08 March, 2006

back in the saddle!

Do you ever wake up and feel that at some point in the next few days you're going to find yourself NOT doing something you know you need to do? It could be that you'll get your child to school late, or fail to remember a playdate, or not return a phone call to someone who really wants to speak to you, or even have, dare I say it, McDonald's for dinner instead of cooking? Right now I have a pot of chicken stock halfway through its cooking process, sitting outside my bedroom door with its lid covered in yesterday's icy rain. I should, by all rights, be bringing it in, boiling and straining it and making it into vichyssoise with the leeks I bought over the weekend. I also should be putting a load of laundry into the washing machine the size of a tea kettle. But I don't feel like doing any of those things, I feel like being derelict and lazy.

I put this down to the marathon effort that went into Avery's first horseback riding lesson yesterday. Added to that is the fact that since Monday we have had no heat or hot water. It's amazing how you get used to no heat, but no hot water means no shower, so I have really bad hair right now. Yesterday is simply poured with rain from dawn to dark, and I got wet then dry, wet then dry, a dozen times, so my head is porcupiney and crazy today. I picked Avery up from school and she was clutching her laundry bag with her skates, and her backpack full of lord knows what, and we hailed a taxi to King's Cross station to catch the Piccadilly line. I felt right then that we should turn around, go home, and watch a movie! But no, we persevered through the cold rain, and down into the depths of the deepest tube station in the city, crowded with pre-rush hour commuters. But as we got further out of Central London the crowds died down, Avery fell asleep on my shoulder and we whizzed out into the countryside. I had to remind myself to look around and enjoy seeing the little houses representing suburban London, like an episode of "Coronation Street." Some 45 minutes we later we alighted at the penultimate stop on the line and looked around for some indication of where the equestrian centre was, finally getting directions from a really appealing- smelling fish and chips cafe where no-lunch Avery would happily have settled in, but I felt we needed to find the barn.

Down the road, soaked to the skin, to the Trent Park Equestrian centre, an 800-acre monstrosity set in the middle of the countryside, with the familiar and touching sight of rail fences, jumps, and finally the stalls filled with ponies. Heaven! We registered her, went to the cafe for a nice toasted ham and cheese sandwich and hot chocolate, she changed into her little jodhpurs and half-chaps and sweet corduroy barn jacket, all salvaged from her New York tack trunk, now reposing oddly in my study.

She did her homework while waiting for her lesson, and I eavesdropped on the manic mobile phone conversations of a harassed mother whose teenage daughter was being grounded for having run away from home (!) and was protesting her incarceration. Teen sulks know no geographical
boundaries, apparently. Finally it was time to get on her pony, and we were met by Esme, a trainer with some undefinable (to me) middle European accent, and marched down over tracks to what Americans would call a ring, or arena, but the English call a "school." There was a roof, but my goodness it was cold and wet. So for an hour she trotted and cantered, with her golden ponytails flopping over her back and her
cheeks all pink, and what John and I call her "pony expression" on her face, total concentration. Dull as dishwater to me, but she was happiness incarnate. The hour slipped by, wet minute by wet minute, darkness fell and I could hear the rain gather fury outside as I imagined the walk to the train station! However, she had a wonderful time, bonding with her pony and getting something out of the lesson even though as she told me later, she could hardly understand a word the trainer was saying! The terminology is substantially different, a posting trot being called a "rising trot," and the outside rail being called the "track." She shared the ring with a hapless little chick called Rae, on a pony who wouldn't break out of a walk to save its life.

Seven p.m. saw me trudging down the lane with all Avery's belongings, red city buses whizzing perilously past, Avery cantering ahead full of excitement. By 8 we were back in Mayfair, and I assessed the chances
that I'd be able to find our way from Green Park station and home, decided it was very unlikely, and hailed a cab. So now I'm measuring how much Avery enjoyed her lesson against the fact that it took us four and a half hours to do it all, and I can't decide what I think. I booked her for Saturday, and figure John can take her and see if that's something they'd like to do each weekend. I'm not sure it's
the best thing for a school night. Of course coming home to no heat or hot water (again! The Curse of the Dunraven Street boiler) did not help! Iain, the highly unsatisfactory replacement for my beloved Bob the Porter, brought some Cockney lads to look at the horrid device, and now he's departed, rolling his eyes as if it were he who was without the basic utilities of Western life. I can hear various
lugubrious pronouncements coming out of the boiler room now, and I don't want to get any closer.

What a depressing entry for today! It has begun to rain again. Perhaps tea at the Ritz, which I glimpsed upon our emergence from the Green Park tube stop, would cheer us both up.

Oh, and one more amazing coincidence story to report: our friend Jim had a business meeting last week with an old colleague from the Canadian gold-mining industry and of course guess who it is? The chap who bought our Jay Street loft, for his expectant daughter, as a baby present. I think my parents gave me a nice set of Peter Rabbit china when Avery was expected, but hey, a 3800-square-foot loft in Tribeca is nice, too. We got all the lowdown on how much the new owners like the apartment. It sounds as if the dad actually bought it out of sheer love for it himself, and apparently proposed to his real estate agents a deal whereby he would acquire all our furniture and art as well, which they quashed by saying we felt really strongly about our belongings. Ha! John says he would have leapt at the chance to start all over, but since we have spent two months and nearly come to blows over trying to choose a bedside table for Avery's room, I think things turned out for the best.

Oooh, I'm hearing the lads say things about "fan speed failure," and "Celsius 25," in accents that sound like the guys you see reeling down the road on their way to see Chelsea play Manchester on a Saturday afternoon. "Thanks, mate, for your expertise," one of them says, "we'll give you a tinkle later." Grrr.

No comments: