10 March, 2006

get me hot water NOW

Oh, it's ON! I can take a shower for the first time since Monday!! Cold soapy washcloths have not been very satisfying I must say, or is
that TMI? Would you believe that we suffer all week, then John walks in the door from New York and three hours later everything is fixed? I seem to remember he was away the last time the boiler went? And the cooktop? Grrr. But how wonderful to take a shower this evening!

Yesterday was entirely given over to the hanging of art. I had completely forgotten what we brought with us, and had kind of got used to living with blank, impersonal walls. Even when I went around to the stacks of framed things piled against the living room walls and placed them where they should go, I did not get the little frisson of "ah, I remember you" that I got once everything was hung. The art installer was one Mark Williams, a conceptual post-Pop artist (his words, not mine!) who is a friend of our would-be/will-be shelf elf, Tessa. Tessa, after fits of bill inflation and lost email replies, has come through, we think, and the shelving for the living room Wall of Books is due to be installed on Thursday next. I am very, very excited for that, having completely exhausted my capacity to reread even Mary Wesley's delicious "Not That Sort of Girl" one more time.

Something artsy about Tessa suggested to me that she might know an installer, and sure enough, Mark, whose kind of pitiful but sweet invoice was headed "Decorating Concepts," arrived early this week to take stock of what he needed in the way of materials, and then came
yesterday and spent the entire day, 10-8, hanging art. I ran around after him holding up the end of the measuring tape, making little pencil marks at the tops of things, and standing around a lot looking quizzical and making judgments about the height of something, "sight lines" as we used to say in the gallery business, and arguing with Mark about feminismin the art world. Meanwhile, a grand succession of lame electricians, plumbers, porters and whatever else paraded up and down the steps to the boiler room, scaring Keechie to death, tracking in mud since of course it was p***ing rain all day on top of everything else. Everything else being my FACE which mysteriously turned bright red and incredibly itchy overnight! I cannot fathom what I've done to it, and I can't say it's better or worse today, but really odd. I think it's fate getting back at me for pretending that John's face cream was mine so as to get the prescription renewed. I was tripping all over myself lying to the doctor when I called her to find out what she thought was wrong with me, had to call John in New York to find out what symptoms "I" had that made "my" medicine necessary. Really, it was one of those days.

By five o'clock when the last plumber announced that he could do no more for the patient and it would probably be the middle of next week when the water came back on, I was about ready to spit. In the middle of all this I went to school pickup and fetched Avery and her new friend Sophia, taking time to chat with Ava's mother Jill about Avery's horseback riding, since Jill wants to get her daughter back in the saddle. After a few comments from me about Trent Park, Jill laughed and said, "I have to tell you you're not selling me on this concept." I have got to get a better attitude about the whole endeavor, clearly. Sally and I chatted about our traveling husbands, and Amy commiserated over my boiler, and I realized HEY! I have friends!
Pickup is, while not the social whirlwind that PS 234 was, getting to be friendly and chatty. A big improvement, although it would be John's worst nightmare. He always claims to be so shy and retiring, but no one really believes him.

I took the kids to Villandry, and sat with them listening to their inane conversation, half in English accents and half not. They had enormous helpings of ice cream, served in big fluted crispy cookie bowls with a luscious-looking raspberry coulis drizzled about, and topped with a spun-sugar sort of butterfly wing, which of course they each had to drape over their shoulders, putting paid to their already-skanky Thursday uniform cardigans. I confided in them about my face, and they each solemnly felt my cheeks and agreed that I was quite hot, but insisted that a very, very pink face was quite fashionable.

The sky, which had lightened up for me to walk to school, simply let loose during the crucial five minutes when we waited for a cab to roll by, so we were completely soaked by the time we got home. Mark was in full form, with lots to say about Janis Joplin, was she a genius for writing that one great song or a loser for writing 100 more songs that sounded just like it, and did I have Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits CD, and he was going out for a fag and would come straightaway back. The boy rolls his own cigarettes, yum.

Once at home Avery and Sophia ate their weight in popcorn and at least four apples and then repaired to the lower level where I did not, unfortunately, follow them, until it was too late and the whole enormous box of dressup shoes and clothes that I hoped Avery would forget about if I hid it under the guest bed, had emerged in all its glory. They did look really funny draped in scarves and Victorian hats, tripping along in little plastic stiletto heels. Susan came for Sophia at 6 and was pressed into service to judge the height of the
last installation, the huge red Kate Teale. She also came up with the name and address of a framer, for the big Duston Spear whose plexi split in shipping. Mark had, incredibly, been able to repair the two
Amanda Guests that came loose from the threads they hung from. The little blue Makoto Fujimura, his lovely gift to me after his last show, hangs in the foyer, and the Michael Myers photogravure of the
Woolworth Building is over the dining table. The pair of small Kathleen Kuckas hang by the window overlooking the garden, and lots of Avery photographs downstairs. She was very happy to get her Ulfert Wilke drawing back up over her bed. That calligraphic drawing was a gift from her Iowa grandparents just after she was born, since she would stop crying every time she saw their piece by that artist! A magical baby-calmer, it has hung over her bed in all four of her homes.

Susan dragged Sophia out the door, over her protests, "You're not my mummy, I want to live here," only half in jest, and we arranged for Avery to go to them for Sunday lunch. I can't wait to see where they live, some gorgeous place in Kensington, I think. When Sophia walked into our flat she looked around carefully and said, "You have a lovely flat." Can you imagine the composure? I hope Avery will remember all her manners. Mark left, in a hail of postcards inviting me to his
show, the monoprints of brassieres dipped in ink (right up my street, as the English would say). I'm just grateful he didn't ask me to review the show. Although that could still be coming. Avery and I went around the corner for a pizza and a salad, and unfortunately she brought along her latest obsession, little tiny flocked animals called Sylvanians. In America I remember they were called Calico Critters, but no matter, the nomenclature cannot mask the cloying cuteness of these little things, all dressed inexplicably in aprons and overalls. I heard in mind-numbing detail over dinner that you can get foxes, badgers, bunnies, cats, and they come in twins or triplets, sitting or standing, and some can even move their legs! Calgon take me away.

My reward at the end of the day was watching the director's commentary (MY new obsession) of the BBC drama "Perfect Strangers," which aired in America as "Almost Strangers." Great fun, and the director Stephen Poliakoff, a truly great dramatic talent, made the observation that the English are divided into two groups: those who try to hide everything, and those who try to seek out everything. An interesting possibility.

TGIF! A well husband returned from his trip, heat and hot water, a clean house since Dorrie is just finishing up, and a nice quiet weekend planned! We're giving Trent Park Equestrian Centre another try on Saturday.

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