When Being Sober Is Just a Waste of Time.

Dear Readers, it’s been an ugly Summer, day after day of bad news that breaks your heart 50 ways before breakfast . . . last week it was so bad that I and the 5 o’clock angel kept company every single day.


And now it’s Thursday and my article in The Guardian came out and I want a vat of white wine for breakfast. You can read it here, and then you can Comment on it all you want, but the author of the piece hates it. I want to go on a very serious whine about editing that shreds your Guardian article to shreds, but you and me and the world all have more bigger problems to worry about. See how mature I’m being? And, for being so Zen, I think I know just how to reward myself (see above).


Thank you, THANK YOU for the brilliant Comments you all left last week on the post about How To Be A Jerk. I love you all for making me feel that it’s not yet time to hang up the paint brushes and go all florange AGAIN — I really needed that. THANK YOU. You all deserve for me to respond to your brilliance one by one in this blog post, but the timing is off (don’t peek . . . I have a present for you at the very end of this week’s blather) so let me go back and reply in the Comments section of last week, and please allow me to explain this illustration before I give you all the best July prezzie ever:


From Le Road Trip, that’s my illustration of the tower of Michel de Montaigne who, while I’m being so philosophical and all, I want to thank for keeping me company this past week:


“I doubt if I can decently admit at what little cost to the repose and tranquillity of my life I have passed more than half of it amid the ruin of my country.”

If the famous essayist Michel de Montaigne had not died in 1592 . . . wait, let me start over. If the opinionated and always entertaining Michel de Montaigne were alive today he’d be a top lifestyle blogger, and he’d have written the above line more like this:

It might be indecent of me to admit this, but I’ve managed to live these past 30 years happily engrossed with my own inner life at the same time that my country was shitting out its brains in bloody civil war, brutal religious retaliations, and government-sanctioned massacre and assassination of its own citizens.

If you have to be sober these days, and I don’t recommend it, reading Sarah Bakewell‘s charming examination of the life and work of the immortal Michel de Montaigne will give you much-needed mental repose amid the heartbreaking reality of the world we live in.

In How To Live; A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Miss Bakewell breaks up Montaigne’s life and classic Essais into 20 chapters that each provide an answer the question that preoccupied Montaigne the most ( How To Live? ) with chapter sub-headings/answers such as Don’t Worry About Death; Pay Attention; Survive Love and Loss.  

Montaigne’s own words are, thanks to the wit and brilliant scholarship of Miss Bakewell, put in context of his bizarre upbringing (he was the son of a rich man who employed special tutors who only spoke to him in Latin for the first 5 years of his life) and the fashions of the day (the French King Henri III was considered weird because he had outlandish personal hygiene habits, such as washing his hair from time to time) and current events (the above mentioned wars and atrocities) of his time. And lordy, Montaigne lived in terrible times, more terrible than our own.

If Montaigne can do it — retain a personal and philosophical delight with the world while it was beheading Protestants, spreading the plague, and murdering cats — well, my Wonder Ones, so can we. I have to believe that.


That’s Steve (above), on my front wall, chowing down on dinner; and that’s the little Blue Jay feather I found floating in his water bowl when I went out to feed him. What can I say? Life has its moments.

Now for my gift to you all:

This is me (below), walking around our little village of Roslyn the other day, wearing what I thought was a very nifty walking-around outfit until I saw the picture that Top Cat took of it and me:

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NO, that’s not the gift.

Helen Mirren turns 71 on July 26 and I’ve been collecting photos of her this past year because it is obvious that I need a mentor in how to look extremely nifty, and Helen’s my It Girl. And because I know that all you Dear Readers are My Kind of People, I know you love Helen Mirren too.

Happy Birthday, dear Helen; you are the human equivalent of a Blue Jay feather.

So here, from me to you, with love, is my photo essay titled

How To Live in Helen Mirren’s World.

































Oh, man, we do loves us some Helen Mirren.

I ended with the coat that I want almost more than BlueJay feathers. How’s about you?

Dear Readers, XX OO, and you’re welcome.

19 Comments, RSS

  1. Anonymous July 22, 2016 @ 8:59 am

    I think you love her:) You have the hair and the figure:)Very much you..:)

    I got lost in the comments..;)

    Does the Guardian have a right to edit?

    I love..

    Miss Rumphius.

    The Language of Flowers

    The Garden Of Evenings Mists(Japanese:) )

    Off the top of my head:)

  2. monique July 22, 2016 @ 9:00 am

    that was me above..:) I commented w/out my credentials:)

  3. Elizabeth July 22, 2016 @ 10:41 am

    I thought your article was wonderful – and have Facebooked it!
    Eleanor Perenyi’s is my personal favorite and I will have to overcome my distrust of Beverly Nicholls who I grew up thinking snobbish thoughts about. Also a man being called Beverly seemed rather odd.
    I started to read the opinions about your article inThe Guardian – but there were far too many of them.
    As you can see, the English are quite nuts about gardens. Polls discovered that most
    English women prefer gardening to sex.
    And yes, the book about Montaigne is a delight. Read it when it came out and enjoyed it enormously.
    And yes again, Helen Mirren is lovely indeed and has very good taste in clothes.
    And yes, the world is going to hell in a hand basket so I am going out to lunch.
    Booze might just be the answer.

    • Vivian July 23, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

      Thank you for Facebooking! I think it’s the first time I’ve been FB’d — oooooh, look at me! I’m social mediated! That’s funny about English ladies and their gardening. . . I wonder what English men do? Don’t they gardena lot, too? Gardens loom large in the English psyche.

  4. Christine July 22, 2016 @ 12:50 pm

  5. Mary July 22, 2016 @ 1:23 pm

    This is your mom. You can use the picture of me you took before I moved to Florida, where you shamed me into buying clothes that FIT.
    Yes, I went on to purchase size 8 clothes, and they do make me feel better.
    At 78 I tht I didn’t care about what a shlubb I was. YOU made me fix up ,and I did.
    xxx ma

  6. Carol S July 22, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

    Oh yes, Helen is our “It Girl”…that leopard dress!!!
    And thanks for another Steve picture. It has been an ugly summer and the ugly keeps coming.

  7. Cheryl Carr July 22, 2016 @ 4:25 pm

    I see a damn strong resemblance Vivian!

  8. Adele Miller July 22, 2016 @ 4:41 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. And for what it’s worth, I think you did look pretty damn nifty walking around.

    Dame Helen is always the embodiment of style and grace, and she always looks like she’s enjoying it,

  9. Beth July 22, 2016 @ 6:49 pm

    Helen is excellent, but OH! MONTAIGNE! I had to read and write about him in grad school and fell in love. I blame him for the length of my paragraphs.

  10. Megan July 22, 2016 @ 7:53 pm

    Ah the simple things in life, Steve knows what is important! Dame Helen Mirren does have style doesn’t she and a great sense of humour. Too bad you got edited, you would think they would let you know before something is published. Very disappointing.

  11. Kirra July 23, 2016 @ 6:39 am

    Just catching up on the last month of Vivian blog as I’ve been away on holiday in Europe. I think you should write another book as I love all your books and your unique combination of painting and writing. What to write about though…..I think the suggestions of a Long Island book is good and also on on cats!

    As a not very good pot plant gardener but high level garden enjoyer I took lots of great garden photos in European summer. I loved the window boxes overflowing with flowers.

    Helen Mirren is very stylish, great person to admire!

  12. Karen July 23, 2016 @ 11:09 am

    Love Helen Mirren — she’s a fabulous role model! But I think you look pretty fab. Plus, your painting, writing, and personality are all +++.

  13. Snap July 23, 2016 @ 1:28 pm

    Helen is amazing …. and so are you…….

  14. Thea July 23, 2016 @ 11:57 pm

    My husband and Dame Helen’s are both Pasadena boys, went to school, played football together. Of course I take her as my model. Also, I am quite sure you slipped us one — the final photo, the fabulous coat photo is of you, in’t it? Don’t bother arguing, we know. The Five O’clock Angel told me so.

    Subject of your next book? Island gardens. The Island of Long and, hey, Coronado, which is an island in the same sense as Long. When you visit, I will pour you glasses of the good rose as we sit in The Ramble, my rose garden. The title (ironic) of the miniscule rose garden honors Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, who among others saved NYC’s Central Park with its Ramble. Our group brought her out to speak about saving parks because we know of one that needs rescue.

    We’re culling books in a hort library, and this week we found tucked away in an old book a beautiful blue-and-yellow bird feather. It’s still on the round library table as we ponder what to do with it.

  15. Thea July 24, 2016 @ 1:30 am

    Comment amended to read: Santa Barbara boys. (Pasadena came later.)

  16. Deborah Hatt July 27, 2016 @ 10:59 am

    I am writing this on the fly – not on a jet plane, but by the seat of my pants – so this will be (you can now shout praises) short.

    First, I love that particular tower painting from “Le Road Trip.” It was one of those special ones that “put me there.” Thanks for reminding me of it!

    Your photo … I think you’re adorable, so that goes without being said … but since you insist on comparing your lovely self with the elegant Helen, there are only three aspects of Top Cat’s photo-op that differ from Helen’s professionally snapped pics.
    #1. The hat. Helen never dons a hat. Lose the hat in your photo and you gain a hefty amount of “chic” in this particular case.
    #2. The pose. Simply: Throw one hand into the air; Place one hand on jaunty hip; Flip your hair; Point into the camera with a sassy expression … any one of these would put you over the top in the Helen-I’m-As-Good-As-You bracket.
    #3. The shoes. While I personally go for comfort over style, Helen has a real flare for wearing the perfect shoes for any ensemble. I am not a shoe person myself – I own four pair, but only wear two on a regular basis, so you can see how shoe-impaired I am – but I cannot fail to notice Helen’s mighty-fine shoes. Peel off those comfy trainers you have on and exchange them for a heeled sandal, and wow! You and your outfit would be “SHAZAM!”

    I notice, by one of the photos, Helen had knee-replacement surgery at some point along the way, which goes to show, she is wonderfully human – hooray. She does look great for her 71 years, though, for sure. But you know, my theory is this – for all of us females – that first glimpse in the mirror every morning finds ALL of us looking out of bear-like, squinty, blurry eyes, with drug-through-a-knothole expressions of bewilderment on our sagging faces – Helen included. It’s what we decide to do from that point onward that decides what expressions we are wearing only an hour or two later.

    Moral to my story: Look in the mirror only long enough to do something uplifting for yourself; Grab each day for the precious gift it is, squeezing all the beauty, joy, and generosity out upon others as much as we can; and, Give Thanks – repeatedly throughout every day, even for challenges, as it takes both blessings and banes to “grow us up.” And let’s face it, if we had more true “grown ups” in this world (as opposed to idiots), most of this present world’s troubles would melt away into nothingness.

    Happy Trails, Vivian, as you walk the paths of the lovely gift of your life, in your new Helen-Mirren-Style heeled sandals, flippity hair, gesticulating hands, and jaunty smile. May all your blue jays each shed a feather at your approach, my dear, from which you can make a barrette.

  17. Deborah Hatt July 27, 2016 @ 6:59 pm

    Ha! So much for “short!” I’m ridiculous!

  18. jeanie July 29, 2016 @ 4:19 pm

    Man, you go offline and hide in up-north for awhile and look what you miss! Helen Magic! When I grow up I want to be Helen Mirren. And I’d better get started because time is running out.

    Will check out the Guardian article!

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