04 March, 2006

National Theatre archives, Avery's progress, and other adventures

What a week! A lot of it was spent looking after, and feeling sorry for, Sick Husband. This was a first in our 23-year relationship. I have known him to stay in bed, on a weekend, if sick, or to take off part of a day, or come home really early, with flu or something. But the boy was flat on his back from Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon, and even when he was able to get up without a terrible cough, he actually stayed home from work all day Monday, Tuesday and
Wednesday. Much better by Thursday, and today, Saturday, he's doing quite well. A really bad bug.

So Avery and I amused ourselves as best we could. On Tuesday she had her first babysitter outing with the lovely Katie, who took Avery and Anna (since it would have been so messy to separate them now that they're joined at the hip) to Regent's Park Zoo, where they had an amazing time and got very, very cold walking home. I didn't mention to Avery the awful story I heard once about the zookeepers putting down all the dangerous animals during World War II, so as to avoid mass panic if a bomb hit the cages and the animals got out.

Wednesday morning was the informal "everyone gathers at Starbucks" meeting of the mothers, where two or three of us sit down to start with, then as appointments and errands and such claim one person, another person appears and takes her chair! I met three or four new lovely ladies, and then there were a couple I knew already, through Becky, since it's largely a Form One crowd, Anna's younger sister Eleanor being in that form. They're my little kindergartener gull
group, so I am able to put a gull's face and name with those of her mother and tell good stories about their exploits. It's a good way to get involved in the
conversation quickly. To my left at one point was a lady called Gigi, who came up to about my armpit, and I realised she was the mother of one of my favorites, tiny little Chantal, and even tinier Lower Kindergartner Tatiana, so I offered lots of admiration for the family in general. Would you believe Gigi is from Gibraltar? I guess I never knew that anyone came from Gibraltar! Married to a man who's Greek-Egyptian-Lebanese, and the whole situation is just impossibly exotic and elegant. Then there was a nice mom who was a dead ringer for my old gallery director Erin Myers, tall and gorgeous and very breezy American-ish. I felt so much
like I was in my old haunts in Tribeca, hanging out with my friends. Such an improvement over my early, lonely days. We've been here two months.

After school we had a lengthy snack at Villandry, spinning out the gap between school and my parent-teacher conference at 5. Avery had a lot to say about RE, their Religious Education class, that day. "Did you know it's Ash Wednesday, Mummy? And the beginning of Lent. You know, Jesus was a really nice person. What a shame he had to die." "Yes," I said, "it's always a shame when bad things have to happen." "Well," she considered, "not really. It's important for bad things to happen, because then people realize that you can recover from bad things, and get over them. If nothing bad ever happened, people would think you'd be destroyed if something bad did happen. We wouldn't know that you can get better again." I asked if anything bad had ever happened to her. "Leaving Ladybug behind." "And has it come true, you can get better?" "Not yet, but that's part of the lesson. It takes time."

Sometimes I really feel she has been around before.

So we went to school and gossiped with Mrs D, waiting for my appointment. She is awfully happy that Avery's happy, and I was struck again, as I am always when I talk with her, that here is a woman who has found her mission, her bliss. What a superpower. She and Miss C were very pleased to see Avery in the library, ankles neatly folded, working hard on her crocheting. Mrs D said, "That is Aran wool, is it not, Avery? Lovely jumpers can be made with that, you know." I went up to meet Mrs Bickley, and, dear readers, I know you will forgive me if I kvell a little. Avery is just doing amazingly well. Academically, socially, just blossoming. She's apparently a phenom at spelling, is doing just
fine (despite her dramatisch complaints) in French, is thriving at Latin, and has easily made tons of friends. "She's a complete joy and a real asset to our classroom, Mrs Curran," Mrs Bickley raved. Well done, Avery. I reported these findings to her and we walked home in a mood of mutual appreciation. Plus it snowed! Heavenly cozy to walk through the flakes amid the streetlights' glow.

But Thursday was my real adventure. In my pursuit of all things
related to Matthew Macfadyen, my crush actor, I have determined to see him in every single incarnation available. Unfortunately, due to my having an actual real life in New York at the time, I missed him onstage in "Henry IV," Parts One and Two, late last summer at the National Theatre, where we saw David Suchet last month. However, my obsession stops for nothing, so I found out through various internet sources that the National Theatre holds, in its film archives, a videotape of one performance of every play they put on. Amazing! So it was but the work of a moment to call up the archives, make an
appointment, and head over to Hammersmith for a private viewing! I took a taxi since my powers of getting lost defy description, and was glad I did because the archives were in the back of beyond, past Holland Park, quite far away. I would never have found it on my own; I'd still be wandering around W14, picking up odd meals and wishing my mobile phone battery hadn't died. As it was, I arrived in plenty of
time, went through the inner sanctum gates, and found myself with a security pass with a magnetic strip, and a little gnome of an escort to lead me through the labyrinthine passages deep into the building, ending up at a very ordinary looking research room. I was duly processed and given the tape, and OH MY.

Granted, it was on a little television screen, so it did not do him justice, but that boy can act. The divine Sir Michael Gambon played Falstaff, and an actor who I saw in "The Way We Live Now," the BBC adaptation of the Anthony Trollope novel, played Henry IV. Our Matthew was really mesmerising and it was well worth the four and a half hours I spent there! I plan to go back after researching other plays I have missed, including his maiden theatre voyage, "The Duchess of Malfi." Can you imagine, for FREE! Before you all come to London you would do well to research something you'd like to see. I've never met anyone who knows this place exists. What a find.

I emerged in a daze of Oedipal intrigue and political innunendo inspired by the play, into the foxy sunshine of a London afternoon , and decided that since a ruinously expensive taxi had got me there, even I could retrace its path and get myself back. And sure enough, I walked all across Holland Park, all through Hyde Park, past our flat in Marble Arch, and into the Marylebone High Street, where in total exhaustion I grocery shopped and then picked up Avery and Anna from school. Whew! I Mapquested my journey and found I had walked nearly five and a half miles!

Yesterday I had my first doctor's appointment in London (how did I get by for three years here before without a doctor, or am I just having a middle-age blank memory moment?). Just to get some prescriptions filled (among them a refill of a face cream for John, I felt completely guilty and duplicitous answering questions about my "sensitive skin," ha). What is it about men and doctors, that they won't go? A really lovely American woman, Dr Kate Hawley, married for 25 years to an Englishman. We commiserated on the universal maleness of men. She said, "I mean, really, he's a genius, a computer genius, but if I ask him to fetch the milk from the fridge, he stands there and simply PEERS and PEERS as if milk were quite a foreign concept! And the symptoms he gets up when he's ill. Honestly!"

She sent me off to a little tiny, tiny chemist's shop in Sloane Street where her office is (utterly galling to walk down this street, lined with Christian Dior, Prada, Roberto Cavelli, Armani, Versace and catch a glimpse of one's blue-jeaned, dull, dull form). This chemist, she said, was called Norman and he would take care of me. "The shop is so small that the door has been set in diagonally from the pavement!" she described, and sure enough, it was like entering a place where everything had been scaled down to fit a box turtle, as my favorite novelist Laurie Colwin would say.

Norman was concealed by boxes and boxes of the most exotic medicament you can imagine, and my request was therefore fielded by a lovely, comfortably plump lady called Nicola. She passed the prescription sheet to Norman, and to while away the time I perused the shelves, absolutely sure there was something besides bogus face cream that I needed. Before long, I could not contain my laughter. "Standardised Devil's Claw Extract," guaranteeed to disinfect, or soothe, or heal, something, I can't remember what. Norman and Nicola began to notice my smothered laughter, and feeling bad for making fun of them, I said lamely, "It's just that there's something funny about its being 'Standardised.' You certainly wouldn't want 'Unstandardised Devil's Claw Extract, would you?" And Nicola proved a ready ally. "Oh, then you've got to take a look at this," she said immediately. "Bach Rescue Remedy Spray to Comfort and Reassure. And then there's this Injection-Free Facial Relaxer, and oh, you need a jar of "Perfect Pout." It's a hot red pepper and cinnamon preparation that will guarantee a Brigitte Bardot smile in just two applications!"

I dug deeper and found a bottle of Spray-On Nylons, which must have been a carryover from rationing during the war, and Nicola emerged with a French concoction called "Email Diamant Dentifrice Rouge," which translates to something like "Rare Diamond Red Toothpaste." It assured us that a rigorous regime of its use would result in a "guaranteed embrocation." Is that good or bad?

"Oh, no, here it is, here's the one we've all been looking for,"
Nicola said, "wait for it: it's a tin of 'Cox's Rose Petal Salve, guaranteed to soften lips, tame bushy lashes and brows, cure nappy rash, and impart that little shine you've been looking for.'" "Golly," I said, "I don't think I want a product that's intended for use both on your lips and your baby's rashy bottom."

Norman emerged from his office with a bottle. "Here's my personal favorite. 'Bug Off: Jungle Formula Family Lotion.' Listen to the warning labels: 'keep out of reach of children, harmful if swallowed, consult physician if rash develops, not for prolonged use.' Not quite the happy family product we were looking for, now is it? But my favorite label is the sleeping medication that warns, 'may cause drowsiness.'"

Finally after deciding not to buy a Genuine South Sea Sponge for 155 pounds, I told them they had made my entire week, and went home.

Anna spent the night last night and now I've got to go collect Avery from HER house where they repaired after breakfast. John and I spent the afternoon walking to Portobello Market, forgetting that since we lived here last, several hundred movies have been filmed there, in Notting Hill Gate, and every tourist in London was there. However it was still fun to poke our heads in
the shops, and I went to my favorite old butcher, "Kingsland: The Guardian Butcher", and bought mince (ground beef to you Yanks) and fresh Toulouse sausage to make
shepherd's pie for dinner. I got up my courage to ask the burning question: what is ham, and what is gammon? Well, it turns out that gammon is the name for the cut of meat that is cured, and if you cook it, it's ham. So if it's a raw ingredient you're buying to cook with, it's gammon, but if it's been cooked and you're using it in a
sandwich, it's ham. Did I tell you that a request for ham salad will get you ham and... a salad? Ask for ham mayonnaise if you want to get what you want.

A trip down the long rows of fruit and veg stalls, coming away with the most gorgeous French leeks I have ever seen (destined for vichyssoise), and a flat of red currants just because they are so pretty. We had a nice eggy brunch in a gorgeous place called The Grocer on Elgin, in Elgin Crescent. We debated what exactly is meant by the odd English term "speck," in a dish. It's German for simply "meat," and there is a classic Italian dish called, in London, "Spaghetti with speck and rocket," meaning beef bits and arugula. But with the eggs today I'm certain it was a kind of pork thing, a superior, very thin bacon. I'll check it out more and report.


Library Lover said...
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Library Lover said...

And you forgot to mention that I told YOU abou Angelica's mom?????