On the British Airways flight to Los Angeles I chatted to the English football team who were flying out for a match there. I have never been starstruck and in any case I am not a football fan so only vaguely recognised names like Kevin Keegan. My ex had never wished to speak English and would have to learn fast. After years of him excluding me from conversations this was a refreshing change. The head air hostess kindly invited me to see the cockpit and meet the pilots in those days before it was banned because of terrorism.
We were to rent the apartment in a high security building in Beverly Hills of an art dealer who was departing on a long trip to Europe. He was the friend of one of our employers who also lived in the same building. Before he left he invited us to the home of one of his clients showing his latest acquisitions. After he rebuked us for not being very gushing which is not a European trait and in any case I did not like the paintings. He also introduced me to a repulsive elderly friend of his who invited me on a long luxury weekend in Las Vegas with him. Not good first impressions of LA. We had one car so on days when I was not working I would walk one mile to the Farmers Market to shop for the best quality produce. Fruit and veg all polished in neat rows but tasteless in comparison with Italian produce. No-one walks in LA so I was stopped several times by curious police who immediately understood on hearing my English accent that it was one of our strange ways. Shop assistants who had never heard English spoken asked me to say something, like a performing monkey. Heavily accented Mexicans could not understand English, only an American accent.
Stopping at traffic lights the cars alongside were often occupied by film stars such as Telly Savalas or Charles Bronson. In the local supermarket on the border with Hollywood I marveled at some of the groceries e.g. who on earth would use powdered egg when fresh eggs are available? A smiling Roger Moore came alongside me but I was too timid to say something and convinced he must be tired of recognition. I regret not speaking to that most charming of men who I would see again twice at a distance in airports. I tend not to believe in coincidence any more. A few minutes later at the supermarket I was approached by a film director inviting me for an audition, but we left the US before I had a chance to follow it up. I was also wary as I had heard about the sofa auditions in LA. Everyone there is beautiful, waiters, petrol pump attendants etc. all hoping to be discovered. It brought out a side in my partner which I had never seen when he recounted to friends about the girls with the Italian equivalent of ‘phwoars’. He knew this was a particular bugbear of mine from being constantly harassed by men in Italy.
I sent taped messages to my family in the UK and Australia and my ex sent them to his family in Italy. My father-in-law had had cancer and his voice box removed and I had learnt to lip read and understand the pops he made with his lips. Both my ex and I were astonished that we understood just the pops on his recorded message to us. He was a very sweet man and I got along well with him.
Bizarrely my partner was invited to the Israeli Ambassador’s apartment in the same building while I proof-read a script for a TV series with their friend the writer, at the end of which I was offered the customary, for Beverly Hills, silver tray of all the drugs, neatly arranged. I refused as ever. My partner returned white as a sheet saying he had been confronted with guns but he would not tell me what was discussed.
We drove up the coast to San Francisco on a break, not as beautiful as the Amalfi coast, where my ex asked me to apply for any job at the British Consulate with a view to us moving there. I had an interview with the Consul but we left America before I knew if my application had been successful. Later in Italy he told me he had planned to give me information for the British. We spent weekends at the homes of the nuclear physicists I had got to know on Capri in Malibu and cool Venice. The only female physicist on Capri, apart from my friend Francesca, invited me to her home in Pasadena. We visited her 90+ year old friend living in her extraordinary family home dating from the early 1800s, chatting on polished wooden benches surrounding a large ballroom full of memories from her youth. My ex never complained if I arranged to meet a girlfriend but in Italy he returned home in the early hours of the morning for a few nights. In America he just tried to sabotage my arrangements. All a part of coercive control.