Welcome to Wonderland excerpt: April Showers

Avril in NYC_fl

Meet Avril a colleague at the NYC based publisher Olivia is transferred to. This extract begins with Olivia’s morning start then Avril’s…

Mornings in Queens: purchase pastry en route to subway. Gloves always on, germs everywhere. Blended faces, swivelling bodies a whirlwind of humanity dashing in all directions with the same ambitious palpable energy.

Same white mocha, an almond croissant. Why not get donuts for the department?

donuts coffee

Timex watch looked at in 15 minute intervals awaiting the subway ride. A clamouring of bodies. Finally, on board. Trainers still on, black French Soles inside the black leather backpack. Once on Manhattan streets slip into chic footwear.

Wipe off crumbs on scarf. Mad dash to the offices, another stop over at a coffee house to grab another morning drink this time a hazelnut latte and one for Avril too.

Already on the island is Avril. Her morning is less rushed as at age 26 she still lives with her parents in their Manhattan townhouse. You’d never think that someone wearing a yellow Alessi watch takes a town car takes but Avril is our resident contradiction in terms. Typically, Avril doesn’t wake up until 8:30am as work starts at 11am. Obviously she’s only part time she doesn’t actually need to work. It’s just a ginger peach tea and a gluten-free lemon and ginger slice for breakfast.

Mom still lectures at NYU, Daddy is still at Liberty street. Edmund her eldest brother is at Goldmans Sachs and baby brother Tim is studying a useless subject at NYU.

This morning Avril decided to paint her nails after she got dressed and continued to daintily nibble breakfast and gather her belongings for work without leaving a dent on her newly polished nails. She checks Tinder and OKCupid as she’s due a couple dates tonight hence varnish application. It’s just her usual base coat applied twice then three coatings of Essie “Mademoiselle” polish. Once read in a magazine that Melania Trump uses the same shade. Avril’s dream in life is to marry a Hedge Fund Manager and have his babies. Though tonight she’ll be hooking up with Sid a Grafitti artist in Brooklyn at night; by day a freelance video editor at Vayner Media.

The other date is Mason an entrepreneur.

She’s met Sid before but this’ll be a first with Mason.

Both girls arrived at their desk, Avril skimming though her personal messages to check that neither date cancelled, Olivia opening up her file to work.

First on Avril’s after works activities is seeing Sid over in Brooklyn at Toby’s Estate (a Coffee Roaster in Williamsburg.) She succumbed to her third coffee of the day and Sid went on about work.

cafe lights

Enter Sid.
“Are you on snapchat,” he asked.
“I’m not actually.”
“I manged to get quick vid with the CEO today – check it out.” Enter a 10 second video of Sid and Gary doing V’s with bold text across it saying WORRRRK!!!!
“That’s so funny, whoa you got to meet the CEO?”
“Yeah most of the staff get to he’s not typical at all. I literally show up to work like this.” Sid wears a Basic white tee-shirt, navy hoodie, cargo pants and Vans.
“Where I work the women are pretty much expected to always be in skirts or work dresses, trousers are frowned upon.”
“Sounds like Mad men.”
“Yup.”

Next up burger and fries with Mr Unemployed…

burger lights

Mason had incredible energy and the kind of guy us Brits would call a Cheeky Chappie. His dimples blinded Avril to the fact that he was only 19, he’d recently dropped out of NYU and already knew her little brother. The two had met skateboarding. Mason wore A.P.C jeans with a navy crewneck sweater. You’re standard Wunderkind. A Collarless Hustler.

Unbeknownst to Avril he had already been featured in Inc’s 20 under 20 Brainchild’s Transforming Tech as he and a friend developed an on-demand app to locate nearby professional organizers in Manhattan. The app is called “@YourService” the co-founders are looking to branch out into a wider pool of consultants and advisers in business efficacy to housekeeping.

Mason’s knee started to jerk up and down, he keeps breaking eye contact and looks around the room. “I don’t actually have a job as such.”
“I figured.”
“I’m a free agent, I’m back and forth to San Fran quite a bit as that’s where my investors are based.”
“What do you like to do there, outside of work I mean.”
“Umm… Skate, surf, just cruise really.”
“So where are you from originally?”
“NJ.”
“Are you still there or?”
“Yup, with my parents.”
“Me too, no wait not in Jersey. Manhattan.”
“Did you go to Dalton?”
“Yeah me and my brothers did, Timothy and Edmund.”
“Fancy names,” he turned his head once more then eyes diverted up to the ceiling.
“So, are you all in with your business?”
“Pretty much.”
“Don’t you wanna go back to school?”
“Nope.”


CatherineVaughan.com
Welcome to Wonderland will be my first novel. Publication date will be announced on my Mailing List. Join here.

Advertisements

Character profile: Avril Walters

Avril Walter Hipster shirt

Name: Avril Walters
Age: 27
Born: NYC
Beloved Books: The Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar, anything by David Foster Wallace
Music: The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse any live music will do but she is stuck in an era.
Film: Anything with Greta Gerwig
Food: Generally Vegan. She flits between nibbling on avocado toast, matcha tea, kale chips, kimchi Tacos. Essentially anything artisanal. This one time she did try to live off air. Inedia was a way of life for like 31 hours. Please do not try this.
Drink: Loose leaf Earl Grey, Wild Orange Blossom herbal tea. Drinks herbal tea as it is regarded as healthcare.
Motto: Try it at least once!
Favourite Artists: Every single resident of Brooklyn
Dreams: Live on a California ranch, start an accessories line using materials and designs by those living in developing nations and of course giving proceeds back to these poorer regions.
Perfume: Vetiver by Ralph Lauren Fragrances

Songs to remind you of Florence

Florence’s Dining Table (from novel Welcome to Wonderland)

jamie-street-94244

Her parents own a Georgian townhouse that is never inhabited. So much of Flo’s belongings still live there. It’s her home away from home. Tread carefully on those Minton tiles as you enter…

You’re greeted by a Marie Antoinette blue that has lost it’s lustre and has resorted to a muted existence. Curiously you see shortbread crumbs lie on the staircase, they are left so that the house mice can be fed. Specks of crumbs are still in sight after all these months. Sometimes tiny paw prints are seen from the grey house guests. Long ago, Sophia saw one of them and decided to call it Roquefort.

If only you’d seen this house during childhood Christmases the staircase wore ivy like a winter shawl, Bing Crosby in the background, the scent of cranberries, mandarins, evergreen leaves and cinnamon too. Grandma would hand-make the door’s wreath with little Flo every November. Oh, and the Christmas tree was glorious, the baubles from Florence’s Great-Grandmother. The glitter remained on three precious baubles ordained with scenes from the nativity the others in deep red, evergreen and navy with lashings of silver and gold and delicate beads decorated onto them. Such a shame that her parents moved out to the country this home is seldom brought to life anymore.

Most evident in the drawing room are the late Georgian interiors. The walls eggshell blue, profiled with the white panels you’d expect. Some old VHS cases hidden behind the sofas. There’s a vinyl player in there too Florence’s only contribution to the house as everything is pretty much inherited.

Her father’s old study has draws filled with old moleskine journals, a magnifying glass and old stationery. There sits letters from his university days as he wrote to his mother, they even have his grandfather’s letters from the war. Also sat demurely a feather quill, an empty ink pot. Nobody has ever dared opened the Moleskines, after all Mr Clover is so endearingly rotund nobody could possibly betray his trust.

A large antique globe stand alone.

The next door down is the library with much to Olivia’s delight a ladder, the girls spent many after-school hours reenacting Belle’s swish with a rockler along the cases though the girls would have to push each other as it’s not as elegant as Disney made it out to be.

Silver and napkins perch on the dining table awaiting their night of resurrection. The plates are hidden in the cupboards as they are most fragile. No flowers or fruit sit at the centre, not since Christmas. The chandelier pleads for one dalliance, one more night of romance even if it is just to be used.

On the fourth floor we see that one room upstairs is like a pretty thrift store, embellished hangers holding moments of 60’s and 70’s glory, Woodstock inspired dresses from the era. Indian slippers, Gucci loafers, buffalo sandals sit neatly in unison with the lines of the wooden floorboards. Serena’s Floppy hat sits on the standing lamp, a milkmaid’s jug sits with dead flowers. An old candle once held memories of idyllic spring mornings has now lost both light and scent.  The dressing table and looking glass is strewn with neglect. The room is an homage to her maternal grandparents bohemian glory days.

The wardrobe lined with sheets from The FT and Telegraph. Alas this is not a Guardian home. Cashmere sweaters shoddily folded, an overflow of natural fibres. Some of Florence’s jumpers from childhood are shoved in too. Do you remember when Laura Ashley used to do childrenswear?

clothes wardrobe

As we make our way down one flight of stairs and another we find cabinets of curiosities, religious icons on the walls, no carpets. Flo’s mother collected crucifixes, elaborate ones from the Clover’s honeymoon in Mexico. Bloomsbury waywardness juxtaposed with piercing la boheme sparseness. Empty are the floors, the fridge and the cupboard. Bare floors only a Persian rug to warm bare feet, walls lined with eclectic Frida Kahlo imitation art, Mexicana tones, Ceylon tea stained walls. The warmest and most welcoming room of the home though the paternal grandparents never wandered in- they never approved.

In the basement we find the kitchen. The walls above the kitchen counter tops lined with mismatched tiles some artisanal others mere fillers, slapped on as the Clover’s tried to make it their own. Tiles collected from trips to Spain and Mexico. Naturally there’s an Aga with copper pans hanging. There’s a kitchen island that has open shelves on one side for all those cookbooks as well as for all those ceramic dishes as Mrs Clover loves to cook English classics.

The pantry is surprisingly full given that the Clover’s are never there. You can see the preserved lemons, (half eaten) pickles, a row of almond milk, rows upon rows of jars: tahini, pepper corns even rose petals. Next you see bags of quinoa, lentils and basmati rice. There’s even a gourmet selection of salt. It’s like a little hideaway Deli.

Inside also sits clutter and art supplies expectantly waiting to be used back to life. A deck of tea candles await their next turn to shine. They haven’t been used since a Summer garden party back when Flo & Simon were together. You see all types of jams some handmade from idle summer afternoons, others leftover from Fortnum & Mason hampers. Old Crabtree & Evelyn biscuit tins (sadly empty). A glass full of paintbrushes, masking tape, pencils. Sitting there folded up a tattered, paint stained apron for kitchen and art room.

The Laundry room remains untouched as if the servants were still here, it’s like peering into a museum.

In what used to be a House keeper’s room a tiny desk sits there and stored in the walled shelves her fathers old accounts.

Nowadays the girls are likely to get together for Sunday lunch and the occasional meet up. They get together to decorate the house over Christmas but rarely are festivities celebrated there for some reason. Diane has been pestering Flo to use her parents house more often. It will be made into a home soon, if only Flo had someone to settle down with.

 


 

Flo falls into a more Bloomsbury set of Bohemia, a High Bohemia shall we say. Though as you read the novel there will be heterogeneous depictions of Bohemia so you will find a Bohemian that resonates with your soul. Stay with me and stay aboard the train to Wonderland…

Character Profile: Florence Clover

Florence hair flower_fl

Name: Florence Clover
Age: 23
Born: Cheltenham
Beloved Books: How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson; all of Felicity’s Cloake’s books (pretty much just cookbooks); Nancy Mitford; Kate Mosse; Noel Streatfeild and Cookery bibles from Larousse Gastronomique to Phaidon cookbooks
Music: The Corrs, Taylor Swift, Savage Garden, Westlife, Erik Satie and Chopin (predominately classical music though – that list is endless)
Film: Gone with the Wind
Food: Beef Wellington; Ploughman’s sandwich; Ladurée Macarons and Sticky Toffee pudding
Drink: Loose leaf Earl Grey, Wild Orange Blossom herbal tea
Motto: “Never is a promise and you can’t afford to lie”; “Love is eternal”; “Elegance is refusal”
Favourite Artists: Mary Cassat, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and Andrei Belichenko
Dreams: As a little girl she wished to be a Ballerina but now she seems ripe to be a  Stepford Wife
Perfume: Changes each season usually a fragrance combining when at Jo Malone

Songs to remind you of Florence

Carla Bruni – Quelqu’un m’a dit
Aaliyah – Journey to the past
Elvis – The Wonder of You
Taylor Swift – Love Story

 

2017 New Years Goals: Fitness, Learning to Cook, finish a Grand Project i.e. my debut novel

Dear Readers,

I am going to share my New Year’s Resolution and the ways I shall effectively execute them.

fmd_cru6otk-cathryn-lavery

Given that in 2016 I managed sans plans/friends/connections and a whole lot of depression and anxiety launched a literary career, had a (fleeting) Amazon No.1 and performed at a major British Literature Festival I figure I must have some kind of knack to Get Things Done.

2017 is the year I finally get around to accomplishing the mundane goals, which I’ve not yet fully consistently committed to.

The Goals:

  • Establish and commit to a x3 days weekly fitness routine
  • Learn to cook
  • Complete the 1st draft of my novel.

How I will accomplish this:

Review date: 1st April 2017. Therefore goals are to be ‘run’ for 3 months/90 days.

Fitness:

  • Do the Tabata Workout x3 days a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays
    – In the mornings.
    – After April 2017 double this workout but continue only x3 days a week.

It will begin as only a 4-minute, high-intensity workout from now until April 1st 2017.

Cooking:

  • Using a mix between recipes found in Sam Stern’s student cookbook, my Mother’s recipes, other cookbooks and BBC Good Food recipes. Learn one new recipe per month.
  • January = Macaroni Cheese  ||  February = Chicken soup  ||  March = Carrot soup
    – Cook the dish only twice a month, then move onto the next assigned recipe for that certain month.

My Novel:

  • Write one hour a week
    – High focus, content driven writing on my novel. No note-taking just plot writing. If I get stuck/suffer writer’s block I simply move on and write in another chapter or edit written work.
    Tuesdays 6pm work on writing novel
  • Review material, research plot gaps for one hour
    Fridays 6pm work on rereading manuscript and doing extra research on passages marked TK.

The secret to these goals is to keep them as simple and small as possible so that I can actually consistently commit to them because implementing these accomplishments is a necessity. Also by having them take minimal time I can easily over-deliver on each task and gain small wins as a confidence boost.

Additionally I shall counter-intuitively reduce my blogging commitments.

This Lifestyle blog: CatherineVaughansWorld.com will not have a set blogging schedule. This will be my ad-hoc blog. Namely blog posts will definitely be posted early April to see how I have come along with my New Year’s Resolutions, to see which goals I’ve stuck with analyse what has worked and hasn’t worked. Any inspiring ideas or disappointments will be posted online.

My Arts & Culture blog NouveauBohemian.com will have only x1 article posted on the 15th of each month and a once a season Bohemian selection.

HerefordshireWriters.co.uk remains a once monthly article editorial. (Writing plans remain the same.)