A not so traditional Christmas Carol, except her name is not Carol.... Part 9
I tried again to call Audrey the next morning, without success. This time, I had called her cell phone. So I left a message asking her to call me back, something I didn't do the first time. Then, it was time to lay down plans for the day. I wanted to go to Queens Gate Mews, a Mecca for classic automobiles enthusiasts with a concentration of dealers and related specialists. I also still had to go to a large bookstore and loose myself in printed matter for a couple of hours.
Chantal and I met in the lobby at 8.00 and we decided against having breakfast at the hotel. Instead, we went to a nearby tea shop. As always, she looked fabulous and I said so. She smiled. Tight well faded jeans, black loose turtleneck under the silver fur jacket. Yummy! And today, she was wearing black sneakers. She looked absolutely beautiful, so feminine and refined in spite of the old jeans. We took a cab to dreamland, also known as Queens Gate Mews. The little street was vibrant with activity and the showrooms were filled with beautiful cars : Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Lagondas and other Daimlers of all vintages. each one of them in fantastic condition. Again, we had to take numerous pictures. Funnily enough, I managed to get one of the car shop owners interested in buying a half-page advertising in Autos d'Antan for a year, in exchange for an exclusive article about his business, something I had the intention of writing anyway.Needless to say, it is not my job to sell advertising, but what was I supposed to do, turn it down ?
We went for Lunch in a lovely cafe in Notting Hill, a place Chantal had on her bucket list to see in real life as she had watched the movie of the same name numerous times. So, she was a romantic after all! Could have fooled me. After lunch, we headed for Holland park where we had a long walk under a very pale sun in freezing temperature. She held on to my arm the whole time and I was getting to like this.
We took a double-decker bus all the way down Oxford Street to get back to Soho. Chantal being well versed in fashion, I had a little surprise for her. I took her to Carnaby Street, London's hot spot for fashion in the sixties, where the mini-skirt originated. She was like a child on Christmas morning and her joy was a pure pleasure to watch. She went through every little fashion shop, as I carried the growing number of bags, result from her shopping spree. Again, she took a lot of pictures. The way things were going, we would both have enough professionnal material to write and illustrate articles for at least a year. And we had been here for only three days! What started as a nightmare for me had turned into a lot of fun. We hopped form one tiny shop to the other, Chantal trying one outfit after another, coming out of the booth without shoes, asking for my opinion which I was happy to give. I couldn't remember ever having such a good time shopping with a woman. Actually, I couldn't remember ever going shopping with a woman, especially for clothes. And the way she had come around in such a short time amazed me. It almost didn't seem natural. But I didn't want to take anything for granted and didn't let my guard down....
By the time my traveling companion was done with her shopping spree, there was no time left to go to any bookstore. Oh well, tomorrow would be another day! And it was to be another enchanting one too. In the morning, we took the Sunbeam and drove out of London , following the Thames valley from Windsor to end up in Henley on Thames. We had plans to come back to London for the afternoon but it didn't happen. We got so busy just having fun and enjoying the magnificient scenery. I discovered that traveling in the Winter can be as much fun as in the warmer seasons. Provided you are with the right person. And as much as it pained me to admit it, Chantal was turning out to be more and more of the right traveling companion.
By Tuesday night, I hadn't heard from Audrey, and as much as I was trying to rationalize it, I was getting worried.
And then came Wednesday, Chantal's big day. I had long decided to accompany her, provided she wanted me to, if for nothing else carry her bags of photographic equipment. She got up real early that morning, and I could hear her rummage through her things in the bathroom. I waited patiently for my turn! When I went down to the dining room for breakfast, she was already there and I was up for another visual shock.
An off-white sleeveless dress. the shortest I had seen on her so far, a dress she had just bought the day before. Paired with the black suede heels and purse and the modern abstract piece of jewelry around the neck. And the make-up to go with everything, a little more applied than usual, maybe, but today we were getting into the professional fashion world, a jungle where one kills or gets killed. And Chantal sure was dressed for the kill! As for me, I had no idea on how to dress for the occasion, so I followed my gut feeling and went for jeans and an untucked striped dress shirt and the jacket to add credibility to my role of camera bag carrier.
We took a cab to the Grosvenor and we were early, which allowed Chantal to get an excellent spot to set up her tripod and camera. I felt pretty useless, probably because I was, while she made all the necessary adjustments to the camera after checking the intensity of the light in the room. Since I had nothing better to do, I watched her work while keeping my mouth shut. If she needed something, I thought, she would ask. By the time the fashion show started on the short runway built for the occasion, I could see beads of perspiration on her forehead, enhanced by the bright lighting. She was living the event, capturing the spirit of beauty and elegance that she needed to convey to the readers of the magazine. It was a first for me to go to a real, live fashion show and the level of professionalism I witnessed amazed me. This was serious business and nothing was left to chance. The Great Room, retained for the occasion.with a capacity of about 1300 souls, was full.
I got to see from ten feet away some of the World's most famous models, and from a man's point of view, it was a thing of beauty and probably an occasion never to be repeated.
At some point, a woman walked up to me and introduced herself as Cara Templeton, the London permanent correspondent of Femmes de Paris, who was later going to conduct the interview with Stella McCartney, while Chantal would document the occurence with her exclusive pictures. I wasn't supposed to go to the interview, I had nothing to do there, but Chantal had asked me to be in the room if I wanted to and I was glad to oblige. The interview in itself reminded me of the monthly staff meetings at Femmes de Paris. Cara Templeton proved to be a very talented journalist, armed with sharp and well prepared questions. As for Chantal, she had set her big Canon on the tripod and this thing was taking a picture automatically every three seconds or so. In the meantime, she was walking around the room with another camera to catch different angles. She had removed her high heels shoes so she was moving around with the agility and grace of a feline in complete silence.
The whole thing took about half an hour and it made me realize how uneasy it must have been to put such a deal together. Even though Audrey, attributed herself all the credit as Editor in Chief of Femmes de Paris, all the nitty gritty legwork had been conducted by Cara Templeton. Well done, Girl !
When the interview was over, everyone breathed easier and we all went to the nearby dining room where a superb lunch buffet was served and we got to mingle with fashion journalists and photographers from all over the world. All kinds of languages were spoken besides English. Chantal and Cara stopped to say hello to several groups of French people from other fashion magazines. "The competition" as Chantal would later whisper to my ear. Everytime, she introduced me as "My friend Bertrand", leaving the door wide open to speculations for eveerybody to dwell upon. But I didn't care what people might think, to me it sounded very nice.And she spoke the truth anyway, we were becoming good friends.
We made plans to meet with Cara for after dinner drinks at our hotel. It was mid-afternoon when we finally walked out of the Grosvenor in still freezing London weather and headed to yet another hotel : ours...
To be continued...
Copyright 2012 by Autinhealy, his heirs and assigns.
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