The smell of rose and peonies, the sound of Wimbledon on television, queues of cars slowly winding their way over the bridge at Henley catching glimpses of the royal regatta, the boys playing cricket, Pimm’s in the early evening, England in June.
Except this year I spent my weeks there dancing between two hospitals, my sister in one, my mother in another, whilst working on a new book, designing the fall collection, joining midnight conference calls with the LA office, and tackling an interiors photo shoot. I told my mother about an old friend involved in the project. “Carolina’s styled the shoot,” I said, although she heard “Carolina has died on the shoot,” and was quite concerned.
Thick persistent clouds, grey drizzly rain, bloodshot eyes and a tired persistent cough introduced themselves. No Royal Regatta, no Pimm’s, no cricket, only hospitals and round the clock business. I was pretty exhausted.
“You look crinkly like Grandmamma,” said Domino one morning. So when an invitation to spend a night at the newly renovated Berkeley Hotel arrived, you may imagine my reaction: HELL YES.
And newly renovated it is…. I hardly recognized the front door, now dwarfed by a vast metal canopy, like the Battlestar Galactica. Speedy bowler-hatted doormen rushed to help us into the lobby, now shiny and bright, where gigantic test tube shaped vases boasted single stemmed flower arrangements, irresistible to Domino and her friend Poppy, who reached up on tiptoes to touch these luxuries.
The elevator doors opened up and silent slinky dark black corridors lured you towards the bedroom, which, in contrast, was light and bright and very seductive. Every detail had been thought of, the requisite hidden TV in the bathroom wall, the heated loo seat, Niagara Falls sized shower heads, at least twenty-eight goose down pillows on the crisply made bed, even Burberry raincoats waited in the closet. Now that was clever, especially because it was still raining.
But the real soothing moment of our stay came when I swam alone in their rooftop pool, with all of London spilling out below, as a warm sun rose, the first I had seen in weeks.
I drove back to my sister’s hospital, and then on to my mother, who was finally being discharged. She came limping out, tentative on unfamiliar crutches. “I bet you will be pleased to be home in time for tea,” I said. “Tea?” she said, “I’m off to have my hair done.”