In these chilly, grey, late-winter days, Christine and I inspire ourselves by living future truths. There is a West End production of my play Torches. Home Movies is a series on line. Our televised adaptation of a Virginia Woolf novel, to which actor Billie Piper is attached (present truth, yipeee), is green-lit.
These are professional plans. And, for me, there is romance. These latter months I have been on dates and gathering ‘date-a’ (thank you, Woking, I’m here all week), knowing more and more clearly what I don’t want in a lover. Which, of course, is only half the equation. That’s fine, Chuckles, the universe says – but what do you want? And I consider myself profoundly blessed among women, lucky enough to have had a glimpse of a model for a future married bliss, an image I received four summers ago, that still serves: the possibility of a life that hovered in warm August sun, over a French lake, on a fast boat as I gazed at a movie star.
For 30 seconds.
You gotta start somewhere.
It began innocently enough. ‘Do you want to come to France?’ my dear friend Jennifer asked. ‘We’d love to have you.’
I did not have to consider this request for long. Did I want to come to their Swiss chalet on the lake with bedrooms that opened onto a veranda whence one could see mountains and still, turquoise waters?
As I am not sectionable, I said yes.
I got on a plane, was driven 40 minutes through the dark from Geneva airport to arrive at the huge Heidi-house – green-shuttered, window- boxed – and was led into the dining room where a table that could seat 25 was seating – well – 25 and groaning under the biggest game of poker I had ever beheld.
I was greeted warmly, introduced to the heaving mountain of breads, cheeses, condiments and pastries that were on offer throughout the week, was led to the BEST bedroom in the house – complete with piano - and forced into my bathing suit for a night swim.
I awoke the next morning to the smell of croissants and coffee.
At 11:00 am we cycled, en masse, ten minutes along the lake – parents, adolescents, single friends – to arrive at a marina. Our host had arranged for all the kids and anyone else who fancied a go, to learn to wakeboard. The kids were hysterical, their parents delighted (there were drinks in the café). You could hear mater and pater chuckling to themselves as they ordered their pale beers and delicate cocktails, pushing their children into life jackets and onto the boat.
As I have a healthy respect for my corporeal self, I passed on the wakeboarding and asked the driver, in French, if I could join the spectators in the back of his vessel and WATCH these under-age maniacs flirt with their untimely ends.
‘Mais bien sur,’ he said, gallant. ‘A pleasure.’
The sky was Chagall-blue and the water jade green. The day was hot, and soft and mossy trees flanked the mountains. The boat went fast and the younger kids hung on to the sides, shrieking with delight, as brothers and sisters rose slowly from the water, like Neptune’s children, up for a sight of the dry earth.
Two hours and 14 laps of the lake later, the last eligible child had run her course, was peeling off her wet suit and the boat – with me in it like a dog, almost panting, hoping for another go around the block - sat idling at the dock.
‘Quelqu’un d’autre?’ the thickset, dark-haired driver called out, looking at the unpromising collection of adults, doped with the heat on chaises longues. ‘Enee one elss?’
‘Yes, I’ll have a go.’
The voice was resonant and clear. I turned from my spot in the back to see one of the house guests rise, spry and limber, holding a daughter by the hand as he came to the edge of the dock.
It was a Uni mate of my hostess. Just another friend invited with his family for the summer break. Well, that’s what he was to everyone else. To me he was, and is, the cripplingly charismatic and unendingly charming actor Jason Isaacs. Lucius Malfoy to you H.Potter followers, alumnus of the National Theatre, a new NBC series out this spring. Good actor, good guy. This hot August afternoon he was sans long, white wig and Flintlock pistol and just having a quiet week with his wife and kids. Just quietly hanging around being cripplingly charismatic and unendingly charming.
I find him so charismatic, in fact, that I choke on my own saliva when I try to speak to him, my knees forget their purpose is to hold me up, turn to blanc mange and I blotch.
JI doesn’t notice because he is modest as well as unendingly charming, probably just turns and murmurs to his wife as I lurch out of the room’ Who is that woman with the speech impediment?’
He arrived at the edge of the dock, handed his daughter and her camera into the boat then turned to suit up.
I wheeled away. I spoke as much French as I could to the driver who was surprised but polite in the face of my sudden interest in his working life. ‘Vous travaillez chaque jour? Et c’est comment, vous aimez votre metier?’ I kept my eyes fixed on his face, willing myself not to watch Jason getting into a wet suit. This just wasn’t something I needed to see as a single woman sleeping alone in a chalet on an Alpine lake. He called out ‘Ready!’ and as the boat slowly turned I could see him poised on the wake board, grinning.
‘Haven’t been on skis in seven years!’ he shouted to someone on the deck.
‘We’ll all enjoy watching you drown,’ someone called back, lifting a glass of a light French wine.
But after four and a half seconds - ‘No, no never done this before’ Jason confirmed to the driver who then throttled up and hurled us into the middle of the lake - it became patently obvious that Jason wasn’t going to drown. He was going to dominate. And with style.
Within moments he was standing. Within moments of standing he was traversing the wakes. Within moments of traversing the wakes, he was doing it all with ONE HAND.
His daughter laughed and filmed, calling out to him in his wet suit – oh.my.god. in his wet suit– flanked by fountains of water and a sky split by mountain tops.
I breathed in. I felt the beauty of the created world around me, the melting warmth of the sun and the sting of water on my face and hands. I watched this poised, strong, fit, athletic, cripplingly charismatic man navigate with unbridled joy the peaks and valleys of the lake under his feet.
The driver glanced over his shoulder.
‘Il va bien,’ he shouted, nodding at Jason. ‘’Ee iss good.’
‘Oui, oui!’ I said with the alacrity of someone who wants to share her obsession. ‘Il va tres bien.’
‘Et c’est sa premiere fois? It is a first time? Magnifique.’
‘Oui!’ I shouted. Not wanting the conversation to end. ‘Formidable!’
Jason, still grinning, veered off to the far side of the boat, throbbed on the waters for a moment before turning to the middle of the wake where the waves were highest, flexed his knees and, with the ease of a young cheetah, leapt into high into the air. And there hung for breathless minutes, a scuba-suited Baryshnikov, frozen immortal in the mind’s eye, before landing, upright, chest high, head thrown back in glee.
The driver had been watching too and, at the sight of my mute, admiring face, nodded, smiled and then called out
‘Il est votre mari?’
I wasn’t sure I’d heard properly.
‘Pardon?’ I said, squinting in the sun that, combined with the effect of Jason’s - animal spirits - was making me dizzy.
‘Lui, la bas. Him. Il est votre mari? He iss your ‘usband?’
My brow furrowed. The clouds tilted. I clamoured for traction in this wholly unexpected and impossible world. Not so much aghast at the reality suggested by this question, playing out on red carpets, hotels and opening nights across the world, over croissants where I am The Wife of Jason Isaacs but more in the thought that arose directly after: do I present as someone who could be the wife of someone who is Jason Isaacs??
And is she someone I could be?
Christine and I are extremely excited at the future truths we are plotting now, the scripts that are the blueprint for productions to come. The readings will be riotous fun, the pitching is a hoot. We are meeting directors for Home Movies and at this point it is a mental game. The work has been developed, the scripts are sound and our job is to move forward into the realities we have already created.
Through all of this, in my quiet moments, I choose to be just as excited by the thought of the romance I am drawing to me – the colleague who is hilarious, loves Tolstoy, hockey and sex on the kitchen table, a helpmeet who adores my family and shares his with me; a companion on a bicycle who quotes Seinfeld and knows Austen and as I prepare to meet him my heart is warmed and inspired, knowing all things are possible. Knowing, whatever else is going on in my love life, on a green lake under a blue sky in high French summer – at least in the mind of a friendly and conversational boat driver – I was the wife of Jason Isaacs.
In a wet suit.
And that’ll get me through to spring.
|The ever-lovely Jason|