The Lady of the Woods

I used to have a very close friend, who was Sephardic Jewish, in the mid 80s called Lisette Baruch from Istanbul. We had met in a writing class in London and subsequently became close friends speaking daily in English or French on the phone.  She called me 'Agapimoo' meaning my love in Greek because she spoke Greek too, having lived alongside Greeks, another ethnic minority like the Jews, in Istanbul.

We shared our daily writing and my friend related her childhood in the Jewish community in Istanbul attending a prestigious French convent school where she was cruelty treated by strict nuns, marriage at 18 when her parents moved to London with an older Turkish Jewish business man called Joe who refused to let her work, years later his refusal to let her set up her dream chocolate boutique in Hampstead and her final decision to leave his clutches and find her true self. Lisette was an excellent descriptive writer and it is sad that today, even after having had 2 plays performed, she has ceased to write devoting her life to her grandchildren in London and New York.  

In the mid 80s there was no internet dating but there was The Guardian for putting 'lonely hearts' adverts and hoping the ideal lover or future husband would come her way.  One day she asked me if she could give my postal address for replies instead of hers. I agreed and forgot all about her request until one day a solitary handwritten envelope arrived addressed to 'the lady of the woods.'

My husband, magical Martin, opened the letter because of the title. Being a man of magic and mystery he was curious but then annoyed because he thought it was addressed to me, his wife! The letter was from Jack X an older businessman in the East End of London searching for a relationship. Could he take 'the lady of the woods' out for dinner? There was an phone number and so Martin rang  demanding to know who this perpetrator was. An apologetic PA answered sounding shocked that her important boss would write such a letter, confessing she knew nothing about his personal life!

As I spoke daily to Lisette, I told her about the envelope. It was then she told me that she was the 'lady of the woods' because she lived in St John's Wood! That Sunday, as usual, she read The Sunday Times at breakfast from cover to cover. The accompanying annual 'Rich List' supplement was enclosed. Having lived a luxurious long life with her husband, Lisette was used to the good things like expensive holidays abroad, gold and diamond jewellery, fine wines and gourmet dining. Lisette was also an excellent cook specialising in Turkish, Italian and French cuisine.  She devoured the supplement with interest looking at the photos of the men (in those days she observed no women) and noting the amounts of millions each one had accumulated.

And there he was further down the list. Jack X the lad! To phone or not to phone, that was the question? It was true Lisette liked material possessions and enjoyed a comfortable life but she looked for other qualities in men and was certainly not a gold digger after a sugar daddy. When she finally divorced her rotten husband for mental cruelty after cutting off the electricity in winter leaving her and their two small children freezing in their big house because she dared ask for a divorce, she did well out of the disputed divorce settlement. Enough to buy a two bedroom flat in prestigious St John's Wood and start a new life.

Her best friend, who hankered after discarded Joe, asked Lisette if she could have him. 'Take him, I don't want him,' she said knowing his meanness. Her friendship still continued so she kept up to date with their relationship but never marrying. Of course their relationship was to go Dutch, splitting every single domestic bill, including all dinners and holidays. Her friend knew about his meanness despite his wealth but obviously accepted him warts and all! Joe even refused to pay for his daughter's wedding in New York to a successful art dealer with a gallery in Chelsea. Lisette, who was a generous soul, had to foot the bill. Subsequently her daughter broke with her father. Unbelievable but true.

We finally met her husband in the mid 90s at the Kensington Hilton hotel. Martin and I were invited for dinner with her good friends, the famous film director Val Guest and his actress wife Yolanda Donlan. Joe acted as the host putting on the charm but Lisette told me after it was she who paid the expensive bill for the 6 of us!

Lisette took the bull by the horns and phoned Jack not letting on, of course, that she had discovered his true identity. But why would a successful businessman use The Guardian to find a companion? We will never know.

Jack announced they would dine at his apartment at the Marina and would send his chauffeur in the Bentley to pick her up. She took a chance to go a man's lair on a first date but, after speaking with him at length on the phone and the need for privacy, she felt she could trust him not to jump on her!

They had a pleasant evening with dinner served by the butler in his modern luxury abode overlooking the Marina. Jack was a self made man from the East End but not Jewish. I forget now what his business was. He was divorced of course but she did not fancy him enough to begin a relationship more than a platonic one and Jack wanted more, bien sur!! They went out several times but eventually she gave him the chop because they had nothing much in common apart from fine dining and she was on a diet. Lisette was attracted to a man who loved to read, go to the theatre and listen to jazz.  Jack did not tick those boxes and, despite having his 'silent' millions, had to go!

The 'lady of the woods' continued to buy The Guardian still searching for love and as the internet eventually controlled the world, would find lovers and relationships but never true love on the net. Still attractive, in her mid to late sixties, Lisette is still searching.....

Written at Hotel Casa de los Bates, Motril, Spain 2/2/17.


The Sunday Times Rich List
Wikipedia - Yolanda Donlan
Google - Val Guest

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