Sunday, 6 September 2020

New Book Release Spotlight: One Hundred Views of NW3 by Pat Jourdan

One Hundred Views of NW3 by Pat Jourdan

Arriving in London with £5, Stella rapidly begins hopping from one disastrous job, bedsit and boyfriend to another. All the time she is trying to paint pictures and write poetry. At last she gets a place in Hampstead but various men distract her from reaching the goal of holding an exhibition. An ever-changing group of friends moves her along from place to place. After each drawback Stela moves on, disaster after disaster, while the tally of of pictures shrinks to 36. Set in the heady days of 1960s Swinging London, this vividly charts one girl's track through the untidy years at its height.

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One Hundred Views of NW3 Pat Jourdan

Stella has begun to take part in a local exhibition, and is so confident that she happily gives the money to Lloyd, a past boyfriend. He suggests repayment via her coming to dinner on Sundays to settle the debt of £12. But there is a major snag as the last course of the meal.

Collecting the post, she opened the envelope while going up Pond Street to work, and here was Lloyd walking down towards her. He started doing a fancy cake-walk, all across the pavement like a professional show dancer. In the envelope was a cheque for one of her paintings sold in the Hampstead Artists’ Council Exhibition that month. Their Open Air show was held further up Heath Street over the past three summer weekends. It had been inspired by an item in the Ham & High about someone drowning themselves in the ponds earlier that summer. Titled ‘Night, Grass, Ponds’ it had a glamour and a mystery, melancholy beauty.
Last year, the first year of exhibiting with them, a swirling Summer Greens was bought for £10 by a Mr Green. So this year was an obvious improvement. This time the original price before commission was £15.This was what success looked like, or its beginning.
“Darlin’,” Lloyd said, with his usual self-mockery. “I was just coming to see you!” He did a dance step or two right there, nifty footwork on the morning pavement.
“At this time? But I’m off to work.”
“Well, it’s a bit of a problem, that’s why I got here so early, to find you, you see, we absolutely need the rent, it’s already overdue. It’s sort of an emergency. Well, actually it’s a very major emergency.”
“You are so lucky, I’ve just sold a painting! Got a cheque here for £12! What a surprise” and in the merriment of the moment and all the success it symbolised, Stella endorsed the cheque right there in the street, leaning against the wall of the Indian house. She gave it to Lloyd happily. This is what the bohemian life was like, success was getting closer. She also had a painting ‘Black Rose’ accepted for show with the Free Painters Group later that year. He looked serious for a second.
“You do realise I won’t be able to pay this back, don’t you? But what we can do, what you can do, is to come round each Sunday for dinner with Netta and me until you think you’ve eaten about twelve quids’ worth. That should sort it. I’ve just started work, it’s a problem with the wages, got to work a fortnight in hand, that’s why we’ve got no money.” His girlfriend, Netta did not seem to work these days so was no help. Her family lived over in Dalston, rather a mystery.
“Work?” Fiona said, “He’s a milkman! You can see him driving that milk float all around the roads waving at everyone and grinning like a film star!” And just as she said this, Stella did encounter him a day or two later, with his rattling cargo of milk, orange juice and heaps of potatoes and other groceries progressing along South End Green towards Keats Grove. Suddenly he was everywhere, cropping up unexpectedly.
So, on Sunday lunchtime, Stella decided to explore what the possibilities would be. Lloyd and Netta had the entire top floor flat in a professor’s house on Rosslyn Hill. The tasty warm smell of roast chicken was already spreading down from their landing door as Lloyd ushered her up to their flat.
And it was definitely a real slap-up meal. She was surprised. Lloyd and Netta had provided a genuine classic Sunday dinner. Roast Chicken, roast potatoes, stuffing, and veg, followed by tinned peaches and real double cream followed by tea or coffee.
“Oh, this costs us nothing,” Lloyd said contentedly, “There’s all these filthy rich people with monthly accounts or even longer accounts that they don’t bother to pay for six months and then they go off abroad for ages, so you put something extra on their bill and they never question it, they haven’t a clue what’s going on. And even if they did query it, I’ve got extra receipt books to come up with something different.” He smiled happily, a successful businessman.
The third course was cannabis, as Lloyd was also Hampstead’s pet cannabis dealer. His life was perfect these days. Stella did not like to refuse; you had to pretend to be cool sometimes. The one fat roach was passed round slowly as they each took in its contents. And quite quickly it had results. The carpet moved upwards and substances became fluid, the furniture started to float. As usual to sober up, Stella made for the sink and started to do the washing up. It was what she did at parties to sober up, it was always both soothing and practical.

But the floor tilted from side to side and some tree branches from the garden came in through the panes of glass and spread across the carpet, making navigation difficult. Her feet went down further and further into compressed air. The dishes were like seashells underwater and although obviously they were solid in real life, now they shifted and slithered as if alive. The sink was an ocean and the dishes folded into each other. Looking at them she could hear colours too.

Pat Jourdan trained as a painter at Liverpool College of Art -some of her paintings can be seen on Always balancing writing with painting, she has won the Molly Keane Short Story Award, second in the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award, and various other prizes. One Hundred Views of NW3 is her fourth novel.
“ I am used to producing a painting from start to finish and self-publishing gives the same creative possibility. It has the same excitement, the change from private to public.”