23 April, 2006

sunshine and athletics in London



















What a day we had Saturday! Bright, intensely blue skies, not a cloud in sight, and warm. A day that makes you realize that in general, we live in a grey, grey world here in London. John and I picked Avery up at Anna's, feeling slightly sorry for her parents as they headed off to a football match in Manchester. It's one of those activities that is probably really fun once you get there, and whether or not you like football it's exciting, no doubt. But a long trip. It turns out, I heard from Becky today, that they arrived at halftime, which doesn't sound so disappointing until you're told that each half is only 45 minutes long and no time outs! So you've missed a lot, at half time. And Liverpool won, happily for them since they were seated on the Liverpool side. I had no idea it worked like that, being seated according to your allegiance. That's actually how it was at the show-jumping polo match, must be a reference to the football tradition.

After we picked Avery up we headed to Church Street, off Lisson Grove, to the long row of antiques shops. Becky and I had checked it out first of all last week, and had found a lovely shop, Andrew Nebbett, with several things I liked a lot. One of them was a long wide bench covered in heavy dark leather, from maybe 1930, a gymnasium bench-pressing affair. "On hold" for some evil person, not that we have anywhere to put it. But also from the gymnasium sale were several leather mats that Andrew had had sewn into rugs. Gorgeous! So we came away with a big one for the living room and a small one for the entry.

Home to put John down for a nap and I took Avery roller-blading in Hyde Park. The weather had held perfectly, and everyone was out sunning themselves in the little green-striped deck chairs (like the one Snoopy fights with in the Thanksgiving Special, remember that?), that you sit in and a Park Deckchair man comes round and charges you a pound fifty for each one. Seems reasonable! In New York of course someone would come round in the night and put them all in vans and sell them on eBay. I shouldn't be so cynical about my native city, but there you go. We sat and recovered from her exploits with an iced lolly (always read about them in books but never quite realized that they are just popsicles! much better to call them iced lollies), and a cup of milky tea for me. Every nationality and age and body type under the sun, all sacked out in the park on the green, green grass that doesn't require springtime to be green. Why is that? All year long, it's green.

Avery was definitely wilting at this point, so a long bath was in order, and then a high-protein blast of a cut of beef called "feather cut." Don't know how to define it and will do some research. It's shaped like sirloin tips, with a strong central sinew that was quite edible, and CHEAP. The whole three-person serving was not even 3 pounds total. I sauteed it gently in butter and sliced it thin, but it could have been cooked even less. We all went to bed completely worn out!

This morning up horribly early (OK, it was 7) to get to the barn in Wimbledon in time for a 9 a.m. lesson. Never again! I need my Sunday rest! But wow, the lesson was amazing. A pony called Biscuit, who is too tiny to be ridden by anyone large enough to be any good! So she has been spending years being trotted to and fro on a lead rope, with tiny children on her doing nothing. But when the trainers saw how Avery was skilled and yet tiny, they decided it was a match made in heaven. So the moment Avery got on Biscuit's back, and the rope came off, and the hack through Wimbledon Common was over and the arena in sight, that pony went BERSERK! Galloping like the wind, round and round, the adult riders on their calm horses looking on in a mixture of horror and admiration! I can't even say that Avery "hung on," far from it, she rode that pony beautifully. Totally controlled, obviously impressed with the speed that was happening. I remained calm, believe it or not, and John was thrilled. Caroline, her new trainer, was unflappable, and unmoved. Finally Avery calmed Biscuit down and joined the rest of the group, but still throughout the hour every time she got to be by herself, it was tearing off hell bent for leather. Hilarious! So they've decided that if Biscuit gets exercised more this week she'll be fine on Sunday next. It feels ridiculously good to have a barn, a pony, a trainer, FRIENDS.

Our friend Jill and her husband picked Avery up in the rain outside Edgware Station, with Anna already in the car, to go with Ava to the Chessington Adventure Park or some such thing. Jill wailed, "I have a cold, I'm pregnant, and it's raining! I don't believe it." Later she confessed that she made her husband drop her off at home and sent him off with the girls alone! John and I walked in the mist to a nice, anonymous-ish Lebnese restaurant called Fatoush, in Edgware Road, and had lovely fresh hummous, falafel, and little lamb meatballs with tahini sauce. Sweet little honey and pistachio cookies after, and home for a nap. The perfect day for it. We walked to collect Avery around 6, and the dad, Mylo, looked as wilted as a man of 6 foot 4 can look. "Did it rain?" John asked sympathetically. Mylo gave us a look. "Did it rain?" he repeated. "Did it RAIN." So after chatting for a few minutes about the mind-bendingly awful-sounding ride and prizes, John said, "Well, Mylo, at least it didn't rain."

Well, I'm about to drop dead this evening, having walked home from school, back again with Avery's forgotten PE kit, back again home, back to school again with Ava's birthday present for her party after school, back home again, and back again to collect Avery at the party! There was a very scary magician in a turban trying to inveigle the mothers into coming home with him, and somehow Ava had persuaded the local ice cream truck to come to her party, so all the children were dripping with ice cream. It felt extremely lovely, and most welcome, to have mothers I knew, to greet and be greeted by, and to have Avery included in a party with her new friends. John's out at a business dinner, so I think I'll skulk into the kitchen, pour a restorative cocktail, and try to convince Avery to watch the Food Channel. How sophisticated are we?

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