26 June, 2006

is there a cat psychologist in the house?

Well, all right, here he looks pretty happy. At least he's not clocking his sister Keechie over the head. But in general, Wimsey needs some therapy. He skulks about looking sinister, whacking his siblings around, looking suspiciously as if he's scouting an alternate litter box to the one I've planned for him. In general, our relationship is fraught. So believe it or not I'm surfing this morning for kitty therapists. So far I have honed in on a hilarious website called "Pets Behaving Badly," and apparently parrots are a high-risk pet, which I didn't know. Lots of "rehoming issues." Maybe that's what ails Wimsey; he's an Anglophobe caught in a luxury London flat. Secretly he longs for the plains of Kansas, or even the smelly July streets of New York, eating Friskies from a can instead of the high-protein health food we're pushing on him here. Maybe he wants to be an only cat. Unfortunately John is all too ready to make that happen, so I keep telling Wimsey he's skating on thin parental ice. So far he seems too sunk in his own psychodrama to pull up his socks (one of my favorite English expressions for "get over it") and move on with his life. Sigh. I've got to get this sorted before he's the responsibility of our lovely housesitter, Kate, beginning July 12, when we arrive in Connecticut.

As if this were not enough stress in my delicate condition, guess how I look as a redhead? No, it's not Photoshop we're talking here, it's a REALLY bad color job. I wish I were making this up. Last week I decided I deserved a little pampering, plus I wanted to get back to my nice fake blonde highlights with which I've been living for years, instead of the grown-out dirty blonde that is my natural color. So against Avery's and John's wishes I booked myself an appointment at a posh (so I thought) salon in Wigmore Street, that I pass every day on the way to and from school, and turned up at noon on Friday to become A More Beautiful Me. FOUR HOURS LATER I finally escaped, having been, in that time, a sort of watery strawberry blonde horror, a slightly darker insipid kind of beer color, and finally a reddish version of what I went in as. And to cap it all off, it was done by a wretched girl who was introduced to me as something pronounced like "Mahn-OO-ray," but when I got her actual business card, yep, she's Manure. I got my hair done by Poop Girl. It's just awful. I get a little horrid shock every time I see myself, and John and Avery are silent in their condemnation. What to do.

Well, in the meantime was Avery's school outing to York! She and all her little school chums met up at King's Cross railway station (with their groggy mothers and overwhelmed-looking teachers) bright and early at 8 a.m. on Friday. They looked pretty darling in their uniforms, clutching backpacks filled with reading material for the train, heavy-duty lunches and snacks and water bottles, disposable cameras, and ABSOLUTELY NO soft toys. Mrs Bickley got that one right. Can you imagine all 17 of them turning up with their hundreds of Sylvanians, those tiny little flocked animals they all collect? The beleaguered teachers marched them off toward the train platform, looking slightly as if they ought to be scattering bread crumbs behind them if we planned to see them ever again. But sure enough, six p.m. found John and me scanning the crowd for their little faces. Everyone appeared a bit rumpled but otherwise intact, and full of stories about the archaeological dig they went on (yielding the largest fossilised poop ever found, what a treat), the bridge that had only one railing and if you fell off it would be into a stinging nettle patch, the creepy tombs with people on top folding their hands, and of course most important, the gift shop. It may be the very first time that Avery's been somewhere we've never been, which is a milestone in its own way.

My week, before the hair disaster, was enlivened by a visit from my longtime New York friend Joan, here on a business trip with her husband who is the curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! She was full of stories about her Cantor Fitzgerald boss Howard Lutnick, whose art collection she manages (to my delight as gallery-owner; he was a frequent client), and her two little girls, and life in New York in general. They were sandwiching in a visit to us between dinners with The Clash, concerts, and trips to see secret collections of rock memorabilia. We had a little cocktail party in the garden here at Warburton House, with blinis topped with smoked salmon and sour cream, and my latest packaging obsession: Marks and Spencers gin and tonics in a tiny little green can! All mixed up and ready to drink. Very pleasant.

The end of the school year is gearing up, rather than winding down, with an exhausting array of responsibilities. The headmistress's weekly letter on Friday ended with the succinct observation, "It will be a busy week, one feels." One certainly does. I live in the knowledge that I will forget something, sometime. I figure as long as it's not my child, left in a railway station, everything else can kind of go. Let's see, there's a pile of overdue library books that must be dealt with today, and the last skating day tomorrow for which I did not succeed in acquiring a fancy skating outfit for Avery, bad me. Then Sports Day on Wednesday, in Regent's Park, where the gulls all compete vociferously for House Points. Don't know how Avery will fare. Mostly she is rejoicing at England's World Cup progress to the quarterfinals, after yesterday's nail-biting win over Ecuador (David Beckham's barfing on the sidelines notwithstanding, ick). Avery's house, Curie, owns England, so that's good news, 20 points. Or do they have to make it to the semi-finals? I can't keep track. Then Thursday is a visit to school by one of her favorite authors, who will read aloud and then sign books provided by Daunt Bookshop, necessitating the provision of spending money and much discussion among the mothers about how much is reasonable. Thursday evening is the controversial School Fashion Show, with ticket sales to benefit the Red Cross. Luckily Avery was not asked to participate, because I would have been forced to take sides. So we'll just turn up in the audience and see what's what. The social things these girls are going through defy description. I think "rising nines" are a very vulnerable age. They are all trying to figure out their pecking order, the best friends who must let in other children to their games, who dresses "cool" outside school, etc. In discussing one of the more troublesome relationships, Avery said, "It's not that I don't like her. It's just that our friendship is quite volatile, and fickle." As good a way to describe the torments of pre-adolescence as any.

We're really ready for school to be over. The lovely no-homework hiatus of the pre-Joseph week, and the exam week, has given way to what will no doubt be compensatory heavy loads this week. To think that American schools have been out for two weeks, some of them! We've got 10 days left till freedom, and... Red Gate Farm!

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