Monday, March 30, 2009


The guy opposite us on the train is loudly approving the books we're reading, and I'm replying in that tight-lipped English way that means I'd rather be staring out of the window. As soon as it's politely possible I turn away and see that the Bronx streets have given way to sprawling necropolises and pastel-coloured suburbs - which, for many Manhattanites, are virtually the same thing.

But when we step out at Pleasantville, 47 minutes from the rush of Grand Central Station, we are instantly charmed. It's the chairs. While most stations have stained wooden benches or rows of brutally moulded plastic seats, Pleasantville has chairs of different shapes and sizes that people can group in sociable circles as they wait for their train. They aren't nailed down. They don't have anything scrawled on them or scratched into them. They're a uniform gray, and for a second it's like we've stepped into the movie and we're destined to bring colour and sin to Pleasantville.

Turns out there's plenty of colour here already. There's the canoe, for one. Our friend's house is on the edge of the water, the wooden deck looking out over it. There's a two-man boat which you can paddle around in, playing Jaws with the super-sized koi carp that all the households own.

But really it's the bells that get me. Usually when you're walking along a street in the city you can count the ways that any old one-family brownstone has been heartlessly cut up by looking at the number of buzzers by every solid front door. Here the sprawling wooden houses loom out of the greenery like the sets from every children's film I ever remember seeing. This is the America I remember. The homes have backyards and frontyards and porches with rocking chairs, but what they don't have is a menu of all the people crammed up inside.

At first we point them out to each other, but as our friend's car snakes up to her own beautiful lake-bound house we fall silent. I dig Chris in the ribs.

Toto, we're not in Brooklyn any more.


  1. we need to see pictures of all these wonderful places!!!! :)

  2. I found your blog! This is Anu, one of those people you were crammed in with in Pleasantville. Could you please tell me the name of the book you already published? I'd love to read it, you're a wonderful writer!

    Anu (

  3. Jane - will see what I can do.
    Anu - great to hear from you! Two ghost-written books are Silenced (Vicky Jaggers) and Coming Down Fast (Simon Wells), and my own book (definitely not published yet!) is a soon-to-be geek-lit cult classic, First Class