jerusalem. You can choose.
Dr. Pamela Peled lectures at IDC and Beit Berl.